Bringing Enterprise-Level Connectivity to Smart Locker Solutions

Wed, 04/21/2021 - 12:22

Smart Lockers: A Win-Win for Consumers and Retailers

For reasons of convenience, security, and the mutual benefit of drawing in customers to retail locations, smart delivery locker deployments have been steadily increasing worldwide. Smart lockers provide a safe and secure delivery platform that provide a convenient alternative to ordering and receiving products to the customers home.

Smart lockers give consumers a safe delivery location for their packages that is only unlockable and reclaimable by the intended recipient. Where home deliveries may require someone to be present to provide a signature or are otherwise vulnerable to the elements or to theft when left outside the premises, smart lockers are a convenient way to be sure everyone receives their deliveries as expected.

Furthermore, retail stores may benefit from additional revenue by allowing 3rd party lockers to be placed outside their establishments as an additional way to draw customers to their locations. Research shows that customers arriving to pick up a delivery often make unplanned purchases on the way, meaning stores benefit from increased traffic and sales.

Smart lockers have some unique requirements due to their placement and the technologies used to support them. Because they’re often owned by one company and deployed on another company’s property, they may not have access to in-building network resources such as Wi-Fi and Ethernet. Their signal integrity may be challenged by walls, ceilings, and other architectural elements. They may not even have access to local power, requiring them to operate on battery power over long periods.

Laird Connectivity’s portfolio of antenna products help support all of these unique challenges and more, supporting high-efficiency connections that reduce battery drain and robust vandal-resistant enclosures that prevent damage and tampering. In this blog post, we look at some key features of our IoT / M2M antennas that are uniquely suited for this growing application.

Better Signal with Limited Gain Ripple

Smart lockers are most often deployed in retail or public locations beyond the control of the OEM. Placement is almost certainly limited to what is available and desirable for the property owner, most likely an area of the front lobby that is easily accessible or even outdoors. This does not always take into account the RF characteristics of the area. The wireless component of the smart locker must therefore be capable of a solid connection no matter where or how the property owner decides to orient the device.

One of the ways Laird Connectivity’s antennas excel in this scenario is by careful engineering that produces broad coverage and consistent radiation patterns. Most omnidirectional antennas still have areas of relative strength and weakness around the circumference of their coverage. Nulls or dips in signal strength are the result of the physical characteristics and build quality of the antenna radiating element or enclosure. In competitor products this can mean that a strong connection can be altered or ruined by rotating the antenna (or the entire smart locker) even a few degrees. To overcome this null in the antennas radiation pattern, a radio might have to compensate with increased power to make the connection, causing a rapid drop in battery life and a struggling connection.

Our antennas are carefully engineered to minimize this inconsistency in coverage, known as gain ripple.  Laird Connectivity antennas such as the low-profile Phantom series are meticulously engineered to provide consistent coverage in all directions with excellent omnidirectional patterns. This eliminates dead zones, ensuring your design connects, no matter the orientation of installation. Excellent build quality means they can operate outside for many years without degradation in performance or aesthetics.

Multi-Protocol Antennas for The Ultimate Design Flexibility

There are multiple wireless protocols that are ideally suited for smart locker installations. GPS/GNSS provides real-time location for parcel/asset tracking, Bluetooth can provide a wireless interface for customers to check in and unlock their storage, and Cellular LTE or LoRaWAN can be used for a connection for data logging, diagnostics, and more.

Each of these wireless protocols has a unique role in the finished application, and each requires its own radio and antenna. But Laird Connectivity’s antenna portfolio includes many offerings which support multiple wireless protocols within a single antenna, reducing BOM costs and simplifying your final design and integration.

For example, our Gar and Barracuda antennas support as many as six ports with frequency support for Cellular, ISM, CBRS, Wi-Fi, and GNSS, all in a single robust housing. They are available in many configurations to support multiple Cellular ports, multiple Wi-Fi ports, or a combination of both Wi-Fi and Cellular. They fit this broad connectivity into a single IP67 low-profile housing that’s 5G ready for future applications. Plus it’s built with an aluminium mounting stud for tamper-resistant installation.

Just need a single antenna to add on to your existing design? Laird Connectivity’s broad and specialized portfolio offers the right antenna for every application. Embedded antennas like the Revie Flex support LTE-M, NB-IoT, and even new 5G frequencies in a small flexible PCB. New GNSS puck antennas are specifically designed to add location for parcel/asset tracking. Low-profile, single port omnis offer Cellular or Wi-Fi coverage in a robust and discreet package. Dipole antennas offer solution for smaller applications or gateways for extended coverage. And our Mini NanoBlade Flex / Flex 6E antennas add Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, including support for upcoming Wi-Fi 6E bands.

Laird Connectivity is the one-stop shop for every antenna and every application. Choose a multi-port or wide-band antenna that supports all of your wireless protocols at once, or a single port antenna to support your specific and customized needs.

Exceptional Reliability and Build Quality

Laird Connectivity antennas are known across the industry for durable, reliable build quality that serves some of the most challenging industrial applications. Often deployed in applications such as public safety vehicles, remote POS terminals, and utility/infrastructure connectivity, our puck and omni antennas in particular are incredibly durable and resist tampering or environmental damage.

Our Phantom omni antennas are stainless steel body construction with SABIC lexan polycarbonate radome, which are incredibly ruggedized to impact and tampering. They are also highly temperature resistant, making them reliable for outdoor installs in full sun.

The quality of materials used in the construction of our antennas is one of the things that sets our antennas apart in the industry. We’re so confident in the reliability of our antennas that they’re backed by a best-in-industry five year warranty.

Smart Lockers: A Growing Application, Driven by Connectivity

As smart locker adoption increases, driven by convenience to customers and cross-benefit to retail hosts, connectivity will continue to prove critical to customer use, user experience, and the administration and maintenance of the devices themselves. Laird Connectivity is a trusted partner with the portfolio and expertise to bring these unique wireless applications to life.

Learn more about our Smart Locker antenna portfolio, or visit our antennas page to browse our full range.