the chain never stops

iSHARE opens up new opportunities for grocery deliveries

The Chain Never Stops has developed an innovative concept for the delivery of groceries and meals: smart boxes where delivery drivers can deposit the goods if no one is home, which also keep the food at the right temperature. The Chain Never Stops is working in partnership with DXC Technology which provides the IoT platform for communicating with the smart boxes. iSHARE ensures that the boxes can only be opened by people with the right authorizations.

Imagine the convenience of having your groceries delivered to your home while you’re still out at work. The Chain Never Stops (TCNS) is working together with DXC to turn this scenario into reality. At the heart of the solution is a smart box where grocery retailers and meal providers can leave their deliveries if no one is home. “A pilot project featuring this box is currently underway in the USA, and we’ll soon be starting a pilot in the Netherlands too,” says Annette Poiesz, director of TCNS.The specially developed box is fitted with a variety of sensors. A temperature sensor monitors whether the food is kept at the right temperature. Another sensor assesses how full the box is and how much space is still available for additional deliveries. “The box can keep products chilled or heated, so our solution is not only suitable for everyday groceries or meal kits, but also for hot meals,” explains Poiesz.

Final link in the chain

The Chain Never Stops supplies value network software that, among other things, gives companies the chance to personalize products for their customers. Those products tell the story of their supply chain journey and what has happened to them along the way. “This smart box now enables us to include the final link in the chain in that story. We can facilitate the supply chain from start to finish,” she continues. These last-mile solutions are being marketed by The Chain Never Stops @Home. 

Globally active service provider DXC supplies the IoT platform that facilitates communication with the box, enabling it to be brought to the right temperature before the groceries or meals are delivered. “The box is big enough to hold two crates of shopping. It can be unlocked digitally, meaning that several neighbours can make shared use of the box,” states Poiesz.

Opening the boxes

iSHARE is used to control the opening of the boxes. Because different couriers working on behalf of different suppliers need to be able to leave their deliveries in the same box, a traditional key-based system is not an option. “Thanks to the app we’ve developed, we know which courier is due to deliver what. When a courier presses the ‘open’ button, the system automatically checks whether the box is expecting a delivery and whether that courier has the relevant authorization. The box will only open when both of those points have been verified. The proof of delivery is not created until the courier presses the ‘close’ button,” she explains.

Authorization registry

DXC is setting up the authorization registry which records which suppliers or carriers have been assigned the necessary rights by the consumer to open the box. “We’re currently discussing whether we should also use iSHARE for verification of consumers who want to open the box to access the deliveries. This is particularly relevant in the case of an authorized delivery in a neighbour’s box,” Poiesz continues. She goes on to add that consumers could also use the box for other purposes: “It’s possible to leave other kinds of parcels in the box too, and in fact it could even be used as an extra fridge if the person’s not expecting any deliveries for a while.”

Business interest

“I can think of plenty of other potential uses for the box. For example, grocery chains could communicate with customers about the food products that have been delivered and what kinds of meals can be prepared with them. Other options include shipping fresh products to shoppers directly from the supplier even though they’ve been ordered via the supermarket, or outsourcing the production of a ready meal or meal kit to a partner who also takes care of the distribution.” There is a lot of business interest in the TCNS and DXC concept. “The delivery of groceries and meals is really taking off. Our box enables companies to boost their efficiency because they can make deliveries even when consumers are out. Moreover, because it keeps the food at the right temperature, they can work with a bigger time window for meal deliveries.”