In fact, some business sectors are relying heavily on smart lockers to drive future growth. Demand is widespread. According to recent market research, sales of consumer and enterprise smart lockers are expected to grow 10 percent yearly through 2030.
The flexibility of smart lockers makes them well-suited for solving storage and distribution challenges in any industry. But there is no one-size-fits-all management plan that everyone can follow. The lockers are just the tools at the core of an asset management plan.
So what is a smart locker, anyway? To deploy the best possible equipment tracking system for your business, it helps to ask how do smart lockers work? What can they do? And how have other businesses successfully used them? This article answers all of those questions.
What is a Smart Locker?
Let’s start with the concept of smart technology. Smart tech is any product with an integrated computer and sensor system that can monitor itself. Often, that smart product can analyze its own data to make performance changes automatically.
A smart locker, or intelligent locker, is a secure storage and distribution system with one of those integrated computer and sensor networks built in. They can adjust on the fly which assets are available for sign-out, flag assets in need of repair, and alert you to irregularities in sign-out patterns.
A traditional storage locker can hold a laptop, but it might only have PIN code security and no other access or management tools. As a result, anyone with the PIN code can take the laptop anytime.
In contrast, a smart locker system stores and often charges the laptop while idle. Its authentication panel records the identity of the user signing the laptop in or out. Administrators can restrict sign-outs user-by-user or to only certain times. The smart locker can also alert administrators if a user doesn’t return a laptop on time.
Core Components of Smart Lockers
Let’s break down the components you need to make a locker system. We’ll go from least to most smart.
Whether they’re smart or not, lockers need to be reliable storage systems. From the outside, most smart locker systems look like traditional storage lockers. They often have either ventilated metal or clear high-impact polycarbonate doors.
This is the first component that makes a locker smart. Requiring staff to individually identify themselves gives you tighter control over who can access specific equipment.
The most basic authentication option is the PIN code, but it is also the least secure option. Security researchers have found that PIN codes are too easy for determined attackers to guess. In fact, twenty PIN codes make up 10 percent of all codes used worldwide.
For higher security environments, other options are available. These include swipe cards, smartphone apps, or biometric scans, such as fingerprints, facial scans, or eye scans.
In addition to tracking users, smart locker technology must also track individual assets. This is called content surveillance. One of the most reliable and cost-effective ways to do this is with passive RFID tags.
These tags can be attached to or embedded in various materials. Smart storage lockers read tags to confirm that the correct asset is taken or returned.
Lockers can also perform content surveillance using USB charging cables built into lockers. When tablets, smartphones, and other electronics charged by these cables are plugged in, their identification is relayed to the lockers. This helps keep users accountable and deters asset theft.
All this data gathered from asset transactions is only useful if presented clearly and concisely. Asset management software pulls all of that data together into an easy-to-read dashboard. These smart locker management portals are also where you can customize and view user and transaction reports, which can be useful in regulatory compliance.
10 Benefits of Using Smart Lockers
Many Possible Applications
So what is a smart locker good for? Securing knives in airports is just one of the many customized uses for smart lockers. You can look at our Best Practices for Physical Asset Management guide for complete details, but here are some of the storage solutions we’ve developed. This range of uses illustrates just how flexible smart locker technology can be.
Physical Mobile Device Management
Many businesses rely on staff using a fleet of devices in hectic environments, such as handheld scanners for inventory management in warehouses. As those devices are misplaced or lost, productivity drops. In addition, if there is asset damage, replacement costs can add up.
Real Time Networks has deployed smart lockers with content surveillance to improve handheld scanner management in warehouses and distribution centers. As a result, losses are cut, and dedicated maintenance lockers speed the return to service of damaged equipment.
Law enforcement agencies have traditionally spent a lot of effort managing forensic evidence in their custody. Often, dedicated evidence managers are tasked with watching over evidence lockers, collecting chain of custody forms, and ensuring evidence is available for detectives and court dates.
Smart lockers can automatically handle chain of custody tracking. They also function 24 hours a day, so you can track evidence across all shifts, not just the first shifts when evidence managers normally work. Refrigerated locker modules are also available for safely storing biological evidence.
Smart lockers are an excellent option for storing firearms and less-than-lethal (LTL) weapons. The lockers provide strict access control and keep your personnel accountable for the weapons they sign in and out.
Your regulatory burden doesn’t have to be as unique as airport knife tracking for smart lockers to be the right solution. The reporting features in RTNHub can pull transaction and user data into various report formats. So no matter your regulatory demand, smart lockers offer a way to track and record assets to keep you in compliance.
There is a growing demand for retail pickup services, and many businesses are leaning on smart storage and distribution systems to meet them. Smart lockers can handle temporary asset storage tasks just as easily as persistent storage.
Learn More About Smart Technology
What it actually is, what it is capable of, and exactly what it can do for you when you deploy a smart locker system.
About the Author
Vice President of Marketing
Jay oversees marketing and strategic partnerships at Real Time Networks and has over three decades of experience in leadership roles in the financial services and technology industries.