Keeping track of all our possessions is more difficult now than ever. Our days seem to be getting busier and more cluttered. Not only do I struggle with gear I already own, but there is also a constant stream of junk being sent to my house weekly.
Even worse than misplacing something is opening a package to discover it has been mistreated. That starts a blame game among me, the delivery service, and the company from which I ordered the object. Tiny devices like the StickNFind offer ways to keep track of current belongings. But devices that could help make sure my package is treated carefully usually consist of complex, expensive sensors or simple, unreliable analog mechanisms.
Cambridge Consultants has found an answer that is simple but adds the reliability of electrical sensors. The company has managed to combine a low-power Bluetooth transceiver, an accelerometer, and a memory chip that keep an eye on your fragile parcel. A single coin battery powers the device. Now you can verify that the parcel is OK before you sign for it.
The DropTag, a Bluetooth-connected sensor, monitors shipped packages in real-time. A smartphone app keeps you informed on the package's health. (Source: Cambridge Consultants)
The device is called the DropTag and is featured in the video below. It is simple to use and can be checked at every step in the delivery process, as long as you have a smartphone with the DropTag app. The app tells you immediately if the package has been dropped. The DropTag also stores data from the trip, and it can show you a graph with the history of the g forces exerted on the package above a certain threshold. It could even process this in real-time if you are close enough to the device, which has a 50m indoor range.
Adding to the simplicity and potential of this device is the cost of manufacturing. DropTags cost only $2, opening the door for different options for consumers, delivery services, and e-companies. It could entice some companies or services to offer customers a DropTag option for a small fee. Companies and delivery services will have to evaluate the time saved by not delivering damaged packages, and thus avoiding the snowball of blame and return deliveries.
Cambridge Consultants wants to make the device reusable, so consumers can buy them to send fragile goods, or they can keep devices that come with a package. The company is also considering adding thermometers and other sensors for tracking deliveries like produce or meat.
The company is marketing the product to e-commerce companies and delivery services at this year's Hannover Messe technology fair. I would expect to see them on parcels or as a delivery option in the near future.
@a.saji- Yes investing on location shipping container would definitely be an investment which is worth. I think this is something that the government needs to interfere and get the shipping lines to use.
@mrdon- True a GPS device would definitely help to track, but I have had this question on my mind. How does the GPS location coordinates be uploaded to a location when it comes to international shipping. GPS needs GSM connectivity to upload the coordinates to a server or any other location.
It's a tremendous idea, but having worked as a truck loader for a very large delivery company in my college years, I have to also say that I'm not sure how realistic it is. The truth is (or least this was the truth 40 years ago), boxes get dropped, pitched and flung on a regular basis by truck loaders and unloaders. Users better set a high impact threshhold on these tags. Either that, or delivery services will have to tell their loaders to work a LOT more slowly and carefully.
This is indeed a good away to keep track on your package. No more losing packages on post, there is always a way to locate it now. This will definitely help international posts. The small size and light weight are some added advantages.
Cabe, I see the DropTag being used in the Healthcare market as a Fall Monitoring detector for senior citizens. Instead of using bluetooth tech, RF/Celluar technology could be used to transmit or call your smartphone alerting you that your grandparents have fallen or slipped and need assistance. Nice article and video!
shehan, I agree. There are a multitude of applications the DropTag can be used in. I can really see the Maker community embracing this technology to solve a variety of free falling problems with this technology. Sir Issac Newton is probably turning over in his grave because of the DropTag product. :)
Cabe, This tech could possibly be used as an alternate accelerometer to monitor the speed of an elevator cart. If a certain speed rate has exceeded the target fall threshold, the elevator controller can adjust it to the proper value. Just thinking out loud. LOL
I saw this somewhere else and had the same reaction. It is wirelessly connected so it should go in the box to prevent tampering. They also need to address data security or an App will be written to rewrite the data to look fine or just wipe it out.
Interesting $2 cost? Is that BOM or assembled? Would be nice to get a BOM to see how optimistic the figure is.
@eafpres- a good point, data security is a major concern for most of the devices we use. This too needs security to make sure that the program is not overridden. No matter how low the cost is people would be reluctant to use it without proper security features.
Bluetooth, an accelerometer, a little memory, and with that you can tell if your package was abused and when it was abused (which gives you a fair idea of where it was abused). Keep it cheap and you won't need to worry about making the tag writable for multiple use, and then there's no security concerns. At $2, it's cheaper than insurance for the package.
Just EEPROM would be fine, as long as there was no user interface that allowed you to rewrite to the memory. After all, who's going to open the box, remove the tag, unsolder the EEPROM, attach it to something that can Write, know the storage method to write a fake file into the tag, solder it back to the board, back in the box and seal everything up. Yes, it could happen, but isn't really possible.
Plenty of RAM would work too, since power isn't likely to be removed and if it is you can assume that the board took a large shock.
I shipped a product I built recently. My customer called me with "this is not in the buyable condition by any stretch of the imagination."
Turns out FedEX ran a forklift claw through the crate. I didn't know any of this would happen in transit. I could have used a Droptag to know what was happening. I could have braced for that surprise call. I could have started the insurance claim ahead of time...
I don't know about FedEx, Cabe, but the frantic pace at most delivery companies doesn't allow for a lot of concern for fragile contents. No one tries to damage packages, but costly mistakes are inevitable.
Cabe, for the end user, is the purpose of this technology to query the device inside the sealed package before accepting / opening it? Basically, before you sign, you check your smart phone, and if the device reports high g-loading, you file a claim?
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