What is a Smart Locker?
Simple school lockers, gym lockers, swimming pool lockers, end of trip lockers and office lockers have been used for decades to provide a secure space to create peace of mind for users. Thus, lockers have been a critical amenity provided in public and private spaces. Although traditional lockers have posed many issues for management and users. Key and mechanical code based lockers required considerable administration time dedicated to allocation and distribution. Then users were required to maintain a key or code. Smart lockers have transformed the experience for both users and management, creating flexible locker systems, seamless access methods, and visibility over usage.
That is where smart lockers have been able to innovate over the years, providing intuitive capabilities to a simple amenity. Through technology, smart lockers have upgraded traditional lockers in many ways and we’ve seen continuous innovation within the space.
Comparison and Evolution of Smart Lockers
Over the years, smart lockers have evolved to become smarter, to fit the needs of both management and users of lockers. We’ve broken down the evolution of smart lockers on the market, including significant improvements and setbacks.
Smart lockers 1.0 - Digital locks on lockers
The first movement towards smart lockers came from digital locks. These digital locks could be installed onto locker hardware and maintain similar usability to a combination mechanical lock, although with one key innovation. The lock could be programmed to be either shared or fixed. This allowed for multiple users to use lockers rather than users being set a locker on a permanent basis, improving equity and asset optimisation.
Whilst digital locks improved flexibility within locker use, users would take advantage of the system and hoard lockers, with no way for management to see which lockers were being used, for how long and by who.
Smart lockers 2.0 - Hardwired locker systems
In a data driven world, visibility is crucial in asset and amenity management. Hardwired locker systems were able to upgrade digital locks into access systems, managed through a web portal. This meant that management could assign lockers to individuals and their RFID cards, whilst understanding who was using the lockers, how long they were using them for, and how often they used them.
As significant as this innovation was, there were drawbacks involved. These hardwired solutions were difficult to install and maintain, required intricate wiring within each locker, a central console and planned logistics to ensure there was mains power required. This involves the work of electricians which further adds to the cost of the system. Furthermore, the reliance on existing Wi-Fi and networking connection induced security concerns from IT departments.
Smart lockers 3.0 - Wireless locker systems
In leveraging advancements in bluetooth technology, wireless locker systems have taken smart lockers to the next level within three key areas, ease of use, integrations and implementation.
As wallets, keys and RFID cards continue to be phased into mobile phones, locker systems have followed suit. The app operated locker system allows for both temporary and permanent use, support, notifications to users and best of all, savings on key or card management. Locker management has also adapted, with an on-the-go master key app, with open all access. The app operated system, paired with a management analytics dashboard provides a seamless experience for both users and management.
Integrations have also been central to innovation within smart lockers, with systems integrating with a client's existing environment to create a seamless experience for users. E.g. Users using existing active directory accounts, access cards, and workplace systems to open and manage their locker.
Wireless and Wifi-less is the key to reducing risk and installation headaches. A wireless and off-network locker system means an incredibly simple installation and no lengthy discussions with the IT team! This significantly reduces the risk of system wide downtime and the costs of inner-locker wiring and networking.