Contactless deliveries

Introduction:

If the Covid 19 pandemic has taught us anything it is how to cope up with change. From online education to remote working to decreased social gatherings, the pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives. Amid these changes, an interesting one is the rise of contactless deliveries. The concept of contactless deliveries has been around for quite some time, but the pandemic seems to have accelerated its adoption to some extent.

Contactless delivery is exactly what its name suggests. It is a concept where there is minimum contact between the customer and the delivery personnel and in some cases the delivery persons are completely eliminated. This concept has enabled companies to continue their operations without increasing the risk of spreading the virus and provided a sense of comfort to customers as well. In this article, we will look at the various forms of contactless delivery and few notable companies associated with it.

Forms of contactless delivery:

1)The simple drop off: One of the most basic forms of contactless delivery is where the delivery personnel simply drops off the parcel at the customer’s doorstep and then later notifies the customer of the delivery. This eliminates direct contact and reduces the risk of the virus spread.

However, there are certain questions that this method brings up to the mind. The first one is regarding proof of delivery which may not be possible. Then in some cases, signature is a must for deliveries where this method may not be applicable. Nevertheless, it is still applicable in most day to day deliveries and delivery personnel may even take photos of the delivered item or make the delivery according to customer specifications (Like placing the parcel in specific locations) to avoid problems.

2)Drones: Though the idea of using drones to deliver products seemed a bit eccentric a few years ago, it is no more so. Many established companies like Amazon, Walmart, Alibaba etc are testing out this concept and may even make it mainstream in the coming future. 

Unlike in human-enabled deliveries, the purchase of drones entails huge capital expenditures and may only be limited to financially strong organisations. Then there are other risks like drone malfunctioning, theft/damage of drones while in transit etc. However, drone deliveries are much safer, timely and efficient when compared to normal deliveries.

3)Autonomous vehicles: The idea of driverless vehicles can be extended to make contactless deliveries. In fact, the concept is already known to have been used in China amidst the pandemic. Autonomous vehicles were really helpful in China in delivering medical supplies and food to the frontline healthcare workers without increasing the risk of spread. 

Even after the pandemic, driverless vehicles can be used to make normal deliveries, where the vehicle simply moves from one location to another and customers come out onto the pavement to pick up their orders. 

4)Delivery robots: Unlike what you are probably visualising, delivery robots are not full-blown multi-functional manlike robots. Instead, they are cute little toy-like vehicles that carry around simple parcels. They function with the help of GPS, a few sensors, attached cameras and typically move on wheels. In fact, on some level, they are almost similar to autonomous vehicles. 

To make deliveries even more accurate, customers are given a password which they have to enter on the robot’s keypad to unlock it. 

Delivery robots

5)Automation of maritime ships: This is probably the most futuristic idea in this list and obviously it is not already in use. This concept can be seen as the next big leap in maritime logistics. According to studies, a majority of maritime accidents are due to human error, therefore using automation in this area can be greatly helpful in reducing the accidents. 

Initially operated from onshore stations, ships can soon be fully automated using similar technology as that of autonomous vehicles. Even if ships are not fully automated, AI algorithms and data-driven instruments can make them a lot safer.

Now let us look at few notable companies associated with contactless deliveries

Starship logo

Starship Technologies

Founded: 2014

Founders: Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis

Headquarters: San Francisco, California, United States

Total funds raised: US $ 99.2 million

About Starship Technologies:

Starship Technologies is a robotic company specifically concerned with the design and manufacturing of delivery robots. Its robots operate with the help of GPS, cameras, sensors & other technologies, and typically deliver products locally within 30 minutes. 

Starship aims to revolutionise the way goods are delivered by making deliveries automatic, safe,environment friendly and cost effective.

Marble logo

Marble

Founded: 2015

Founders: Jason Calaiaro, Kevin Peterson, Matt Delaney

Headquarters: San Francisco, California, United States

Total funds Raised: US $ 10 million

About Marble

Marble is another California based robotic company that specialises in the production of fleets of delivery robots. Its robots are specially designed to deliver day to day consumer goods including groceries, meals and medicine.

In June 2020 Marble was acquired by Caterpillar, an Illinois (United States) based manufacturing company.

Zipline logo

Zipline

Founded: 2011

Founders: Keenan Wyrobek, Keller Rinaudo, Will Hetzler

Headquarters: San Francisco, California, United States

Total funds raised: US $ 233 million

About Zipline:

Zipline is a California based manufacturer of automated drones. It is a logistics company that designs and produces drones specifically to deliver vital medicines. Its mission is to provide every human on the planet with access to vital medicines on time.

Flytrex logo

Flytrex

Founded: 2013

Founders: Amit Regev and Yariv Bash

Headquarters: Tel Aviv, Israel

Total funds raised: US $ 20.3 million

About Flytrex:

Flytrex is an Israel based manufacturer of drones that offers tailored and end to end delivery based on proprietary cloud technology. Its product’s core features include a fastened box attached to the drone that helps in delivering items just the way they were packed; a release mechanism that lowers the parcel from a height of 8 feet safely into the hands of the customers and a smooth flying technology that enables the drones to cruise at speeds of 32 mph in a traffic free environment.

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