BoxNow: Revolutionizing Delivery with a Remote-Controlled Network of Lockers

Case Study 18. 10. 2022 7 minutes




EMMA Capital

EMMA Capital, a private investment holding, specializes in managing and evolving businesses throughout European and Asian markets. Spotting a unique opportunity, LinkSoft collaborated with EMMA Capital to introduce an automated delivery box system in Greece and its neighboring regions.

The E-commerce Shift 

The e-commerce realm is expanding rapidly, yet not every region enjoys the necessary ancillary services, especially swift deliveries. BoxNow aimed to bridge this gap in Greece and surrounding areas. Unlike the Czech Republic, where efficient delivery box networks by companies such as Alza are common, there was an urgent need for speedy delivery solutions.

To address this, EMMA Capital envisioned a 24-hour accessible network of solar-powered lockers to expedite deliveries, process returns, and manage package reshipments.

The Challenge: Remote-Controlled Network of Lockers

While EMMA Capital had the logistics blueprint, they required a sophisticated system to remotely operate these lockers. Our mandate encompassed creating a system capable of interfacing with locker-specific attributes like 4G and Bluetooth, facilitating customer interactions through an API, and handling critical functionalities.

The Solution: Locker Bridge in Azure

Commencing with a modest number of boxes, BoxNow had visions of rapid expansion. Our strategy emphasized 4G and Bluetooth communication, ensuring adaptability for the future. The decision to utilize Azure Infrastructure as Code was pivotal, enabling swift deployment.

Jan Hron of LinkSoft lauded Azure for its scalability advantages, asserting that cloud-based solutions are both cost-effective and effortlessly scalable.

We designed the solution in Azure with a view to the future expansion of the BoxNow service. For a startup project like this, the cloud is ideal. Robust infrastructure isn't necessary right from the start, but it is planned for in the future. There are no additional costs from purchasing infrastructure that will sit unused for a year. The cloud allows us to very easily and practically add resources on the fly, which would not be possible with physical infrastructure. The cloud increases capacity with just "one click away". If the client wants 400 more boxes next month, increasing computational capacity won't be a problem."

Jan Hron, Sales Director of LinkSoft.

Transition Phase: From Google Cloud to MS Azure

Originally developed on Google Cloud, the application underwent a successful transition to MS Azure. Operating on a virtual machine and fortified with Azure Key Vault for data protection, it facilitates effortless infrastructure management via terraform.

Tomáš Kočka from EMMA Capital commended LinkSoft for their cost-efficient, yet architecturally sophisticated solution.

“I have to commend LinkSoft. They delivered to us a very architecturally beautiful solution at a reasonable price, and very quickly. It scales easily both in terms of the number of lockers and the number of requests. This allowed us to easily launch the locker operation in other countries as well. We believe that even a potential new type of locker would be easily implementable into this solution, which would allow the logistics platform to not even notice that it has different lockers available, and treat them all identically."

Tomáš Kočka, partner of the EMMA Capital group.

Technological Underpinning:

Final technology stack:

  • Application server: .NET 6, Entity Framework Core, Azure AD, (AutoMapper, Swagger, FluentValidation), gRPC, REST API
  • DB Server: Postgres SQL
  • Front-end: React (Redux, Hooks), HTML5, LESS, TypeScript, Ant Design, TSLint, Prettier, Axios, Moment.js, PropTypes, Lodash, Webpack, npm

The REST API is secured with JWT tokens through Azure AD.

  • Lockers can only communicate using a proprietary protocol at the TCP level. Our solution ensures all communication via a 4G module or Bluetooth with the locker box.
  • A service on the server maintains a direct TCP connection with the box, and all control operations are conducted through a defined REST API, secured with Access tokens (JWT) via Azure AD.

Ability to communicate with multiple locker types.

The translation of TCP communication into specific commands happens in a separate module.

If there are multiple versions of lockers that have different communication methods, we can develop and integrate a new module into the system, allowing simultaneous communication with these multiple locker types.

We are already utilizing the capability to communicate with various locker types. If there's a 4G connection loss, one can approach the locker using an Android mobile phone, for which we have a dedicated application. This phone can connect to the locker, leveraging its internet connection to communicate with our system, thus enabling us to fully control the locker.

Jan Nielsen | CTO of LinkSoft

For verification, we use a sandbox mechanism to control via the REST API.

  • This sandbox verifies the authenticity of a locker using multiple commands. If the locker passes this verification, it's integrated into the control module, where it can be controlled through the REST API. This module also responds to commands from the locker, like PIN entry.
  • The REST API is available for both the logistics and the web application (React). The latter provides an overview of lockers, control options, operational parameter configuration, and firmware upgrades.

ELK stack for monitoring and reports

All communication is recorded and is available for a potential audit. For this, we use the ELK stack, where the customer produces the necessary reports themselves (e.g., the battery status of individual lockers) and is thus able to anticipate operational problems.

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Jan Hron | Obchodní ředitel