Smartmile has created a service that may revolutionise parcel delivery in smart cities around the world. The first Smartmile parcel machines were opened in a pilot implemented in Tampere, and Tampere was also the chosen location for Smartmile national headquarters. The pilot is a prime example of how the City can bring different actors together and enable new business.
Online shopping is becoming more popular and parcels are dashing across the globe. But the last mile of a parcel can be problematic from the consumers’ point of view: they often have no control over the choice of a pickup point or the courier may ring their doorbell when they’re not at home.
Online shoppers’ problems in parcel delivery is the main issue we wanted to solve. With Smartmile, online buyers can order all parcels to their preferred pickup point and retrieve them when convenient, summarises Smartmile CEO Aku Happo.
To make parcel pickup simple for the consumer, there needs to be someone who connects online retailers, couriers and automated parcel lockers, in a way that serves all stakeholders. The three founders of Smartmile decided to do just that in summer 2016. The company was established in the Netherlands, service development began in Germany and the Finnish subsidiary started in 2017.
Boosted by Smart Tampere programme
Smartmile came to Tampere via Spain. The company visited Barcelona Smart City Expo World Congress and met representatives of over 30 smart cities, all of them interested in the Smartmile solution. Tampere was among the few cities that had a clear strategy for smart city development.
More meetings ensued, resulting in a pilot of a new kind of parcel service in Tampere, together with retailer K Group and the Smart Tampere programme. First two automated parcel lockers were made available for everyone in March 2018. These robotic lockers were manufactured by Konecranes.
Smart Tampere programme was an important opener, it helped us find suitable partners and get the pilot started, Happo says.
The solution piloted in Tampere is exported with great determination. Smartmile is currently active in three countries and also actively planning expansions. For example, in the US there is a clear need for and interest in the service. The concept is easily scalable in different countries, as the base work is already done and documented. Smartmile’s network of automated parcel lockers is open and shared, allowing cooperation for all stakeholders.
We have not encountered other service concepts like ours anywhere. There are companies that offer single elements, parcel lockers or parcel management for example, but not the entire concept, says Happo.
Tampere has become the national headquarters of Smartmile. When the company started to recruit in Finland, suitable tech and business talent was available in Tampere, hence the choice of location. In one year and a half the team in Tampere has reached the size of eight persons, and is still currently looking for new talents.
Collaborating for more sustainable smart city
The Smartmile concept has been created to benefit all stakeholders. Consumers can choose to pick up all their parcels in one location and parcel lockers attract more customers to the stores in which they are located. In Finland, there are Smartmile parcel lockers in K Group and Lidl stores.
Retail partners can also use parcel terminals for their own purposes. In Tampere, the K-Supermarket Nekala store offers an option to shop online and pick up groceries from the parcel locker, and other stores will follow, Happo says.
For courier companies Smartmile enables an increase in efficiency, as parcels will be delivered exactly where consumers want them, and at one go. This reduces traffic, which is a fundamental smart city objective and is in line with the City of Tampere objective to be carbon-neutral by 2030.
The role of the City is indeed changing. Traditionally a City is a service provider, nowadays Tampere is more often also an enabler of new business and an ecosystem booster.
The Smartmile pilot is a prime example of the City’s role as an enabler bringing together various actors, says Director of Smart Tampere Ecosystem Program Seppo Haataja of Business Tampere.
Photo: Nora Hurd, Smartmile