Preventing package theft.

Doorlivery was created as a yearly school project for my engineering class. Through this project, I was able to learn a lot about Arduino, review engineering concepts such as circuits, materials testing, et cetera. This project also allowed me to refine my front-end skillset through the creation of an e-commerce website. The idea was thought up from several complaints that grew increasingly common in our neighborhood regarding the issue of package theft.

Platter is a smart bluetooth-controlled dog door with an integrated package theft protection, allowing packages to be safely delivered to your home.

Problem Statement

Online shopping is a very simple and convenient venue for purchasing products, but it has always been plagued with one issue that has never fully been addressed - package theft. With the increasing popularity of online delivery services such as Amazon, package theft is a growing issue in the modern, developed world.

Over 50% of Americans claim to know someone that has suffered to package theft, and over 30% of Americans claim that their own package has been stolen.

Leaving one's package on their front porch is not a viable and secure method of delivery due to the dangers and widespread existence of such porch pirates. Additionally, reporting stolen packages often lead to dead ends or is too much of a hassle to report. Package theft is far too simple and risk-free of a crime to commit due to the current state of package delivery.

Research Summary

Package theft, as one of the most pertinent issues of the 21st century, has had numerous attempts to address it.

One of the most popular methods to prevent package theft is by having the package delivered to another location. For example, asking the delivery person to place the package in a nearby bush or alleyway that is unlikely to have anyone pass through it. Besides that, PO boxes are offered by most post offices to allow your mail and packages to be stored there rather than directly in front of your house. There are various known flaws in these solutions. One of the most notable is that it somewhat impedes the purpose of home delivery in the first place if you have to go somewhere else to actually grab your packages. Besides that, placing the package in a nearby alley or bush is still not secure, only increasing the chances of theft if found, as it could just look to be thrown away. In the case of PO boxes, they are often farther from one’s house, have very limited space, and also require monthly payments. The flaws in these solutions has lead to new and different solutions to package theft.

Other companies, both large and small, have attempted to solve the issue of package theft in the past. Some that we came across are weight sensors that notify you when a package is at your door, and others that allow the entire deliveryman into your home, or give them access to the trunk of your car. Out of all the solutions currently available, we found flaws in all of them. The weight sensor solution, or Package Guard, does not actually deter a thief from stealing the package - the package will still be out in the open and up for grabs. The Amazon home solution is completely impractical. It would not be safe at all to let a stranger into your home, and it would be an invasion of personal privacy. As for the trunk solution presented by Amazon, it is impractical as it is incompatible with most vehicles, and it would not be safe to keep anything of value in your car. Cameras are a common solution for preventing package theft, but it is not very effective at preventing the package from being stolen. The inability for cameras to recognize masked faces and the expensive costs for storing footage deter many people from attempting to install cameras.

Amazon Key
Package Guard
Amazon In-Car Delivery

Solution Summary

Our solution to the package theft issue is to have a secure, locked hatch on one's door much like a dog door. This lock can only be opened and the hatch only accessed through an authenticated Bluetooth device. The delivery person, as he nears the home of someone with a Doorlivery, will receive a request over Bluetooth for a combination that can be given in the delivery comments. When this combination is input, the lock will open and the delivery person can then place the package directly inside one's house.

This intends to address the root of the issue. By hiding the package from visibility, porch pirates will not even consider attempting package theft on your home in the first place by making it seem like you rarely have packages delivered to your house. Most porch pirates tend to only steal what is easily accessible and left vulnerable on a porch for days. This indicates to the thieves that there is no one at home, making package theft a rather low-risk and appealing option.

The materials that we used include an HC-06 bluetooth module for communication between the application and the hatch, a breadboard for wiring, a powerbank to power the Arduino nano, an arduino nano, a servo motor, a slide lock, wood, and screws.

As for the code, we attempted to code the entire application in Android Studio, but were unable to complete the app as the correct values would not send (although the code seemed logically correct). We then switched to using BLYNK, which is an IOT tool that allows you to create an application controlled through bluetooth or wifi. BLYNK allows the use of “virtual”/simulated pins for virtual in-app (non-physical) buttons. After adding the appropriate information to the BLYNK template, were able to create an app that controls the door lock. All we had to do was implement the BLYNK libraries in the Arduino code, which consisted of the lock/unlock and hatch control functions), and remove the code that (attempted) to talk with the Android app.

The Failed Application
With Blynk API

Product Analysis

From our testing of our prototype, we find Doorlivery to be a perfectly viable mechanism to prevent package theft. It worked exactly as was intended for the prototype. However, there are certain improvements that we determined can be made for our final prototype based off of our experience with the prototype. For one, since the door uses a slide lock, it is occasionally unreliable. In most conventional doors, there is an additional mechanism that assures the door is always in the same place before the lock is put in place. This is especially an issue for us as the delivery man must be able to open and close the hatch quickly without having to worry about closing it properly. Ideally, in our final prototype, we would have a similar mechanism to ensure the lock will engage properly each time. Besides that, we found that there is quite a bit of latency for opening and closing the lock. We believe this is due to the cheap Bluetooth module that we bought. In the finished consumer product, we would choose to have a slightly more expensive bluetooth module, in all likelihood on the outside of the door instead of next to our lock.

We also conducted a survey for our product to see the potential consumer response to our product and address any concerns. Here are the results for the question where we directly asked for the likelihood of a consumer buying our product. We received generally mixed to positive reviews. The somewhat mixed reaction can be contributed to several reasons. The primary one being that the people we are reviewing, students, are not our population of interest. An overwhelming 70% majority of our surveyees have said that they have never personally experienced package theft, or even knew anybody that has experienced such theft. Due to the perceived lower risk of package theft due to a lack of personal experience, they feel that it is not necessary to purchase a system to prevent this theft. This is corroborated by the fact that most of the surveyees (86.1%) claim to have bought no system to prevent package theft. However, according to the data in the pie chart a significant 58.3% still feel at risk for package theft.

You've reached the end of this project.

Don't worry, there's more to see. Interested? Contact me.