Login| Sign Up| Help| Contact|

Patent Searching and Data


Title:
A SECURE LAST MILE DELIVERY SOLUTION FOR ITEMS/PARCELS BY DRONE, ROBOT AND COURIER
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2017/196190
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Described herein is a secure parcel and mail delivery pod comprising an enclosure or housing configured to securely receive mail, parcels and the like. The pod and functions thereof is in electronic communication with delivery devices and can be remotely controlled by a user from a communication device such as a smart telephone, and has the ability to be modular in design to accommodate different sized mail items, be visible and easily located by a delivery person, vehicle and/or autonomous delivery vehicle.

Inventors:
GRAHAM, Mary Frances (24a Adela Stewart Drive WestRD1, Katikati 3177, 3611, NZ)
GRAHAM, Derek John (24a Adela Stewart Drive WestRD1, Katikati 3177, 3611, NZ)
Application Number:
NZ2017/050059
Publication Date:
November 16, 2017
Filing Date:
May 12, 2017
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
GRAHAM, Mary Frances (24a Adela Stewart Drive WestRD1, Katikati 3177, 3611, NZ)
GRAHAM, Derek John (24a Adela Stewart Drive WestRD1, Katikati 3177, 3611, NZ)
International Classes:
A47G29/12; A47G29/124; A47G29/14; A47G29/16
Foreign References:
US3401875A1968-09-17
US2690870A1954-10-05
US20170127868A12017-05-11
US20090084836A12009-04-02
US20080040243A12008-02-14
US20140144975A12014-05-29
DE3142552A11983-05-05
US0327104A1885-09-29
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CREATEIP (PO Box, EdgewareChristchurch, 8143, 8143, NZ)
Download PDF:
Claims:
WHAT IS CLAIMED IS:

1. A secure mail and delivery pod comprising:

• a base, a plurality of side walls extending upward from the base, an upper lid secured to the side wal ls and a front panel comprising at least one moveable drawer;

• the secure pod also comprising at least the front panel attached to the drawer having a retractable floor positioned within an internal space defined by the plurality of side walls, the retractable floor defining a first compartment for receiving mail passed through the at least one drawer attached to the moveable mounted front panel and a second compartment for the secure storage of the received mail; and

wherein the retractable floor comprises at least one floor panel which is mechanically linked to the front panel and the drawer so that opening of the at least one drawer results in the at least one floor panel covering the opening into the second compartment and closing the drawer results in the at least one floor panel retracting to facilitate the movement of the delivered mail from the first compartment to the second compartment.

2. The secure pod as claimed in claim 1, wherein the base, plurality of side walls or panels

extending upward from the base and upper lid are secured by corner joint fixture elements configured to receive extrusions having slots for connection of the exterior panels.

3. The secure pod as claimed in claim 1, wherein the extrusions include spacer elements to enable multiple thickness and customisation of the side walls or panels.

4. The secure pod as claimed in claim 1 or claim 2, wherein the extrusions include an internal O- ring to provide for a weather seal.

5. The secure pod as claimed in claim 2, wherein the corner joint fixture elements comprise a cap insert attached by interference fit.

6. The secure pod as claimed in any one of the above claims, wherein a top section of the pod includes a delivery drawer with an external lip to act as both a door handle, a letter delivery slot and provide protection from the elements.

7. The secure pod as claimed in any one of the above claims, wherein the retractable floor of the drawer comprises a plurality of interconnecting floor panels that may extend, compress, or collapse in folds like those of a concertina.

8. The secure pod as claimed in any one of the above claims, wherein the floor panels cover the opening into a package receptacle when the drawer is open, and when the drawer is closed, the floor panels retract allowing the package to drop into the package receptacle below.

9. The secure pod as claimed in claim 8, wherein, when the drawer is opened again, the floor panels are in the expanded positon and thus, the package is secure in the receptacle below.

10. The secure pod as claimed in any one of the above claims, wherein, the drawer is electro- mechanically operated and is opened with a motor driving a cog or gear engaged with a frictional surface attached to a side bar element of the drawer.

11. The secure pod as claimed in claim 10, wherein the drawer is opened remotely or opened by an electronic device that is in electronic communication with the pod.

12. The secure pod as claimed in any one of the above claims, wherein the drawer includes an open reed switch to detect when the drawer is open thereby alerting a pod owner via a software application that a delivery is in the process of being made to the pod.

13. The secure pod as claimed in any one of the above claims, wherein the pod includes a weight sensor.

14. A secure mail and delivery pod comprising:

• a front panel comprising at least one moveable drawer to receive a mail item, the at least one mounted front panel being provided with an electronic lock which is operated by way of wireless communication with a communication device;

• a central processing unit for electronic communication with either an electronic device of a user, delivery person, vehicle and/or autonomous delivery vehicle;

wherein, upon delivery of the mail item by the delivery person, vehicle and/or autonomous delivery vehicle to a location of the secure pod, there is a deactivation of the electronic lock by the electronic delivery device and simultaneous activation of a drawer opening mechanism to receive the mail item in a first compartment, the drawer having at least one floor panel covering an opening into a second compartment and whereby reactivation of the electronic lock results in the drawer closing and the at least one floor panel retracting to facilitate the movement of the delivered mail item from the first compartment to the second compartment; and

• at least one sensor for detecting the placement of the mail item in the drawer which communicates by way of wireless communication with the communication device to notify the user when the mail item has been received within the secure pod.

15. The secure pod as claimed in claim 14, wherein the pod includes a base station where one or more pods connect via an Ethernet cable to the base station.

