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University of Washington studies future of urban package delivery with lockers and street sensors

[Update, Oct. 9: The Urban Freight Lab told users of the Belltown Lockers that they will be moved to a new location a few blocks away due to changes at the current location. They will be offline starting on Oct. 14, “hopefully for just a week or two,” the lab said in an email message.]

Fed up with porch pirates snatching your packages? Missed one more delivery that requires a signature since you couldn’t hear the delivery particular person knock over your umpteenth video assembly of the day? Property supervisor at your residence or rental constructing sending one more nagging notice to select up packages as a result of the mailroom is full?

The newly put in. shiny blue Belltown Lockers tucked right into a car parking zone at Fourth Avenue and Bell Street in Seattle could provide a secure haven in your deliveries — and chart the future of urban package delivery.

The lockers, which arrived in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood in late August, come courtesy of the U.S. Division of Vitality, which awarded the University of Washington’s Urban Freight Lab $1.5 million over three years to study how new technology might improve the energy efficiency of goods delivery in dense urban areas. Now two years into the examine, the UW lab, which focuses on provide chain and transportation logistics in cities, has one thing for the general public to check out in order that researchers can examine shopper conduct and package delivery patterns.

To take part, join free as a locker buyer, and the following time you order a package for delivery from any courier, set the tackle as “Republic Parking Locker, 314 Bell St., Seattle, WA 98121.” (REEF Expertise, the Miami-based firm behind the ghost kitchen craze, owns the lot.) When the package arrives, you’ll obtain a notification in your telephone. You possibly can then use your telephone to unlock the suitable locker and retrieve the package. (Two lockers exist already in non-public buildings; a second public locker was just lately accepted for sidewalk set up at 2nd and Lenora.)

On the identical time, as delivery vehicles drive via Belltown and park at business automobile loading zones, just like the one closest to the lockers, newly put in sensors underneath the pavement will detect the automobile’s presence and dwell time, then talk that knowledge to the Seattle Division of Transportation and the Urban Freight Lab to check delivery automobile journey patterns.

“The large thought is making an attempt to extend the density of deliveries, and by doing that, scale back the quantity of driving round for these deliveries,” mentioned Anne Goodchild, University of Washington civil and environmental engineering professor and founding director of the Supply Chain Transportation and Logistics Center. “If proper now a package delivery particular person is delivering ten gadgets to 10 totally different addresses, they make a tour of ten spots. In the event that they ship to a single location, then it reduces driving, parking, and influence on the neighborhood.”

The lockers are the primary U.S. deployment of its variety for Parcel Pending by Quadient, which already manages related lockers in Australia, France, and particularly Japan, which has a mature enterprise and shopper tradition of package delivery and pick-up that features infrastructure like public lockers and comfort retailer counters.

With the dramatic rise in on-line purchasing pushed by the pandemic, Parcel Pending believes the time is true for brand new choices for package delivery in U.S. cities. “With elevated package quantity, our answer creates unimaginable efficiencies for couriers and it additionally creates advantages for shoppers who are actually in a position to obtain their product when and how they need it and in a contactless methodology,” mentioned Kate Reidel, Parcel Pending’s senior vp for enterprise improvement.

The lockers come with security measures like double bolstered metal and a vinyl wrap to discourage graffiti. Nothing on the outside of the construction signifies which particular person lockers have packages inside. Prospects are solely knowledgeable which locker to open after they arrive to select up their package. The primary confirmed delivery occurred on Sept. 16. As of earlier this week, 40 folks had signed up to make use of the Belltown Lockers, and 4 deliveries had been made.

Belltown Lockers follows a typical service mannequin, the place every delivery firm pays per use quite than absorbing a hard and fast or upfront price. Whereas firms like Amazon have created their very own vertically built-in package delivery lockers, Parcel Pending believes that not each e-commerce firm needs to spend money on that sort of infrastructure. Amazon has additionally branched out into frequent service lockers in residential buildings through its Amazon Hub system, however it Amazon Lockers are just for its personal packages.

“Whereas main carriers have tried to construct their very own community of lockers, it’s not as sustainable of a mannequin as what we’re proposing right here as a result of of the quantity of deliveries. [With our model], no single social gathering bears the whole expense for the system,” Reidel mentioned.

The chance of avoiding missed deliveries is one other incentive. “Separating the receiver and delivery particular person reduces the quantity of failed journeys, that are an entire waste of emissions and driver time,” Goodchild mentioned.

Different new infrastructure consequently of this examine is much less obvious to the bare eye. In mid-September, SDOT dug up 34 business automobile load zones in Belltown and put in sensors from St. Louis-based IoT firm Fybr. The sensor system is a small magnetometer with a microprocessor that may measure how lengthy a automobile stays parked in that area, then ship that data through 900 MHz radio to a close-by gateway communication system. The gateway then relays the information to a server through a safe connection on a mobile modem.

“We are attempting to enhance the reliability of urban items and package delivery to Seattle’s companies and residents,” SDOT spokesperson Ethan Bergerson wrote through e-mail. “These enhancements may assist tackle site visitors congestion and roadway security.”

The Urban Freight Lab hopes to make use of this knowledge to create an app for delivery drivers in order that they will see in actual time which business load zones can be found, and spend much less time circling the block on the lookout for parking — or worse, double-parking in a motorbike lane. As soon as these knowledge are communicated in actual time, the lab believes it will probably scale back so-called “parking looking for” by 20%.

Finally, the hope is that this knowledge will permit SDOT to make extra knowledgeable selections about methods to allocate scarce curb area. For instance, if lockers show in style and the app streamlines deliveries, perhaps fewer business load zone areas are vital. That would release curb area for brand new makes use of, like the favored streateries which have sprung up everywhere in the metropolis to increase restaurant capability outside.
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