The Finnish postal service Posti has upgraded its Smart Lockers in terms of quantity as well as quality. It thereby meets the needs of the consumers, who want to pick up their parcels from the locker independently and in a straightforward way. The data transmission software had to be updated for this purpose. Haltian was involved in the automated, new concept for the self-service parcel lockers, and software Smartpost 1.5. was created.
Posti Smart Locker: Alignment with consumer needs
Consumers increasingly shop online and prefer parcel lockers as a parcel delivery method. Posti identified this need and “is therefore pursuing the strategy to significantly expand the network of parcel stations in Finland”, says Jari Paasikivi, who is responsible for the development of the parcel services and the eCommerce business strategy of Posti. The 1,700 parcel stations (as of the end of 2020) are to be increased to 4,000 in a few years. Posti is also operating in the Baltic states. Several hundred parcel stations are planned there.
Unilateral IoT data transmission limits customer service
With the expansion of the self-service parcel lockers, an upgrade was required. Such a comprehensive, automated parcel locker system requires a scalable, reliable, as well as safe IoT system in order to function satisfactorily. The data transmission software used for the concept of the automated parcel lockers up to now was not able to meet the requirements and therefore had to be updated.
The smart lockers originally used by Posti were introduced in 2017. They “used a unilateral IoT data transmission, which prevented remote updating of the lockers. Software updates would in principle have required the replacement of the lockers, which would have rendered the solution too expensive”, says Paasikivi. This fact presented, among other things, a challenge for customer services. If the client experienced a problem with a parcel locker, customer services were able to provide only limited support. Instead of assisting in real-time, all that could be done was to advise re-entering the PIN. The client often had to be put off to the next day, when a customer service representative could be on site for help.
New connectivity solution in cooperation with Haltian
In order to develop an intelligent solution for its growing number of Smart Lockers, Posti participated in a research project. This is where the postal provider encountered Haltian. Working together with the IT company, the focus was on a new IoT data transmission solution. The result: In contrast to the Smartpost 1 solution, the new software Smartpost 1.5 uses a two-way Wirepas Mesh system. This enables Posti to transmit data in real-time, as well as carry out software updates at the lockers if so required. Firstly, this benefits customer services. Secondly, the system developed by Haltian speeds up the work of the couriers. All lockers can now be opened at once instead of one after the other. Furthermore, information security has improved with the new system.
Communication via the cloud to the backend
The technology solution by Haltian focuses on an IoT data transmission, where the electronic locker communicates with the backend system of Posti via the cloud. The new locker system was developed in collaboration with the locker provider. Haltian is providing IoT connectivity as well as the hardware. Jari Paasikivi of Posti says: “We are very happy with the Haltian’s ability to find innovative solutions. ICT projects are always associated with modifications during commissioning. There were a few turnarounds on the way, but Haltian delivered the solutions.”
Mesh network guarantees reliable dataflow for Posti Smart Locker
Each locker is equipped with an intelligent lock that interacts with a gateway device, which in turn transmits the data to the Posti system. The data transmission system is based on the field-proven Wirepas connectivity suite. This means that each lock not only communicates with the gateway device, but also among one another. A Mesh network is created. When the nodal points change, it adjusts without any active intervention by a technician or by the user. Thus, a reliable dataflow, free of infrastructure, is guaranteed in real-time, and software updates for the lockers can easily be carried out without any problems. The Mesh network of the Finnish company Wirepas also enables the development of a scalable IoT solution, which runs equally as reliably with thousands of units as with ten units. Jari Paasikivi of Posti sums up: “We now have a fully functional, automated concept for parcel lockers, which can also be expanded to the Baltic States.”