16. The secure pod as claimed in claim 15, wherein the base station is connected to a home power supply and optionally to a home internet router via an Ethernet cable.

17. The secure pod as claimed in claim 16, wherein the Ethernet cable provides power over

Ethernet (POE) to the pod.

18. The secure pod as claimed in any one of claims 14 to 16, wherein power to the pod is supplied by solar and/or battery and acts as an additional power or back-up source to POE.

19. The secure pod as claimed in any one of claims 15 to 18, wherein the base station is configured to connect to a home router over Wi-Fi.

20. The secure pod as claimed in any one of claims 15 to 19, wherein the base station contains a microcontroller with a Network switch that can act as a router and Wi-Fi client for communication purposes.

21. The secure pod as claimed in any one of the above claims, wherein a location of the pod is identified utilising several identifiers selected from : a physical street address of the pod owner; GPS coordinates; or a unique pod identification number (ID).

22. The secure pod as claimed in any one of the above claims, wherein the pod communicates with smart devices, and autonomous delivery vehicle(s) by communication protocols selected from: Internet, Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi), Bluetooth low energy (LE), Sigfox or LoRaWAN.™

23. The secure pod as claimed in any one of the above claims, wherein the pod utilises digital security and electronic identification protocols for digital security and delivery authentication of mail items by delivery devices selected from: a security certificate, a barcode, Quick Response (QR) Code, Radio-Frequency Identification (RFI D).

24. The secure pod as claimed in any one of the above claims comprising:

• a base, a plurality of side walls extending upward from the base, and upper lid wherein, the base, side walls and upper lid are secured by corner joint fixture elements configured to receive extrusions having slots for connection of the exterior side walls thereby providing an adjustable frame work to securely hold the pod and allow for variable dimensions thereof.

25. A method for securely receiving a mail item to a location of the secure pod by the delivery person, vehicle and/or autonomous vehicle as claimed in any one of the above claims.

26. The secure pod apparatus as substantially herein before described and with reference to the accompanying Figures.

The method for securely receiving a mail item to a location of the secure pod by a delivery person, vehicle and/or autonomous delivery vehicle as substantially herein before described and with reference to the accompanying Figures.

Description:
A SECURE LAST MILE DELIVERY SOLUTION FOR ITEMS/PARCELS BY DRONE, ROBOT AND COURIER RELATED APPLICATIONS

This Application derives priority from New Zealand patent Application number 714609 incorporated herein by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD

Described herein is a secure parcel and mail delivery pod. More specifically, the secure pod comprises an enclosure or housing configured to securely receive mail, parcels and the like. The secure pod is able to accept delivery via a courier, a drone or a robot. The pod and functions thereof can be controlled remotely by the owner.

BACKGROUND ART

Traditional mailboxes usually comprise a box shaped compartment with a front door and/or slot into which parcels letters and the like can be delivered into the compartment. A disadvantage with these known mailboxes is the lack of security of the delivered mail from thieves. Consequently owners place low confidence in the security of traditional mailboxes.

In addition, traditional mailboxes frequently do not have sufficient space to accommodate large or multiple parcels. A further disadvantage with traditional mailboxes is the lack of visibility in low light conditions (such as in winter) and the fact that mailboxes can be similar looking which can make their location difficult.

Mail theft is an epidemic in many countries, and can be a dangerous threat where mail can contain sensitive financial, social security, and other personal information. Manual locking mailboxes can offer one solution which may include a hopper style door for small package delivery. The incoming hopper door may be utilised for small packages such as prescriptions received by mail.

However, the above manual locking mailboxes do not address the requirement for signed postage requiring delivery by courier or the postman to a dwelling where the owner/occupier is not present to physically sign and receive the delivered item. This can be inconvenient for the owner/occupier who then has to arrange for redelivery or pickup of the mail item(s) themselves from a mail sorting office or in some cases those that have been returned back to the sender. The mail sorting office or location of the sender can be located a distance from the corresponding dwelling creating an even greater inconvenience for recollection of the item.

A modern trend in an increasing number of countries is the claimed decrease in use of paper mail and the widespread use of electronic forms of communication such as email and video conferencing. In contrast, the use of online shopping and in particular mobile online shopping is increasing due to the advantages of improved convenience, choice and cost saving over local shop bought goods and improvements in online payment facilities.

To accommodate the modern trend of online shopping, countries and businesses are developing other more convenient methods of delivering mail and parcels to their consumers. For example, the French postal service is developing a new drone delivery program to carry parcels on a set 15 kilometre route following Approval from the French aviation regulatory authority.

At this stage, it is an experiment for now and not a fully launched program, and will only operate once a week. But it is believed that this is the first time a federal postal service will use drones to deliver on a regular route.

The DPD group, a subsidiary of the French national postal service, has been perfecting its drone delivery project since 2014 in the south of France, working in partnership with Atechsys, a French drone company. In September 2015, the drone delivery project demonstrated its aircraft could fly in complete autonomy carrying a package weighing over 1.5 kilograms a distance of 15 kilometres.

The drone route stretches between Saint-Maximin-La-Sainte-Beaume and Pourrieres in the Provence region of France in the southeast of the country. At present, non-residential customers are participating in the experiment, including a dozen technology companies that can now receive parcels by drone, according to the DPD group.

Eventually, Le Groupe La Poste, the name of the French postal service, aims to use drones to deliver parcels in hard to reach rural or mountainous regions, where long distance delivery is difficult and expensive by a ground vehicle.

