Self-service smart lockers -- similar to the Amazon Hub Lockers that have been popping up around the country -- are now available for airmen at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, the first base to install the secure package delivery system at its barracks.
Robins unveiled the new equipment during a March 30 ceremony, with senior installation leadership and the airman who initially came up with the idea in attendance. Seven other Air Force bases have scheduled the intelligent lockers to be installed at their facilities; they will eventually be available across the Air Force, according to a service press release.
Previously, troops at Robins had to wait two to three days for the base's post office to manually sort a package, notify the recipient that it is available for pickup and then hand it out, according to Senior Airman Ricardo "Noah" Morales, who pitched the locker concept to Air Force leadership. Now, technology is quickly replacing or reshaping service jobs typically carried out by human beings.
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"This will improve life for Airmen because they can now retrieve their packages 24/7. Shift workers will now be able to get off their shift and retrieve their package at any time of the day without having to work around the base post office's limited hours," Morales said during the ribbon-cutting event.
The Robins post office operates from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday; it is closed during the weekend, giving service members a limited window to access their mail, according to Roland Leach, a base spokesperson.
With the new secure package system, service members will likely be sent an individual code when a parcel is delivered, allowing them to immediately retrieve it from a locker.
Morales secured the funding for Robins when he won first place and $235,000 to implement the smart locker venture in a 2021 Air Force innovation contest. The next competition, to be held in August, will give Air Force members another chance to win a share of $1 million for their inventive ideas.
Secure delivery lockers are growing in popularity across the U.S. and are now available everywhere from apartment buildings to grocery stores. The industry is expected to grow exponentially from a market of roughly $677 million last year to more than $1.6 billion by 2028, according to a report published by ResearchAndMarkets.com.
But as new technology expands, it also threatens to replace conventional service jobs. A recent report by research company Forrester projects 11 million U.S. jobs will be lost to automation by 2032.
Even the United States Postal Service has entered the parcel locker industry, testing its technology in limited locations across the country. With development of the secure locker system at Air Force bases still ongoing, individuals sending mail domestically or internationally to an APO, FPO or DPO should continue to keep in mind the specific guidelines set by the USPS.
-- Jonathan Lehrfeld is a fellow at Military.com. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media.
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