The Low Power Network as the basis for the Internet of Postal Things

The digital networking of things offers countless opportunities for new services, especially in the areas Swiss Post is active in. Swiss Post and Swisscom have been working on a joint Low Power Network (LPN) since the spring of 2017.

Text and images: Swiss Post, 08 november 2017

Swiss Post provides Swisscom with suitable locations for positioning additional gateways. In return, Swiss Post can use the network for its own services and focus on developing new applications.

In the meantime, Swiss Post has already implemented different applications on the Low Power Network, and has tested them for feasibility and cost-effectiveness in a Proof of Concept.

Smart ordering in warehouse logistics

A hospital in Zurich has fitted out a whole range of medical equipment cabinets with smart buttons. All the nurse on duty needs to do is press the right button every time a certain medical supply threatens to run out. The supplier then receives a message over the Internet and replenishes the supply, thus making ordering a quick and simple affair.

Service on Demand – On-call facility management at the push of a button

Service on Demand is a solution for efficient facility management from Post Real Estate. The Facility Management department has installed smart buttons at the Swiss Post headquarters, which are connected to the Internet over the LoRaWAN wireless technology. So, if something needs to be cleaned, or a coffee machine is broken, for example, the service staff can be summoned with a simple push of a button. This make unnecessary scheduled tours to already full crockery cupboards and empty document disposal containers, or fully functioning coffee machines and printers now a thing of the past. Service on Demand only summons Facility Management when they are needed. To implement this service, LPN connectivity was supplemented with local indoor gateways to guarantee wall-to-wall internal LPN coverage.

Service on Demand only summons Facility Management when they are needed.

Smart postbox

Swiss Post has created a prototype of a smart postbox. It is equipped with sensors and connected to the Internet over the LoRaWAN wireless technology. The technology allows indicators to be measured and periodically transmitted using a minimum of energy. This includes noise or air pollution indicators which the public authorities may find useful. The postbox also measures the number of movements the flap makes. Offset against the average number of items posted, this indicator can be used to calculate the level to which the postbox is full.

The postbox is also fitted with a display unit that uses the same e-ink technology we are familiar with from e-books. When the image display is static, the electronic paper consumes no power. Electricity only flows when the image changes. These units can display different types of information, such as postbox emptying times, the next recycling paper and garden waste collection dates and other community information.

In a joint project with the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Protection (FOCP), Swiss Post is also testing the smart postbox as a channel for publishing information in the event of a crisis. Since the unit does not depend on the supply of electricity from the grid, it could be used as a channel for broadcasting information to the population, particularly in the event of a prolonged nationwide blackout. The smart postbox would continue to work for weeks on batteries alone, and could be used to transmit reports on current events by the FOCP or the civil protection authorities in charge of operations.

Smart parcels as a further application

The Internet of Things also opens up new potential for Swiss Post in terms of monitoring and tracking items of mail. A mobile sensor, for instance, which is enclosed in a parcel, can continuously measure and transmit indicators, such as temperature, during transportation. This can show, for example, that the cold chain for perishable goods was not interrupted at any point during transportation. If it is, the sensor triggers a message. And with sensitive shipments in transit, it sends a warning if a parcel is opened without permission.

Pathways to the smart city

With applications like these, the LPN network also helps make a smart city truly smart. Postal services and logistics providers can make a highly significant contribution to this. Every day, they travel across the whole of Switzerland in a whole range of vehicles and, in some cases, operate a large network of access points. Networking this dense physical presence even more effectively offers great potential. For example, in the future, postboxes and post-bus stops could collect air quality or noise data as a basis for developing smart solutions to the problems and needs of cities.

About the joint cooperation with Swisscom

“With Swisscom, we have a competent partner in the field of LoRaWAN technology at our side. The quality of teamwork with the technical contact people at Swisscom and Swisscom Broadcast is excellent and they provide us with close support in implementing the LoRa devices. Swisscom receives our change requests in the LPN portal (management software) and, if feasible, implements them as a function of their network server provider activity. We highly appreciate having a direct point of contact for selective expansions in the reception range for the Low Power Network and that our needs are then incorporated into the roll out planning at Swisscom. We can also draw on Swisscom’s technical knowledge at any time when planning and positioning our indoor gateways and they also supply us with test devices for performing installations. So far, we can certainly look back on very successful cooperative work overall, and really appreciate the very agreeable collaboration with the teams at Swisscom.” - Dominic Bögli, Project Manager IoT, Swiss Post.

LPN Experience Center

The top floor of the Swisscom Shop at Badenerstrasse 18 in Zurich Stauffacher is entirely dedicated to the Low Power Network. SME and enterprise business customers can sign up for a tour. Interesting live demos and insights into numerous interesting applications await your visit. If you are interested, please contact Roger Kaspar.

Hand with smartphone


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