The drones used in the French postal experiment are capable of flying as far as 20 kilometres carrying a payload of about 1 kg at a maximum speed of about 28 kilometres per hour and are equipped with a parachute to land safely in case of a disruption with the flight.

The United Kingdom's national postal service, the Royal Mail, also has expressed interest in deploying drones amid warnings that rural postal services in the country may be under threat due to the high delivery costs of reaching remote areas.

The United States Postal Service has been looking into drones, too. USPS have released the results of a survey gauging how Americans feel about the idea of drones carrying parcels to American doorsteps, showing more Americans like the idea of drone delivery than dislike it.

Also, Amazon has released a video of its first customer drone delivery in the British countryside. And in China, online retailer J D.com have started the trial of its drone delivery program with a fleet of 28 drones that ferry orders to locations in rural China outside of Beijing, as well as Jiangsu, Shaanxi and Sichuan provinces. However, while drone delivery may overcome the problem of reducing delivery costs and reaching remote areas, this method of delivery still does not alleviate the problem where parcels and the like are required to be signed upon receipt of delivery for security purposes. If the owner/occupier is not present to physically sign and receive the delivered item as above, the drone may either have to return to base and not complete delivery or drop off the parcel and leave it outside the unoccupied dwelling where it is open to theft and the environment.

Another modern trend includes the increasingly widespread use of Apps on smart devices such as smart telephones and wearable smart watches synced to home Appliances such as heat pumps, refrigerators and televisions to control their operation. This transformation of 'dumb' to 'smart' devices provides the advantage of improved convenience of control by the owner from remote locations.

It is an object of the present invention to provide a remotely controlled secure pod that can take advantage of modern technology for receiving mail or the like, can accommodate large or multiple parcels when required, which is visible and can be easily located, or at least provide a useful alternative to the public. It is a "last mile" delivery solution that may address security needs of the end customer. Further aspects and advantages of the method and product will become apparent from the ensuing description that is given by way of example only.

SUMMARY

Described herein is a secure pod comprising an enclosure or housing configured to securely receive mail, parcels and the like. The pod and functions thereof can be remotely controlled by a user from a communication device such as a smart telephone, and has the ability to be modular in design to accommodate different sized mail items, be visible and easily located by a delivery person, vehicle and/or autonomous delivery vehicle.

In a first aspect there is provided a secure pod comprising: · a base, a plurality of side walls extending upward from the base, an upper lid secured to the side walls and a front panel comprising at least one moveable drawer;

• the secure pod also comprising at least the front panel attached to the drawer having a

retractable floor positioned within an internal space defined by the plurality of side walls, the retractable floor defining a first compartment for receiving mail passed through the at least one drawer attached to the moveable mounted front panel and a second compartment for the secure storage of the received mail; and

wherein the retractable floor comprises at least one floor panel which is mechanically linked to the front panel and the drawer so that opening of the at least one drawer results in the at least one floor panel covering the opening into the second compartment and closing the drawer results in the at least one floor panel retracting to facilitate the movement of the delivered mail from the first compartment to the second compartment.

In a second aspect, there is provided a secure pod comprising:

• a front panel comprising at least one moveable drawer to receive a mail item, the at least one mounted front panel being provided with an electronic lock which is operated by way of wireless communication with a communication device;

• a central processing unit for electronic communication with either an electronic device of a user, delivery person, vehicle and/or autonomous delivery vehicle;

wherein, upon delivery of the mail item by the delivery person, vehicle and/or autonomous delivery vehicle to a location of the secure pod, there is a deactivation of the electronic lock by the electronic delivery device and simultaneous activation of a drawer opening mechanism to receive the mail item in a first compartment, the drawer having at least one floor panel covering an opening into a second compartment and whereby reactivation of the electronic lock results in the drawer closing and the at least one floor panel retracting to facilitate the movement of the delivered mail item from the first compartment to the second compartment; and

· at least one sensor for detecting the placement of the mail item in the drawer which

communicates by way of wireless communication with the communication device to notify the user when the mail item has been received within the secure pod.

In a third aspect, there is provided a secure pod comprising:

• a base, a plurality of side walls extending upward from the base, and upper lid

wherein, the base, side walls and upper lid are secured by corner joint fixture elements configured to receive extrusions having slots for connection of the exterior side walls thereby providing an adjustable frame work to securely hold the pod and allow for variable dimensions thereof.

In a fourth aspect, there is provided a method for securely receiving a mail item to a location of a secure pod delivered by a delivery person, vehicle and/or autonomous delivery vehicle.

Advantages of the above include a remotely controlled secure pod that is future proofed to take advantage of developments in modern technology by countries and businesses for utilising more convenient methods of delivering/receiving mail, parcels or the like to their consumers. The pod is easily configurable and dimensioned to not only regular mail items, but can accommodate large or multiple parcels. The pod is visible and can be easily located utilising Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technology. Use of the pod provides for an improved ease of monitoring when mail items have arrived with remote control detection of delivery and functionality of the pod. For example, there is no longer the requirement for an owner/occupier to be physically present to physically sign and receive the delivered item. Thus, avoiding the inconvenience for the owner/occupier who then has to arrange for redelivery or pickup the mail item(s) themselves from a mail sorting office or in some cases returned to the sender. Furthermore, there is improved security of delivered mail items via the pod through the use of an electronic locking mechanism and an automated drawer with moveable retractable floor to securely receive mail items therein.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Further aspects of the Apparatus, methods and uses will become apparent from the following description that is given by way of example only and with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

