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Can DHL Crowdsource Package Delivery?

| Friday December 10th, 2010 | 4 Comments

City life has a lot going for it, but for most cities, the high density brings with it high traffic. That high traffic is both exacerbated and created in part by the numerous small parcel transport vehicles picking up and delivering throughout the day.

What if package delivery could be crowdsourced?

That’s the question DHL is going to test out shortly. Based on a program created by the students at the University of Potsdam’s HPI School of Design Thinking, it takes advantage of the increasing ubiquity of location aware smartphones to tap people who are already commuting through the routes a package needs to take.

Sweetening the deal, people earn points for each activity, and can redeem them for free transit passes, goods at local stores/cafes, or donations to the organization of their choice. The video the ‘bring.BUDDY’ system, demonstrates how packages get relayed from point to point. Along the way, participant’s phones serve as a confirmation of identity and a record of the package’s progress.

The benefits are clear: Reduced motorized traffic, emissions, and a novel way to connect neighbor to neighbor, and distribution point businesses to customers. What is not clear is how this will play out in the real world. What systems will be put in place if theft were to occur? What happens when someone doesn’t show or is delayed in their part in delivering the package?

Beyond that, there’s the end recipient of the package. How will their trust be gained in something that sounds quite tenuous, adding a question mark to the reliable system they’ve come to trust? Perhaps they could be rewarded for choosing this delivery path versus going through conventional DHL methods?

If DHL proceeds with this, A lot will fall on its marketing to come up with effective messaging to both emphasize the safety of delivery and the ecological/quality of life benefits everybody will experience as a result of bring.BUDDY style delivery.

Readers: What’s your take on this crowdsourced delivery method? How would you optimize it? Would you choose to have your packages delivered by this method? Why or why not?

Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations about, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media marketing.

via The Consumerist


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  • Sean

    Certainly it’s a good idea, and I’d be happy to see something like this work in practice. The key is security. But there could be ways to verify identity on phones (password at every pickup and drop-off) and when you sign up to be a carrier there should be a background check and a contract to sign saying if you steal there are serious ramifications.

    I think there’s a way to do it. Procedural issues could be costly, but in the end (all factors weighed) it could be quite worth it.

  • Karen Elise Peterson

    perhaps the pilot project could be document based only. that way all the quirks in the system get worked out prior to delivery of more valuable items. while a background check seems the smart thing to do, a lot of that type of service is conducted through phone centres in other countries and people that are undertaking to become “voluntary” couriers may not wish to have their lives opened up to out of country organizations not bound by local laws.

  • http://designthinkingwebredesign.wordpress.com Charlotte

    Interesting design thinking project! :) It’s a bit like the famous dabbawala that apparently even jack welch and richard brandson went to observe, study and understand. What works for dabbawala is the co-operative. the manifestos that hold it together. the beliefs. i wonder if this can work?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dabbawala

  • kris schaeffer

    An additional perk could be a contest or public way to show points. People could compete for points and get bragging rights as well. Also points could be earned for additional efforts: stepping in, reliability, etc.

    If you juice up the motivation for performance, you’ll get it.