Smart technology is playing a key role in managing parcel deliveries in Canadian multi-residential buildings
Furnaces that warm the house just in time for the homeowners’ arrival, electronic personal assistants that keep track of everything from board meetings to grocery lists, and cars that drive themselves? Ten years ago, all of that sounded like the stuff out of a science fiction novel, but today, all of these features and more are well within reach. Smart technology is fast becoming a driving force behind the way we live, work and play and early adopters are reaping the benefits. For those who live and work in multi-residential buildings, one of the first smart technology game-changers to step onto the scene arrived in the form of the smart parcel locker, such as those assembled and distributed by Canadian owned and operated Snaile.
An Essential Amenity
It is no secret that e-commerce is exploding, with millennials – the socio-economic powerhouse comprising 27% of the country’s population – leading the charge. According to Statistics Canada, year-over-year e-commerce revenue rose by 110% between May of 2019 and May 2020. This surge of online shopping translates instantaneously, of course, into a corresponding increase in parcel deliveries. In fact, in April of this year, Canada Post alone delivered more than 1.8 million parcels to Canadians in a single day. The result of these unprecedented volumes? Lobbies across the country have been inundated with unsecured parcels, concierge and security staff have been overwhelmed with the requirements of logging, storing and distributing packages, and liability concerns around potential theft and property damage have reached an all-time high. In condos and apartment buildings, however, smart lockers by companies such as Snaile are relieving much of the strain caused by the unyielding tidal wave of parcels.
How it Works
Snaile lockers are the only parcel lockers that have been officially approved by all major carrier companies in Canada. “The beauty of our lockers,” says Patrick Armstrong, CEO of Snaile, “is that they are ‘carrier agnostic,’ meaning they can be accessed by any and all carriers,” unlike their single-carrier counterparts, such as Canada Post’s mechanical lockers, which operate using traditional lock-and-key access and are reserved exclusively for one designated organization. This means parcels handled by big companies such as FedEx and Purolator, as well as specialty deliveries from small, local businesses can all be deposited safely within the locker’s secure industrial-grade steel compartments.
Carriers simply go to the locker’s touch-screen terminal, select the appropriate unit number and compartment size and deposit the parcel. The moment the compartment door closes, the recipient receives a delivery alert via SMS or email containing a unique, one-time PIN, which is then used to collect the parcel when convenient. Alternatively, the option for contactless collection using a scannable QR code is also available. This simple and secure process eliminates the need for concierge staff to accept and store deliveries (research indicates that one parcel takes 10 minutes to log, store and dispatch) and keeps hallways and lobbies clear of parcels, preventing theft, damage and costly fire code violations.
“…we are thrilled with how happy everyone is with this new and easy to use system. No more ugly notices cluttering up the main entrance.”
Debbie, Property Manager, Vancouver
The Resident’s Perspective
The convenience of online shopping is totally undermined when one must invest a huge amount of time and energy tracking down a missed delivery. The dreaded delivery card often means walking, driving or taking transit to a delivery warehouse or depot and being beholden to the carrier company’s hours of operation. In buildings with smart parcel lockers, however, deliveries that arrive at any time of day or night are securely contained in the tamper-proof compartments, accessible only with a secure, single-use access or QR code sent directly and securely to the intended recipients.
Made to Order
The modular lockers are entirely customizable and can be configured to suit any building, big or small. A Snaile specialist works with property management personnel to determine the number and types of compartments that would best suit the building’s occupants. For example, a building housing a younger demographic – one that orders virtually everything online – may opt for specialized compartments for dry-cleaning drop-offs, or refrigerated units for perishable food deliveries. A millennial-centric building would also likely want to incorporate as many compartments as possible to accommodate the heavy usage and high carrier traffic; whereas a building with an older demographic may require far fewer compartments to service a similar number of residents. An added bonus, though, is that because the system is entirely modular, if needs should change over time, extensions or specialty compartments can be added to adapt to the building’s evolving needs.
Customization also applies to the location of the lockers themselves. New builds can incorporate the increasingly crucial amenity directly into their floor plans, but, given the vast amount of existing inventory in the multi-residential market – especially in dense urban centres – creative retrofitting is often part of the process. Lockers can be installed in any number of spaces, from main lobbies and vestibules to parking garages and mailrooms. And because Snaile lockers can withstand temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Celsius without impeding functionality or compromising structural integrity, exterior lockers are a popular choice for buildings with limited interior space and are capable of surviving winters in Winnipeg or heat waves in Kelowna.
What Makes Them So Smart?
Snaile lockers are powered by robust, cloud-based software that allows property management personnel to access information about the deposits and collections occurring at their buildings from anywhere, at any time. Administrators can access the cloud using their secure, password-protected profile, and, from there, they can view which compartments contain items (detected by the lockers’ infrared scanners), what time a particular delivery occurred, and if and when a deposit has been collected. If ever there are any questions around the security of a particular deposit, resident managers can review video surveillance captured by the lockers’ security cameras, 24 hours a day.
In addition to the company’s own smart solutions, Snaile has partnered with a number of other smart technology providers to offer a fully integrated and synergistic user experience. By aligning with a variety of property management software providers, for example, the requirement of creating and maintaining a user database specific to the Snaile locker is eliminated. Instead, owner and resident data is populated through the property management’s API, which means no additional data entry is required. This integration leaves little room for clerical error and frees up countless human resource hours. When updates are required because occupancy turns over, for example, or there has been a minor contact information change, this integration means the resident only needs to inform their property manager of the change and it will automatically be updated to the Snaile cloud when it syncs with the building’s API – a process that occurs nightly, so that changes are implemented right away.
Canada’s Parcel Locker Company
What sets the five-year-old company apart from its competitors is its laser focus on the Canadian market. Boasting an entirely bilingual user interface and a 24-hour bilingual support, Snaile is expanding rapidly “in la belle province,” and currently has installations in 24 Canadian cities from Vancouver Island to the east coast. In addition, the company’s executive is expertly versed in Canadian business law and best practices and adheres stringently to Canadian privacy regulations as outlined in PIPEDA.
When asked about taking the business model south of the border as so many Canadian corporations aspire to do, Armstrong quickly replies that such ambitions are not currently on the agenda. “Above all,” says Armstrong, “we are focussed on providing safe and timely deliveries to Canadians from coast to coast.” Responding to whether this stems from small-fish-big-pond insecurity, he responds, “We would rather be the best at what we do right here at home, instead of scrambling to break into the larger US market at the expense of our Canadian customers.” It is this commitment to quality over quantity that will likely ensure the continuation of the company’s upward trajectory and secure its position as a homegrown success story.