Figure 1 illustrates a front view of various size embodiments of a secure pod - small, medium and large;

Figure 2 illustrates a rear view of various size embodiments of the secure pod of Figure 1 - small;

medium and large;

Figure 3 illustrates a front perspective view of a partially assembled large secure pod embodiment with side panel removed a hinged door for the bulky receptacle compartment; Figure 4 illustrates the same front perspective view of the large secure pod embodiment of Figure 3 with top drawer open;

Figure 5 illustrates a front perspective view of an assembled large secure pod embodiment of Figures

3 and 4;

Figure 6 illustrates a series of perspective views of the frame construction of the body and corner joins which slot into the frame extrusions;

Figure 7 illustrates a series of exemplary perspective views of a partially assembled top drawer in an open and closed state with retracting floor panels in corresponding states of partially open and closed positions;

Figure 8 illustrates a front sectional view of the drawer drive mechanism and enlarged view of the components thereof;

Figure 9 illustrates a series of exemplary perspective views of an open drawer receiving a parcel in the first compartment with retracting floor mechanism and being securely stored in the second compartment following closure of the drawer; and

Figure 10 illustrates a schematic view of a parcel being delivery by drone and securely received at a desired location of the pod and associated electronic componentry therein. DETAILED DESCRIPTION

As noted above, there is a secure pod comprising an enclosure or housing configured to securely receive mail, parcels and the like. The pod and functions thereof can be remotely controlled by a user from a communication device such as a smart telephone, and has the ability to be modular in design to accommodate different sized mail items, be visible and easily located by a delivery person, vehicle and/or autonomous delivery vehicle.

For the purposes of this specification, the term 'about' or 'Approximately' and grammatical variations thereof mean a quantity, level, degree, value, number, frequency, percentage, dimension, size, amount, weight or length that varies by as much as 28, 25, 20, 15, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, or 1% to a reference quantity, level, degree, value, number, frequency, percentage, dimension, size, amount, weight or length.

The term 'substantially' or grammatical variations thereof refers to at least about 50%, for example 75%, 85%, 95% or 98%.

The term 'comprise' and grammatical variations thereof shall have an inclusive meaning - i.e. that it will be taken to mean an inclusion of not only the listed components it directly references, but also other non-specified components or elements.

The term 'pod' or grammatical variations thereof refers to an enclosure or housing, that is configured to securely receive mail, parcels and/or shopping items or the like. Throughout the specification the pod may also be referred to as a shopping pod, mail box, parcel and mail delivery pod, last mile delivery solution or the like. The pod includes software and hardware for communication with smart devices and autonomous delivery vehicle(s).

The term 'autonomous delivery vehicle' or grammatical variations thereof refers to a either a drone i.e. an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or ship that can navigate autonomously, without human control (or guided remotely) beyond line of sight, or a robot i.e. an electro-mechanical machine that is directed by a computer program or electronic circuitry and other such vehicles.

In a first aspect there is provided a secure pod comprising:

• a base, a plurality of side walls extending upward from the base, an upper lid secured to the side walls and a front panel comprising at least one moveable drawer;

• the secure pod also comprising at least the front panel attached to the drawer having a

retractable floor positioned within an internal space defined by the plurality of side walls, the retractable floor defining a first compartment for receiving mail passed through the at least one drawer attached to the moveable mounted front panel and a second compartment for the secure storage of the received mail; and

wherein the retractable floor comprises at least one floor panel which is mechanically linked to the front panel and the drawer so that opening of the at least one drawer results in the at least one floor panel covering the opening into the second compartment and closing the drawer results in the at least one floor panel retracting to facilitate the movement of the delivered mail from the first compartment to the second compartment.

The base, plurality of side walls or panels extending upward from the base and upper lid may be secured by corner joint fixture elements configured to receive aluminium extrusions having slots for connection of the exterior panels. In this way, the corner joint fixture elements and aluminium extrusions provide a framework to securely hold and allow for easy assembly of the pod.

As above, the aluminium extrusions may include spacer elements to enable multiple thickness and customisation of the side walls or panels. For example, 3 mm, 6 mm and 9 mm thickness panels may be utilised by including a spacer element that may slide into the extrusion. In this way, the user has the option to choose their panel design depending on desired aesthetics and utility.

In a further embodiment, the aluminium extrusions may include an internal O-ring to provide for a weather seal.

The corner joint fixture elements may comprise a cap insert. This may attached by an interference fit for increased security and prevents ingress of water.

The sidewalls or panels may be manufactured out of anodised aluminium. In this way, the panels are lightweight, can be easily coloured for aesthetic appeal and corrosion resistance.

The top section of the pod may include a delivery drawer with an external lip to act as both a door handle, a letter delivery slot and protection from the elements. For example, to prevent the ingress of driving rain. Optionally, the top section lid of the pod may include a solar panel to supply power to the pod.

The drawer may be dimensioned to receive at least 1-4 standard letters (including bubble wrap). For example, drawer dimensions may be 328 mm (W) x 465 (L) x 105 (H). It should be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the pod and associated drawer and package receptacles may be include varying dimensions depending on the utility.

The retractable floor of the drawer may comprise a plurality of interconnecting floor panels that may extend, compress, or collapse in folds like those of a concertina. An advantage of this configuration is that it allows a larger parcel to be delivered via a smaller opening and then secured into a larger receptacle area. Furthermore, panels configured in a concertina arrangement provides for a more compact mechanism and installation. For example, compared to a hinged door with false floor arrangement may require clearance of the door to open within the pod.

