Smart "final meters" are the last piece in the autonomous delivery puzzle.

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24 Oct, 2022

In-building robots solve the package problem in multi-dwelling buildings with a fully automated doorstep delivery system.

The increasing move to online commerce has changed people's shopping habits, including how apartment dwellers receive their deliveries. While concierges, door attendants, and building superintendents have traditionally accepted packages on behalf of residents, the management and storage of packages are evolving. 95% of buildings receive over ten times their package handling and management capacity leading to the potential for lost, returned, or unsecured parcels. 

While the last mile of delivery - from packing station to a building's front door- has been streamlined by automation and robotics - the final meters from the building door to the recipient demands innovation and overhaul to meet the growing demand for easy, fast, and contactless delivery. 

This article explores the last meters challenge and introduces EarthRobotics, a robotics company working to solve the problem. 

Convenience of online ordering overshadowed by final meters delivery disorganization.

The Covid-19 pandemic stay-at-home orders have accelerated an already growing trend towards e-commerce. In May 2020, Snaile reported that package deliveries increased 57 percent during the first few months of the pandemic. The rise in subscription models for everything from toothbrushes to dog food has also contributed to an increase in package deliveries.

Most multi-dwelling buildings do not have a dedicated storage area for packages, and so unless recipients are at home to collect deliveries, parcels are either sent to pick-up stations, left unsecured in building lobbies, or left with neighbours. In all these cases, the onus is on the package recipient to track down their parcel, an often frustrating and time-consuming task.

These final meters of package delivery have the potential to significantly reduce the convenience of online ordering by creating a loop of lost or hard-to-locate packages. This is further exacerbated if packages are sent back, damaged, or lost after being handed over by delivering companies. Florida-based Earth Robotics has recently launched their autonomous package delivery ecosystem to address this increasing issue that solves this final meter's hurdle. 

Fully automated doorstep delivery with Earth Robotics.

The first product from Earth Robotics is an autonomous delivery ecosystem made up of an autonomous bot, elevator control system, user app, ground-level package storage, and charging center. The system can be deployed in both multi-dwelling residential buildings and commercial office campuses'.  

Autonomous delivery from door to door

Central to the ecosystem is LU, a level 5 autonomous robot that does the hard work of delivering packages from the building door to the individual recipient. LU is a compact, four-wheeled robot equipped with a multi-mode drive system DSS (Dynamic Steering System) that enables it to move in every direction and navigate through complex building layouts. Radars, cameras, and Lidar provide LU with an overlapping field of view that extends over 40 meters, providing sight in all conditions. LU is completely autonomous, requiring only to be loaded by a delivery person and the package retrieved by the recipient. 

Communication

LU can be communicated with via a smartphone app that provides visibility for package receivers. LU can understand nine verbal languages for intuitive voice control. Further, Earth Robotics has developed an emoji-based interface for fast and responsive communication. For example, when needing to charge LU displays a sleepy emoji face to let users know its needs. LU also communicates with users via a lighting system that indicates its next movement, I.e. it has a red light breaking system. 

 Safety

LU is equipped with emergency braking systems which, combined with its extensive vision systems, ensures there are no collisions with objects, people, or walls. LU is also completely independent, knowing when to return to charge, when to be ready to receive an incoming package and what the most efficient route for delivery is. 

Earth Robotics' automated bot LU with a volume of 50 x 50 x40 cm. Image credit: Earth Robotics.

 The physical system

LU has a carrying volume of 50 x 50 x 40 cm enabling it to deliver 95% of typical packages as well as oversized items such as a large pizza box. LU's docking station incorporates a touchscreen interface for delivery personnel to issue instructions. When not on a delivery LU can use the dock to replenish its efficient electric battery. 

Simple and secure 

LU works much like a public package locker, except it is mobile and personalized. Once a delivery arrives to a LU-installed building, the delivery person hands the package over to LU or the storage station with some information about the recipient. LU can then alert the recipient that they have a parcel or food delivery and awaits instruction for either immediate or delayed delivery. Once ready to deliver, LU self-navigates using the building's lift to the appropriate floor and apartment. Once outside the right apartment, LU once again, notifies the recipient via the app and the parcel can be collected using a secure personalized QR code generated in the app. 

LU notifies the recipient via the app, so the parcel can be collected by using a secure personalized QR code. Image credit: Earth Robotics. 

Robots for community building 

Earth Robotics makes it clear that its mission goes beyond simply solving problems with technology. They also aim to create an ecosystem that positively impacts communities sharing space within multi-dwelling buildings. While occupying the private space of a residential building LU is an extension of the rise of the smart city. Convenience, safety, sustainability, and delightful interactions with technology are key to the success of connected cities - ideas and goals emulated by LU. Earth Robotics is interested in how central robotics systems can impact the positive connection between the residences of a building. 

Conclusion

The increase in package deliveries is set to continue. Advanced robotics ecosystems, such as the ecosystem from Earth Robotics will become mainstays of busy multi-dwelling buildings starting with package deliveries and likely to evolve into other tasks such as caregiving and maintenance. These personal, and intuitive robots will connect public and private spaces providing convenience, safety, security, and fun. 

References

1. Consumer experience. (n.d.). Bizrate Insights: Customer Experience Insights & Analytics. Retrieved January 11, 2022, from https://bizrateinsights.com/ 

2. How it works. (n.d.). Earth Robotics. Retrieved January 11, 2022, from https://www.earthrobotics.co/how-it-works 

3. US Ecommerce Sales. (n.d.). Oberlo. Retrieved January 11, 2022, from https://www.oberlo.com/statistics/us-ecommerce-sales 

4. What jobs are being taken over by robots and computers? (2020, March 6). Computer Hope. Retrieved January 11, 2022, from https://www.computerhope.com/issues/ch001799.htm 

About the sponsor: Earth Robotics

Earth Robotics offers the possibility of making people's lives easier by bringing our robots into residential complexes, taking all package deliveries to a new level. Health and safety are the primary focus. Our mission is to make the best products on earth and leave the world better than we found it. Our vision is to change the ecosystem through robotics.



More by Elijah Nelson

Embedded & Autonomous Robotic Systems Engineer.

Wevolver 2022