France joins InPost parcel locker network


France joins InPost parcel locker network.

InPost, a Polish company with a track-record of innovation, imagination, and disciplined speedy implementation continues to be one of the two “manufacturers of record” of “parcel lockers”.  The other is the Austrian company Keba, also a fast-moving and disciplined international competitor.

From an addressing point of view, we have been wondering how consumers will find these stations.  It’s one thing to give directions to “The ‘Multi-locker’ in the main hall of the Gotterdamerung railroad station on the East side next to the exit to the Major Strasse taxi stand”.   A native to the area would find that fairly easily, we suppose. To a visitor this could be quite a challenge.   Parcel stations in outdoor areas, such as parking facilities or suburban train stations could be a bit of an addressing challenge.

Of course, in places with few ‘line-of’sight’ obstacles or attention distractions, the lockers would be fairly visible.  On the other hand, in an internal parking facility with 4 floors, location and coherent indication of the location, could be a challenge.  We suppose these will be located where foot traffic is heaviest, and electricity can be hooked up.  But posing the circumstances suggests the difficulty.

This is not a minor difficulty.  When I go to a website to order something to be delivered to a parcel station, I will presumably be offered a selection of lockers for my use.  To save me time and aggravation, that ‘address’ or ‘location identification’ better be very accurate and very easy to find, or I will be one seriously annoyed customer.  And I’ll be angry with the merchant, not InPost.

Can you imagine being told to go to Locker number B12 at the locker facility “At the Metro Station Arc de Triomphe”?  As I recall, that is a rabbit’s warren of tunnels extending underground for hundreds of meters in every direction.  After I have spent 30 to 45 minutes finding the locker, I will not be swearing at InPost. I’ll be swearing at the ecommerce merchant who offered me this “convenience”.

This raises the question of an address, and the question of what is an address.  This is important because GADA is the association of those with interest in “address data”.  Now, is “at the exit to Major Strasse” an address?  Or is it “local lore” or a “location description”? Do addresses require a special set of data or format or the use of particular language to actually be addresses?

If an “address” is a description of a location formed used agreed standard terms and easily communicated to other persons who can find the location using the geophysical data inherent in said location”, the “at the exit to Major Strasse” is an address. But, of course, one hopes there is a sign over the exit door to Major Strasse for the benefit of newcomers to the station.  And, of course, the description is rather awkward to put in a database of “similar addresses” in order to form a coherent collection of somehow related addresses.

We do not believe we are overstating this issue.  We have too many “address” scars not to be able to anticipate that it will be a challenge to communicate clearly to the consumer who is new to a locker station location.  We once spent 30 minutes, and missed two buses, looking for the stop for the express bus to the airport in Madrid, which was located “in front of the old post office headquarters”.  The latter is a gorgeous building with a “front” on two streets at 90 degrees and a curved facade between them. A very big “front” indeed, and blessed with many, many bus stop sign posts.  Perhaps this problem can be solved with the use of geolocation through the mobile phone.  In that case, however, we have very deep concerns about the accuracy of mobile phones displaying lat/long co-ordinates accurately on a map.  And, of course, if you don’t have a mobile phone,  lat/long is a curious collection of numbers, and nothing more.

Whether parcel lockers will be profitable ventures as supporters of e-commerce remains to be seen.  Initial responses by the public (albeit reported by the locker manufacturers) appear to be positive, and the manufacturers are doing clever experiments to potentially extend their functionality. InPost submitted an entry to Triangle’s World Mail Awards where the parcel lockers are used for laundry orders!  Book your laundry cleaning order on-line, choose a locker location convenient for you, leave your dirty shirts in the designated locker in the morning, and pick up your nicely pressed and packaged shirts on your way home in the evening.  Once, of course, you find the locker station.

The location of the locker station is an address, nothing less.  So far, we have not developed an easily understood and easily communicated nomenclature to provide “addresses” of things like locker stations.  Do we need this?  I think we always have needed it. This is just one of the many communications issues GADA will be examining in the coming months.  Please join the conversation by signing up for our newsletters and blog entries at www.globaladdress.org. And we would be delighted to have you become a member. Click here to learn more.

Categories : Location

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