In one embodiment, the floor panels may cover the opening into a package receptacle when the drawer is open, and when the drawer is closed, the floor panels may retract allowing the package to drop into the package receptacle below. Preferably, when the drawer may be opened again, the floor panels may be in the expanded positon and thus, the package may be secure. Preferably, the drawer may include a lock or latch that is electro-mechanically operated having a lock solenoid, and wherein the drawer may be opened with a motor driving a cog or gear engaged with a frictional surface attached to a side bar element of the drawer. In this way, the drawer may be opened remotely or opened by an electronic device that may establish communication with the pod.

However, the above drive mechanism should not be seen as a limitation of the present invention as other drive mechanisms could conceivably be used with this invention. For example, a flexible plastic strip with a ladder construction attached to a side member of the drawer may engage with a meshed gear wheel.

In alternative embodiments, the drawer may be opened manually.

The mid section of the pod may include a package receptacle with a fixed floor dimensioned to receive at least 1-4 standard shoe box sizes, and other such common online shopping items or the like. For example, the package receptacle may be 328 mm (W) x 465 (L) x 310 (H).

It is envisaged that a front panel of the package receptacle may be hinged at the bottom. In this way, the front panel may tilt forwards allowing access to the package receptacle from the frontal area of the pod. As per the drawer above, the package receptacle may include a lock or latch that is electro-mechanically operated, such that the package receptacle may be opened or closed by an electronic device of a pod owner having established communication with the pod. The control of the latch may be via an

Application from a user's electronic device.

The lower section of the pod may include a bulky package receptacle with a fixed floor dimensioned to receive larger parcel sizes such as groceries, wine cartons and other common online shopping items or the like. For example, the bulky package receptacle may be 328 mm (W) x 465 (L) x 375 (H).

As above, the front panel of the bulky package receptacle also may be hinged at the bottom. In this way, the front panel may tilt forwards allowing access to the bulky package receptacle from the frontal area of the pod. Also, the package receptacle may include a lock or latch that is electro-mechanically operated, such that the package receptacle may be opened or closed by an electronic device of either a pod owner or delivery person having established communication with the pod. The control of the latch may be via an Application from a user's electronic device.

Furthermore, the drawer and receptacles may include an open reed switch to detect when the drawer and receptacles are open thereby alerting the pod owner via a software Application that a delivery is in the process of being made to the pod.

The drawer and receptacles may include a weight sensor. In this way, the weight of a delivered mail item may be detected and recorded.

In a second aspect, there is provided a secure pod comprising:

• a front panel comprising at least one moveable drawer to receive a mail item, the at least one mounted front panel being provided with an electronic lock which is operated by way of wireless communication with a communication device;

• a central processing unit for electronic communication with either an electronic device of a user, delivery person, vehicle and/or autonomous delivery vehicle.

wherein, upon delivery of the mail item by the delivery person, vehicle and/or autonomous delivery vehicle to a location of the secure pod, there is a deactivation of the electronic lock by the electronic delivery device and simultaneous activation of a drawer opening mechanism to receive the mail item in a first compartment, the drawer having at least one floor panel covering an opening into a second compartment and whereby reactivation of the electronic lock results in the drawer closing and the at least one floor panel retracting to facilitate the movement of the delivered mail item from the first compartment to the second compartment; and

• at least one sensor for detecting the placement of the mail item in the drawer which

communicates by way of wireless communication with the communication device to notify the user when the mail item has been received within the secure pod.

The pod may include a base station where one or more pods may connect via an Ethernet cable to the base station. The base station may be connected to a home power supply and optionally to a home internet router via an Ethernet cable. The Ethernet cable also provides power over Ethernet (POE) to the pod. In further alternative embodiments, power to the pod may be supplied by solar and/or battery such as Lithium Polymer and may act as an additional power or back-up source to POE.

In alternative embodiments, the base station may be configured to connect to a home router over Wi-Fi. The base station may contain a microcontroller such as an ESP8266 with a Network "switch" that can act as a router and Wi-Fi client for communication purposes. Storage of data processed and received by the microcontroller may be retained in memory via an SD card or the like.

The pod may include a number of electronic components and peripherals which enable interaction between the owner and a mail delivery person and/or delivery device. In one embodiment, a push to talk intercom button or call button may allow the delivery person and owner to talk to one another. In order to enable this communication a microphone and a speaker may be positioned within the pod. Alternatively, when the call button is pressed, a SMS text message, email, Application alert or the like may be sent to the pod owner advising that a delivery person or vehicle has arrived at the pod.

The pod may include internal and external cameras with associated camera lights configured electronically to enable the owner to view in front of the pod and/or contents therein from a remote location. Alternatively, the pod may have multiple cameras mounted in different positions (such as towards the household of the owner) to provide a wider range of view.

The pod may include a front back-lit LED panel display which may show the house number or messages when programmed. A light sensor may control when the LED back-lit display is switched on or off. The pod may include an additional light source in the form of multiple LED lights or the like mounted around the periphery of the pod to assist in drone or robot navigation to the pod.

It is envisaged that the location of the pod may be identified utilising several identifiers. These may include, but not be limited to, a physical street address of the pod owner; G PS coordinates established as part of the set-up process, wherein a pod may be able to communicate the coordinates to other parties such as delivery devices and companies; or a unique pod identification number (I D). Each pod may be identified by its own unique number and therefore its unique internet address. For example, shoppingpod.eom/#####. The I D may be associated with a physical location that may be established at the time of installation.

