Smart Modern Milk Box Could Solve the Problem of Porch Pirates

CC BY 2.0. Danby Parcel Guard/ Lloyd Alter

The Danby Parcel Guard reduces the waste of stolen packages and multiple deliveries.

The New York Times recently reported that as much as fifteen percent of packages delivered to homes go missing because of theft.

Around the country, more than 1.7 million packages are stolen or go missing every day — adding up to more than $25 million in lost goods and services, according to an analysis for The Times by José Holguín-Veras, an engineering professor and director of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Center of Excellence for Sustainable Urban Freight Systems.
lockers and mailboxes

Lockers and mailboxes in Malmo/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

The TreeHugger position on this would be that we should all stop online shopping, but that's not going to happen. We might also say that every building should have smart programmable mailboxes like I saw in the bicycle building in Malmö, which send you to the right size box, depending on the size of the delivery. But most North Americans don't live in smart buildings like Cykelhuset Oboy!

However, when visiting a home show in Toronto recently, I was intrigued by the Danby Parcel Guard. When someone delivers a parcel, they simply open it and put the package in; when the door is shut, the package is lowered into the bottom compartment so that it is secure, and the Parcel Guard is ready for another delivery. Meanwhile, you get a message on your phone that the package has arrived. If the package is too big for the top compartment, you can remotely open the bottom compartment and let the delivery person (who you can see via its video camera) put the package in the larger lower section.

Top compartment open on the Danby Parcel Guard

Top compartment open on the Danby Parcel Guard/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

But wait, there's more. It has an alarm and the camera is motion activated if someone tries to tamper with it. There is a 3 hour battery backup in case the power goes out or someone tries to disconnect it. And if you bolt it to your wall, they can't pick it up and carry it away.

So why is this on TreeHugger? Because there is so much waste with the lost packages and multiple deliveries, and when people don't have cars, they tend to get more deliveries; that's why they were installed in Malmö. And because, as I have noted before, this is really as much a 19th century problem as it is an 21st century one. People used to need regular deliveries of two common necessities: ice and milk. They solved it with design.

Milk boxes in Marseille

Milk boxes in Marseille/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Le Corbusier did it in the Unite d'habitation in Marseille; those green boxes are for ice and food delivery from the grocery on the third floor.

Majestic Milkbox

Majestic Milkbox/Promo image

Before that, people had milk and package boxes built into the walls of their homes.

Mccray fridge

McCray fridge is iced from the outside/Public Domain

There were even fridges with doors where milk and ice could be delivered right into the back of the icebox.

Bottom compartment open on the Danby Parcel Guard

Bottom compartment open on the Danby Parcel Guard/CC BY 2.0

The Danby Parcel Guard could be the precursor of a smart milk box that is built into the walls of our homes, a 21st century update of the 19th century solution. Then our cargo-bike deliveries can come at any time and left without the risk of loss. That's smart design.