Smart mailbox prototype is hyper-connected

Smart mailbox prototype is hyper-connected

Feature articles |
By Rich Pell

Founded in 2003 to distribute antennas and help with the design-in of antennas and wireless connectivity solutions, Giga-Concept has boosted its revenues over the last couple of years by increasing its R&D efforts, delivering bespoke solutions and operating as a consultancy house for RF design and engineering.

Doing so, the 10-employee company grew its turnover from around 3.5 million Euros a couple of years ago to about 4.5 million Euros in 2016, and co-founder and General Manager Laurent Muckensturm hopes it could reach the 5-million target within the next five years.

“This activity is taking more importance in terms of revenues than pure distribution”, Muckensturm told eeNews Europe.

One of Giga-Concept’s early successes was a triple-antenna design that went into about 17 million ADSL-VDSL-FTTH modems from French Internet service provider Free (the Freebox). The distributor signed an exclusive distribution agreement for France with Dutch startup Pycom who successfully launched several wireless connectivity boards through Kickstarter and Pycom’s latest offering, FiPy, is a boon for Giga-Concept.

“Their solution is so small and so efficient, it beats anything available on the market, and because it is all open-source, we can get new designs running in days with total flexibility on the type of connectivity, WiFi, Bluetooth, LoRa, Sigfox and LTE-M”, commented Muckensturm.

An ongoing development, the smart letter box prototype has been jointly developed with the staff from Lab Postal, a startup accelerator created in 2009 as part of the French mail service La Poste, dedicated to advancing innovative digital services and solutions. It integrates Pycom’s FiPy module so the letter box becomes hyper-connected.

La Poste started deploying its own LoRa network in Paris last year and is considering expanding it across the whole French territory, opening it to partners for the creation of new services. In a first phase of the project, the idea is to secure the door lock.

Only the postmen with the right credentials will be able to access the mail via a secure Bluetooth connection with their smartphone. Next, sensors may be integrated behind the flaps, so the letter box could count letter entries and evaluate its overall loading rate, alerting the postal services when it is about to be full.

Today, the logistics are mostly time-driven, the postmen know they have to check the post boxes and the mail distribution points at given times of the day. But with this sort of information, the logistics could be more dynamic and on-demand.

Typically the mail pick-up time is indicated on the post box, but it may be that in some remote places where the box would remain mostly empty, La Poste would decide otherwise and wait a little bit more. In that case, smarting things up may not be for everyone’s benefit.

“It looks promising, and if all goes to plan, there could be 100,000 such units to fit” told us Muckensturm.

Driving me to the other side of the Giga-Concept stand, the General Manager highlighted another product the company has helped design, a simple WiFi-connected module that clips directly onto the mains fuse box and which is able to learn about and discriminate all the different electricity consumption patterns (through a cloud-connected App performing data disaggregation and appliance profiling).

After a few days collecting power consumption data and minimal user input, the Voltaware electricity monitor as it is called (homonymous to the UK startup which created it) will tell you how much electricity every individual appliance is using (and its relative cost in the overall bill), with all sorts of custom alerts that can be set for lower consumption targets.

Giga-Concept is distributing this in France of course, but Muckensturm says the RF design consultancy activities are exporting fairly well, with large white good companies coming to them to rapidly churn out add-on connectivity solutions.

Giga-Concept –
Lab Postal –
Voltaware –

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