The pod may communicate with smart devices, autonomous delivery vehicle(s) and the like by any one of known established communication protocols.

In one embodiment, the pod may establish a communication protocol via the Internet. In this way, the pod may be connected to the owner's internet router via the Ethernet cable to the base station. This allows communication over Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) enabling a secure server, which becomes the channel through which communication is routed. Messages may then be communicated via a pod owner's smartphone, handheld device of delivery driver, drone and/or robot.

In another embodiment the pod may establish a communication protocol via Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi). This protocol allows for direct, short distance communication requiring automatic pairing between the pod and other devices including handheld, drone and/or robot.

In another embodiment, the pod may establish a communication protocol via Bluetooth low energy (LE). As per Wi-Fi above, this protocol allows for direct, short distance communication requiring automatic pairing between the pod and other devices including handheld, drone and/or robot.

In another embodiment, the pod may establish a communication protocol via Sigfox or LoRaWAN.™ LoRaWAN™ is a Low Power Wide Area Network ( LPWAN) specification intended for wireless battery operated devices in a regional, national or global network. LoRaWAN™ targets key requirements of internet devices such as secure bi-directional communication, mobility and localization services.

The pod may utilise known established digital security and electronic identification protocols to ensure digital security and delivery authentication of the mail items by the delivery devices.

In one embodiment, the pod may utilise a security certificate. In this way, a digital certificate is used to digitally identify and authenticate delivery of the mail items. In further alternative embodiments, a barcode, Quick Response (QR) Code, Radio-Frequency Identification (RFI D) and/or the like may be utilised as a final confirmation of pod identification prior to completion of delivery, which may be read by a handheld device (human delivery), drone, robot and the like.

It should be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the above pod communication protocols along with the digital security and electronic identification protocols should not be seen as a limitation on the invention. Other such protocols and those yet to be established could be conceivably be used with this invention.

Advantages of the above include:

• A pod that is remotely controlled and is future proofed to communicate with electronic devices, thus taking advantage of advancement in modern technology by countries and businesses utilising more convenient methods of delivering/receiving mail, parcels or the like to their consumers. For example, by autonomous vehicle delivery;

• A pod that is easily configurable and dimensioned to not only receive regular mail items, but can accommodate large or multiple parcels;

• A pod that is visible and can be easily located utilising identifiers such as Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technology;

• A pod that provides for an improved ease of monitoring when mail items have arrived with remote control detection of delivery and functionality of the pod; and

• A pod with improved security of delivered mail items through the use of an electronic locking mechanism and an automated drawer with moveable retractable floor to securely receive mail items therein.

The embodiments described above may also be said broadly to consist in the parts, elements and features referred to or indicated in the specification of the Application, individually or collectively, and any or all combinations of any two or more said parts, elements or features.

Further, where specific integers are mentioned herein which have known equivalents in the art to which the embodiments relate, such known equivalents are deemed to be incorporated herein as if individually set forth.

As shown, the three pod size variants include small, medium and large. The small variant having a top section with drawer only measuring 328 mm (W) x 465 (L) x 105 (H), the medium variant having a top section (drawer) and mid section with package receptacle measuring 328 mm (W) x 465 (L) x 310 (H) and the large variant having a top section (drawer), mid section (package receptacle) and lower section with bulky package receptacle measuring 328 mm (W) x 465 (L) x 375 (H). Thus, accommodating users with a need to receive multiple parcel deliveries.

WORKING EXAMPLES

The above described Apparatus, methods and uses thereof are now described by reference to specific examples.

EXA M P LE 1

With reference to Figures 1 and 2, a front and rear view of a small, medium and large pods respectively is shown and are generally indicated by arrow 1. The pods 1 have a base 2, a plurality of side walls 3 extending upward from the base 2, a lid 4 secured to the side walls 3 and a front panel 5 comprising at least one moveable drawer 6 (best seen in Figure 4) for receiving parcels and front mail slot for receiving letters. The drawer 6 includes an external lip 7 to act as both a door handle, a letter delivery slot and provide protection from the elements (as shown in Figure 5). Optionally, the top section lid 4 of the pod 1 includes a solar panel 8 to capture maximum sunlight to supply additional electricity to power to the pods 1. This feature improves the energy efficiency of the pods 1.

Figure 3 shows a partially assembled large pod 1 variant with the front panel 5 of the bulky package receptacle 9 hinged at the bottom. As shown, the front panel 5 tilts forward allowing access to the bulky package receptacle 9 from the frontal area of the pod 1. Also, the package receptacle 9 includes a lock or latch that is electro-mechanically operated, such that the package receptacle 9 is opened or closed by an electronic device of either a pod owner or delivery person having established communication with the pod 1. The control of the latch is via an Application from a user's electronic device.

With reference to Figure 5, the pod 1 also comprises a front back-lit LED display screen 10 configured to enable display of information in the form of text, house numbers, or the like and to be remotely controlled from an owner's communication device. The pod 1 includes a number of electronic components and peripherals which enable interaction between the owner and a mail delivery person and/or delivery device. A push to talk intercom button allows the delivery person and/or delivery device and owner to communicate with one another via voice, SMS text message, email, Application 'App' or the like. In order to enable voice communication, a microphone and speaker is positioned within the pod 1. A wide angle (180°) camera 11 is configured electronically to enable the owner to view in front of the pod 1 from a remote location. Also, the pod 1 includes multiple cameras mounted in different positions (such as towards the household of the owner) to provide a wider range of view along with an internal camera to view delivered mail items therein.

