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Threat prevention

Left: The SnailGUARD detection solution from Snaile

Patrick Armstrong, CEO of technology developer Snaile, speaks to Postal and Parcel Technology International about the potential threat posed by parcel lockers, and what can be done to nullify the problem.

Do parcel lockers pose a security threat?
Parcel lockers are becoming increasingly popular. They provide a convenient alternative location to collect parcels when the recipient isn’t at home. But could they actually be used to cause a threat?

Given that they are designed to be convenient, parcel lockers are usually located in areas with plenty of human traffic, such as train stations and malls. Some apartment blocks are also having them fitted as standard. The lockers contain a number of different compartments, enabling many people to collect their parcels from the same convenient location. But this could make them very attractive to the wrong people.

Highly populated areas are ideal targets for terrorists. It wouldn’t be difficult for them to place a bomb inside an empty locker, with potentially disastrous consequences.

Are parcel lockers really secure?
The big problem with parcel lockers is that the vast majority are unable to tell you whether they’re full or empty. The only information they have is the door sensor being triggered. Just because someone has removed a package does not mean they haven’t replaced it with something else. If that something else was a bomb, it likely wouldn’t be discovered until it was detonated.

Snaile discussed this issue with a number of parcel locker manufacturers and parcel network operators. Surprisingly, none of them seemed overly concerned. One even responded that they would be able to trace the owner of any parcel that had been removed and replaced with a bomb… small consolation when lives have been lost. It’s also a fallacy, as the parcel could easily have been purchased with a stolen credit card.

What can be done?
Some parcel lockers have now been fitted with scales in an attempt to make content detection possible, addressing some security concerns. However, scales are problematic in that they require the item to have contact with their sensors. It’s fairly easy to wedge a parcel into a locker in such a way that it can’t be detected. Scales can also give false data, as their readings are affected by temperature. They require constant calibration, which adds time and labor costs to the operation of parcel lockers.

In an effort to find a more satisfactory solution, Snaile has devised cost effective item-detection technology which does not require calibration or contact with the item. SnailGUARD (pictured above) alerts officials when a parcel locker that should be empty unexpectedly contains an item. This technology could potentially save lives.

Who Should Care?
Anyone who has a parcel locker on their property, such as train station operators and real estate landlords, should make sure they are doing everything they can to protect the people who use their services, including parcel lockers. In addition, authorities and law enforcement agencies should ensure that all parcel lockers are fitted with the best available technology.

Laws of this nature could potentially thwart a terrorist attack. They could also negate the financial, legal and credibility issues that the authorities would face as soon as it became known that such an attack could have been prevented.

Patrick Armstrong is the CEO of Snaile and the winner of the 2016 Digital Innovation of the Year Award by Postal Technology International for its first- and last-mile IoT technology, which creates first-mile operational cost savings and last-mile consumer mailbox revenues. Armstrong is an accomplished entrepreneur and business leader who has continued delivering an impressive success portfolio across multiple industries. Since 1999, he has helped to develop and launch five companies which have all enjoyed both acclaim and distinction.

February 14, 2017



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