As demands for e-commerce grows, the challenges faced by the industry become more challenging and solutions must be even more creative. One of major issues with e-commerce services can be observed towards the end of the pipeline where the package has left the possession of the delivery provider. At this point the delivered package is prone to theft. This can easily be prevented by a system which securely locks the package such that only the respective owner can receive it.

What it does

ChainMail connects the customer with real-time data of their package, ensuring its utmost security. The delivery person will have a specific one-time barcode of the item to open the ChainMail mailbox. The weight is then compared with the expected package weight and recorded of extra security and peace of mind. The mailbox is locked straight after and the user is notified on the ChainMail app on their phone that it has been delivered. The user themselves have their own special barcode that will be able to open the box whenever they would like! Any type of weight change or difference will be recorded and the user, notified–leaving the user with the best and most reliable delivery experience they can possibly have!

How we built it

We used a variety of different technologies. On the hardware side, we used a Raspberry Pi which acts as the barcode scanner/camera, a special weight sensor, and a servo motor to facilitate the locking/unlocking of the box.

In terms of the tech stack, we decided to build an Android app for the user to track their packages. We used MongoDB Atlas, a cloud-based database, as our database of packages and users. As well, we used NodeJS and Express for the backend server, using JavaScript, RESTful APIs, and hosting using Ngrok. We had various Python scripts to analyze weight and the hardware's recorded data.

Challenges we ran into

Early on, we were limited in terms of hardware and hardware tools. With lots of those hurdles, we were able to come up with creative solutions (from soldering to wood-carving) to solve our problems. As well, issues with the cloud-based MongoDB Atlas and the Internet firewall was a challenge, but we were more determined than ever. Issues with server hosting allowed us to re-evaluate, think quick, and consider other solutions on a very tight deadline.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Our entire team is really proud of our first hardware hack, something we were unfamiliar with but decided to take on, and something which we toiled over with labour and love. Despite the sleepless nights and tons and tons of coffee, we persevered and had each others' backs when we faced some truly tough challenges. Each of us really strived to go out of our comfort zone and do something new, whether it was tackling Android app development or working for the first time with databases and backend servers, and we are so glad to have had this experience.

What we learned

As you've probably seen from above, we've really learned a lot! Nearly everything we worked with was something new to some of us, and we decided to work with different technologies to ensure we were learning different things.

What's next for ChainMail

In the future, we really want to work with facial recognition software, and we hope to explore that in more detail and potentially allow users to access their mailbox with just their face! We would like to do some machine learning in the future, as well. We also hope to incorporate different types of mailboxes for different delivery purposes, whether it be food delivery, or more, it would be cool to explore other areas.

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