Referring to Figure 6, the extruded aluminium edge pieces 12 and corner joints 13 are shown which can be readily assembled into the secure pod 1 as described above. A corner joint 13 can slide into the ends of extruded aluminium edge pieces 12 as shown in Figure 6(1) via a male connection 14 on the corner joint 13 and a corresponding female connection 15. Screws (not shown) are inserted to splay the male connection 14 in the female connection 15 to tighten the two parts 14, 15 together (see Figure 6(1)). Once all four corner joints 13 are connected this way, caps 16 (Figure 5) are attached into place via an interference fit to hide the interior details and for security. A side or front panel (not shown) is slid into the edge piece 12 of the aluminium extrusion. A small spacer element (not shown) is then inserted into the extrusion which holds the front panel in place. The spacer element offers variation in thickness to match side walls or panels 3 of different thickness depending on the material used for the side panels 3. For example, aluminium, laminate or wood. The side panels 3 can be further customised with vinyl or other textured materials and prints. Another structural panel (not shown) is then is then inserted behind the front panel 5 to provide strength and space for electrical wiring and the like. The pod 1 can be customised to alter its dimensions and functionality to use the particular application. As described above, the mailbox can be created as a single drawer pod or form unique combinations to contain multiple compartments for multiple package deliveries.

It is envisaged that a support webpage (not shown) may feature an online portal where users may set up and register the pod 1 with a central server in conjunction with a software App. The App itself contains features such as parcel tracking capability after an online purchase has been made including instant or real-time notifications when delivery has been made.

The owner's communication device (such as a smart mobile telephone) is equipped with Application software (Άρρ') from which the owner can receive electronic notifications and control the functioning of the pod 1. The App also has the capability of providing owners with updated information (including updates to the App itself) and access to online help. In this way the satisfaction of the customer can be improved. The App displays notifications received from the pod 1 such as when mail has been delivered, when mail has been picked up or when a tamper attempt has been made. In addition, the App provides for remote manual locking or unlocking of the mailbox.

With reference to Figure 7, the retractable floor of the drawer 6 comprises a plurality of interconnecting floor panels 17 that extend, or collapse (retract) in folds like those of a concertina. Figure 7(1) shows the floor panels 17 or base of the drawer 6 in the fully extended position i.e. where a parcel is placed on the base surface and covering the opening into a package receptacle (not shown). When the drawer 6 is closed (Figures 7(2-4)), the floor panels 17 gradually retract i.e. the base floor of the drawer 6 will gradually open allowing the package to drop into the secure cavity or package receptacle below (Figure 7(5)). When the drawer 6 is opened again, the floor panels 17 are in the extended positon and thus, the package contained in the package receptacle area is secure.

The above sequence of a parcel being received by the drawer 6 and deposited into the package receptacle 9 is best seen in Figure 9. First, a parcel 18 is placed in the open drawer 6 (floor panels 17 or base of the drawer 6 is fully extended - Figure 9(1)). When the drawer 6 closes, the floor 17 gradually opens (Figure 9(2)) and the parcel 18 is forced back from the face of the drawer 6 - Figure 9(3). When the drawer 6 is fully closed, the base 17 of the drawer 6 is open and the parcel 18 is forced off the base 17 of the drawer 6 into the secure cavity below - Figures 9(4-7). The parcel 18 sits in the secure cavity below until it is retrieved by the owner - Figure 9(8). The owner accesses the parcel 18 via a lockable trap door located at the front of the pod 1. When the drawer 6 is open the base 17 of the drawer 6 is closed - Figure 9(9). In this way, a subsequent delivery person or delivery device opening the pod 1 is incapable of retrieving the parcels 18 which have been delivered previously. In case of attempted theft, the owner can store camera footage on an SD card and activate an alarm. The only way the parcel 18 can be accessed is through the lockable door located at the front of the pod 1 integrated into the design (see Figure 3).

As previously described above, the pod 1 is provided with an electro-mechanically controlled lock having a solenoid, which is operated by way of wireless communication with the owner's communication device. When the front panel 5 door is unlocked it is kept in position with magnets inserted into the front panel 5 door and placed above the door. The actual lock can be a pin-lock or similar housed within the front panel 5 door and extend into a housing beside the door. An open reed switch can detect when the drawer 6 is opened so it can notify the user by an electronic message or the like of deliveries throughout the day. Also, the owner can open a live-feed from the camera 11 to watch the delivery being made. During the delivery process, the drawer 6 having a retractable floor 17 (as described above) is opened with a motor 19 driving a cog 20 engaged with a frictional surface 21 attached to a side bar element 22 of the drawer 6 (best seen in Figure 8).

With reference to Figure 10, the main electronic circuitry 23 is housed in a weatherproof boxed compartment located within the pod 1. The electronic circuitry 23 of the mailbox pod 1 is powered via an Ethernet cable (power over Ethernet (POE 24). Additionally, power to the pod 1 may be supplied by solar and/or battery such as Lithium Polymer to act as an additional power or back-up source to POE. A control module housed in the box compartment is configured to control a plurality of functions via the base station 25 and Wi-Fi/cellular router 26. These functions include powering and operating such peripherals/equipment as the LED guide lights 27, and an impact (or anti-tamper) switch (not shown) which sends a notification to the owner's communication device when a forced entry of the mailbox 1 is attempted, a parcel lock and sensor, the front panel 5 door sensor, intercom button, microphone, camera 11, speaker and other such equipment.

