Receiving physical mail has been seemingly on its way out for decades — replaced by means of electronic communication such as email, apps and specialised online services. While the digital revolution may have been successful in countless other ways… your utility bills, online purchases and that magazine you subscribe to still arrive to your address in physical form. While you are able to track courier shipments online and receive alerts for many other physical mail services, a connected mailbox that sends alerts you on your mobile is almost nowhere to be found.
In short, mailboxes, or postboxes, may not belong to your typical Internet of Things, but making your mailbox smart can be a great way to stay on top of important mail and a convenience that is much easier to set up than you ever realised!
Evolution of mail
Passing messages from one person to another in form of writing has most likely been around since the invention of writing. The first documented evidence of organised private courier service was used privately by Pharaohs in Egypt in 2400 BC with the oldest surviving piece of mail dating all the way back to 255 BC. Sixth king of the First Babylonian dynasty, Hammurabi (1700 BC), also created a messaging system in his kingdom for gathering intelligence as well as taxes. Persian King Cyrus the Great (550 BC) has been largely credited for the invention of the first mail system that allowed common citizens to send and receive post between provinces under his kingdom.
Postal systems have played an important role in the development of modern transportation such as railways, road and inter-continental air transportation. Today, the Universal Postal Union, established in 1874, includes 192 member countries and sets the rules for international mail exchanges.
Public mailboxes have been around since 1653, when world’s first boxes were installed in and around Paris, France. However, mailboxes or mail slots used for receiving private or business mail became popular much later in around mid to late 19th century in both Europe and North America. Although the common mailbox may be largely standardized, the basic functionality of a mailbox has remained the same throughout the years.
Internet of Postal Things
The title of the first “smart” mailbox must belong to the original American curbside mailbox (also called the tunnel-style mailbox) fitted with a semaphore or signal flag mounted on an attached arm to signal the postman to pickup outgoing mail as well as for the postman to inform the delivery of incoming mail. The connected mailbox, however, seems to be just on its way in: U.S. Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General envisioned a connected mailbox back in 2015. Their connected home mailbox prototype was just unveiled at CES 2019.
The idea of a mailbox being fitted with smart sensors for securing it from weather conditions, unauthorized access and to monitor its activity in real-time is rather unsurprisingly becoming very real, and it’s only surprising connected mailboxes haven’t yet found their way to our homes in the same way as connected fridges and other home appliances have done. World has only seen a few functional IoT mailboxes so far but we can be sure there will be many more to come… the time is finally right for Internet of Postal Things.
Get your mailbox connected with RuuviTag
There are few rather ambitious projects for the mailbox of the future, some that can even scan packages and connect with selected service providers’ API to exchange delivery information. However, many of these functionalities might seem a bit too much for the common user: your connected mailbox of the future can be literally just one smart beacon away.
Smart sensor beacons can be ideal for this task due to their ability to connect with other devices or networks via different wireless protocols. RuuviTag is a rugged and affordable Bluetooth sensor beacon that can adapt to hundreds of situations, and this versatility makes it a perfect choice for a connected mailbox.
RuuviTag is able to sense its orientation through STMicroelectronics LIS2DH12 accelerometer. This sensor has the ability to act as a simple movement trigger when attached to the lid or door of a mailbox or a mail slot. RuuviTag can also provide environmental data from inside or outside the mailbox (depending where it was installed) to keep user informed about surrounding conditions, that could spell disaster for more weather sensitive packages. Monitoring your connected mailbox can be done simply by installing RuuviStation app on your mobile phone. This app provides real-time data and alerts, that are completely user configurable. Sounds complicated? Installing and configuring RuuviTag to your mailbox and phone takes less than 5 minutes!
The connected mailbox revolution is here: it’s now easier than ever to connect your mailbox as a part of your IoT environment.
RuuviTag makes connecting your mailbox easy by providing all the necessary sensors in a small form factor device, that can sense when mailbox was opened or closed, and provide environmental data right on your mobile phone through simple and powerful Ruuvi Station app.
Make sure you are running the latest firmware and mobile application to get access to the latest features available on your platform. Note also that when writing this post, iOS devices are not scanning Bluetooth broadcasts in the background and user has to check the app’s movement counter value manually.
More information and use cases for RuuviTag on Ruuvi website.
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