Keith McCloskey – Unwrapping Package Solutions
November 18, 2019
New Ways to Deliver the Goods
Not long ago, handling packages at multifamily communities was easy. The few items that arrived were placed in a back room, where they waited for residents to claim.
Times have changed. Most buildings weren’t designed to receive the current volume of packages. For management, the biggest pain points tend to be handling and storage; for residents, it’s ensuring they get the package, noted Robert Gaulden, director of multifamily technology alliances at Allegion. And for delivery services, it’s making sure packages find their rightful recipients.
The e-commerce revolution brought a new generation of solutions, with mixed results. Lockers often didn’t provide refrigeration and some residents were unmotivated to pick up promptly, Gaulden observed.
The next wave, expanded package rooms, posed the issue of how large those rooms must be to accommodate increasing volume. They also gobbled space from other amenities and necessitated security features like access control and cameras.
The logical next stage: delivery past apartment doors. “Technology is getting to the point where we can get this done,” Gaulden said. Convenient for residents, this also offers multiple benefits for operators: risk mitigation, better use of staff time, reduced claims of theft and avoiding the hassle of residents’ failure to fetch packages.
Like smart home systems, package management solutions focus on delivering end-user experiences via smartphone apps that give residents and managers control over package status, access and delivery analytics, noted Keith McCloskey, executive director for design in the Los Angeles office of KTGY Architecture + Planning.
“Smiota and Parcel Pending were some of the first to offer full control via a smartphone app,” he said. “Others, like Luxer One, followed closely behind.” Other solutions respond to what McCloskey calls “the unquenchable thirst for convenience.” Among them: Smart Package Room. In this system created by Position Imaging, Computer Vision technology locates and tracks items placed by couriers who scan packages and assign them to residents. Using a PIN number to enter the room, a resident is directed to the package by light and audio guidance.
Control locks. In August, Allegion introduced Schlage Control mobile enabled smart locks with Bluetooth mobile credential capability for multifamily properties. The new locks allow property managers to unlock unit doors. Residents gain the convenience of simplified delivery. Management surmounts pain points by supplying mobile credentials to service providers.
Fetch Package. This white-glove amenity eliminates the need for property management teams to handle an onslaught of packages. All items are sent first to a local facility. Fetch Package works directly with residents to coordinate scheduled door-to-door package drop-off, as well as delivery of furniture, food, subscriptions and more.
Integrated maps. Engrain partners with Amazon Key for Business on this service, which permits property managers to share mapping insights with delivery providers, enabling them to enter buildings and proceed to package rooms or units.
Package management’s future calls for varied solutions, some of them out of “The Jetsons.” Said Gaulden: “You’re going to see a blend of package rooms and access to the unit.“ He estimated that more than half of residents will opt for in-unit delivery.
Hardware innovations will be needed to solve buildings’ physical limitations, said Mihkel Noormagi, chief product officer of Elegran, a tech-driven real estate brokerage firm. He forsees robots using elevators to deliver items in the middle of the night.
Engrain CEO Brent Steiner speculates that some communities will equip units with outer butler pantries. Delivery people will access the pantry but not the apartment itself. Buildings may even feature landing pads outside units for drone deliveries, he said.
“There will have to be efficiencies in place,” said Amy Groff, senior vice president of industry operations at the National Apartment Association. “The volume will not die down. It’s just going to continue growing.”
Smart delivery will also require a way for residents to send packages in the other direction, noted Larry Bond, chairman of Bond Cos. “How else will residents return items they overbought?”