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 - Computerised smart lockers
Smart lockers evolved to use computers to power and enable access through new methods, either by entering in a code onto a central screen or tapping a swipe (RFID) card onto a reader that was programmed to provide access to specific users of the card. This significantly improved usability especially in set user scenarios such as workplaces and schools.
The use of computers to power lockers would also open the door for management software, allowing managers for the first time to know which lockers were being used and for how long. This increased the security and experience for managers significantly.
Although these systems were hard to install, being heavily wired with on-premise physical servers and had license based software, meaning the software could not be updated, leaving these systems quickly outdated.
Smart lockers 3.0 - Cloud-based, integrated smart locker systems
Innovation continued to push the boundaries within the smart locker space to improve the usability, security, implementation and capabilities of smart locker systems.
Intuitive ways to book and access a locker were developed, including digital methods such as an app or webpage, allowing users to open their locker and keep a digital receipt through their mobile phone. Demand has also driven the push for features such as payment processing for paid usage of ‘on-demand’ lockers and the ability to share or transfer access with another user.
The usability of management software has improved significantly, with the first-ever Management App launched by Yellowbox. This was the first on-the-go master key for managers, which also provided an audit trail and live usage data. Yellowbox had also introduced methods to automate the onboarding process of users, saving organisations FTEs worth of time.
Integrations have also been central to innovation within smart locker systems, being able to integrate with an organisation’s existing environment to create a seamless experience for both users and management. For example, Yellowbox provides integrations to allow Users to use their existing active directory accounts to login to their locker access app, their existing access cards to open their locker, and even company or workplace apps to open and manage their locker. Integrations with security systems also allowed for automated synchronisations with new users being on-boarded and old users being off-boarded.
Leveraging advancements in server technology, cloud-based smart locker systems removed the need for on-premise servers and enabled the ability for the system to auto-sync and implement changes and improvements in the software.
On the hardware side, Yellowbox launched the first ever wireless smart locker lock system for organisations looking to avoid the installation costs of normal wired systems, or to replace and retrofit their existing locker locks into a smart locker system.