uCella upsizes the connected mailbox for online shoppers

GizmagIn the last few years we’ve seen a succession of connected letterboxes designed to modernize your mail by tracking incoming deliveries. But as the amount of shopping being done online continues to grow, so too does the size of the packages we need our mailboxes to regularly handle. One US company is looking to answer the call, with a smart, wall-mounted container that secures big packages as they are dropped off, and can even help arrange for their return.

uCella is a slim box measuring 21.65 x 24.52 x 3.85 in (55 x 62 x 10 cm) that you can mount to your porch wall yourself. Equipped with Wi-Fi and a companion app, the system synchs with popular email services like Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo to pull tracking numbers from order receipts so when the delivery person arrives with the package, they scan the barcode containing that specific tracking number to unlock the box. This step is carried out with the help of a 5-megapixel autofocusing camera and 4-inch touchscreen built into the unit.

At this point uCella expands, transforming into a larger container measuring 21.65 x 43.52 x 20.86 in (55 x 110 x 51 cm) to accomodate more sizeable packages. With the delivery sitting safely inside, the app pushes a notification to the user alerting them of its arrival along with a photo of the delivery person. The user can then retrieve their package by scanning an in-app master QR code.

While securing incoming packages is uCella’s main function, it offers a few other handy features, too. Through a built-in microphone, the carrier is able to leave voice messages that are then relayed to the user through their phone. Items that need returning can also be left in uCella and a request can be booked through the app, which in turn notifies the carrier and gives instructions on how to operate the device and pick up the package.

The app can also track shipments via a map view and monitors the levels of uCella’s removable lithium battery, which should reach empty after about 30 days of normal usage. There’s also a second built-in battery designed to keep the device running while the main battery is on the charge. The device is water-, dust- and UV-resistant and the exterior is crafted from military-grade composite materials, which the creators say can’t be easily cut or torn apart.

The makers of uCella are currently looking to raise funds on Indiegogo for commercial production. Early pledges of US$129 are available, with shipping slated for March 2016 if the campaign runs as planned.