The delivery initiation and completion sequences are now described in the following examples:

EXA M P LE 2

Delivery Initiation

Delivery initiation to the pod 1 is applied to all delivery channels as above, such as human, drone, robot and/or the like.

A consumer purchases an item and delivery is arranged with such order details that include delivery address, GPS coordinates, pod 1 unique I D, and unique package number (For example, a one-time number assigned by seller's system).

The above order details become the "Delivery Details Bundle" of identifying data.

Package Ready for Dispatch

The Delivery Details Bundle is made available to the delivery channel, whether that be human, drone, robot or other delivery vehicle.

The pod 1 owner receives a message, routed via Internet and back end server to an App on a mobile device that the package will be delivered to the pod 1. The delivery completion sequence as described below is then initiated.

EXA M P LE 3

Delivery Completion Sequences

Human Delivery Completion

A delivery person approaches the pod 1 with a parcel 18 and completes a security sequence with available communication channel options selected from any one of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (following automatic pairing) or Internet.

The delivery person utilises their handheld device capable of reading the barcode/QR code on the pod 1 and the handheld device establishes communication with the pod 1, using any one of the above communication channels.

A security sequence is then initiated comprising a "Handshake" via digital certificates (pod and handheld) that identifies the delivery company/person and the unique pod. The read barcode/QR code/RFID also confirms the identity of the pod 1 along with verification of the unique package number (communicated at dispatch to the pod server, and contained in the Delivery Details Bundle on the handheld device). A match of these details allows verification of package delivery and is considered the digital equivalent of signing for proof of delivery.

The delivery person is then able to deposit the package 18 in the pod 1 upon unlocking and opening of the pod drawer 6. As previously described above, the drawer 6 is unlocked electronically and the delivery person is able to manually open the drawer 6 or the drawer 6 is opened via its motor 19 and drive mechanism 20, 21.

The pod 1 completes the package acceptance sequence and a weight sensor in the drawer 6 registers the presence of the package. The drawer 6 is closed in one of two ways. Either the delivery person manually closes the drawer 6 or the pod 1 closes the drawer 6 via its motor 19 and drive mechanism 20, 21.

The pod 1 then communicates the delivery status and if the drawer 6 closes successfully, a message is sent from the pod 1 via the internet to the pod owner (new package delivered), delivery company (package delivered and secured - proof of delivery satisfied) and the sending company (package delivered and secured - proof of delivery satisfied).

If the drawer 6 cannot close successfully a message is sent from the pod 1 via the internet to the pod owner (package delivery failed and pod 1 is unsecured) and the delivery company (package delivery failed - allows for message to delivery person to try and rectify). Drone and/or Robot Delivery Completion

A drone 28 or robot approaches the pod 1 with a parcel 18 and completes a security sequence with available communication channel options selected from any one of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (following automatic pairing) or Internet (Figure 10). At this point the pod 1 turns on landing lights around the top edge, to allow the drone 28 to hover and read the QR code etc.

The drone 28 or robot utilises its camera or equivalent device capable of reading the barcode/QR code on the pod 1 and the handheld device establishes communication with the pod 1, using any one of the above communication channels.

A security sequence is then initiated comprising a "Handshake" via digital certificates (pod and handheld) that identifies the delivery company/person and the unique pod. The read barcode/QR code/RFID also confirms the identity of the pod along with verification of the unique package number (communicated at dispatch to the pod server, and contained in the Delivery Details Bundle on the drone 28 or robot. A match of these details allows verification of package delivery and is considered the digital equivalent of signing for proof of delivery.

If the security sequence is not completed successfully, the drone 28 or robot aborts delivery and returns to its base.

The drone 28 or robot signals it is ready to deliver. The drone 28/robot is hovering/approaching and communicates its ready state after the successful completion of the above security sequence.

The pod 1 prepares to receive package 18 where the pod 1 opens its drawer 6 via its motor 19 and drive mechanism 20, 21 (as previously described above) and then signals the drone 28 or robot that it is ready to receive the parcel 18. When the drawer 6 is open, the navigation lights 27 on the edge of the drawer 6 are turned on.

The drone 28 deposits the package 18 in the pod 1 where differing coloured point LEDs 27 on the top of the pod 1 and the drawer 6 allow the drone 28 to centre and orientate itself over the open drawer 6 or the robot to orientate its delivery arm over the open drawer 6 and place the package 18 in the open drawer 6.

In the case of the drone 28, the depositing of the package 18 into the pod 1 may occur in one of three ways: the drone 28 lands in drawer and releases package 18, the drone hovers above drawer 6 and releases package 18 or the drone 28 winches package down to drawer 6.

The pod 1 completes the package acceptance sequence and a weight sensor in the drawer 6 registers the presence of the package 18. The drawer 6 of the pod 1 is then closed via its motor 19 and drive mechanism 20, 21.

The pod 1 then communicates the delivery status and if the drawer 6 closes successfully, a message is sent from the pod 1 via the internet to the pod owner (new package delivered), delivery company (package delivered and secured - proof of delivery satisfied) and the sending company (package delivered and secured - proof of delivery satisfied).

If the drawer 6 cannot close successfully a message is sent from the pod 1 via the internet to the pod owner (package delivery failed and pod is unsecured) and the delivery company (package delivery failed - allows for message to delivery person to try and rectify).

Aspects of the present invention have been described by way of example only and it should be appreciated that modifications and additions may be made thereto without departing from the scope of the claims herein.