I had the opportunity to visit the Parcel + Post expo in Amsterdam this year. It was a great show that should be renamed the Smart Locker Show. Over 30 locker companies were displayed at the exposition, and most of the buzz was all about smart lockers. While Koloni is starting to grow in the European market, it was an experience to learn where the locker industry was going in Europe. I wanted to share my notes publicly, as I think it's critical for this industry to be more open and connected to further advance the growth in the global market.
Off-Grid Lockers are the Future | Every locker company had a battery-operated locker in the front and center of their booth. There were many different variations of these battery lockers. Many were Bluetooth only with no interface. Other Bluetooth lockers also had a pin pad on the locker for the user to enter their order number to unlock.
Many locker companies were selling the wrong feature regarding their battery-operated locker. They would all first mention the battery life being 5 years, 10 years, etc. Our analytics suggest that this value proposition is not worth the squeeze. Maintenance of these lockers will happen within a year; creating swappable batteries fast and easy for the operator is more important.
Instead, the companies that have focused their product development on 4G cellular solutions will be the winners. BLE connections can be inconsistent, lack security, and create a really poor and slow user experience for the end user and the integrator. A 4G cellular locker that has a battery life of 1 year and can be easily swappable will allow for smarter lockers, better customer support, remote capabilities, and a user experience that is fast and frictionless.
Locker Designs to Fit Public Spaces | There were only a few companies that have focused on designing lockers to fit into our public and private spaces more seamlessly and elegantly. Modern Expo’s philosophy and execution align with my long-standing design principles for the smart locker space. Lockers should not be just a piece of metal on our streets. There should be more harmony between lockers and our community spaces. Built around public benches, bus stop buildings, and other existing structures.
Lockers can be central to a large smart hub for EVs, marketing, asset rentals, and vending. I personally think Modern Expo hit it out of the park when it comes to designing products with harmony. This focus on product design is an unlock for expanding the locker industry with more significant adoption.
The US Market is Way Behind in Parcel Lockers | The carrier investment into smart locker networks in Europe is a real thing of beauty. While we should see more carrier-agnostic networks, the investment in these networks has a noticeable return on investment for those companies. Digesting all the conversations over the week during my 10 hours of travel back to Chicago, I realized that we were only in the first inning of parcel smart lockers in the United States.
The US market has spent the majority of market development in the private locker space. Being late to the game in the public network space, the US will have some advantages with newer locker designs, better IoT, and stronger software compared to the early days in the European market.
Lack of Software Innovation & Demonstration | One disappointment was the lack of software products showcased at the expo. Locker manufacturers, by and large, have built minimum viable products regarding locker software. Many do not fully understand the power that software can provide in the smart locker industry and to their business. (I am certainly biased) The industry needs to be more innovative and disruptive regarding software products.
I continue to believe that it is very difficult for one company to do software and hardware exceptionally well. That is why we at Koloni continue to focus on building products to our strengths and building world class software. We met many great hardware companies that we hope to build relationships with moving forward. Hopefully we will see the Koloni platform demonstrated in booths in Amsterdam in 2024.
Brian Dewey’s Parcel + Expo Awards (no trophies!)
- Best Product Design: Modern Expo
- Greatest Innovation: Belter
- Highest Quality Locker: Arka