Earlier this month, Minnow announced that it had installed its IoT-connected cubbies for food deliveries in seven locations in Portland, Oregon. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Seattle-based startup just announced it will be taking extra steps to make its Pickup Pods safer and contaminant-free.
Chiefly, the company is adding UV lights to the interior of its cubbies to sterilize any food containers placed inside. However, we should note, while UV light does have the ability to kill some bacteria and viruses, it’s not 100 percent proven that it protects against the coronavirus.
Contactless food pickup, like Minnow offers, is already useful in a time when we’re trying to avoid touching things as much as possible (including our faces). For those who aren’t familiar with their technology: Minnow installs their pods, which contain 20 individual insulated cubbies, in public spaces like office buildings, apartments, and universities. Residents can pre-order lunch from a rotating menu of local restaurants via text or through the mobile web, then Minnow batches the orders and has them delivered all at once by one of their drivers.
The driver places each meal in an individual cubby and texts folks when their order is ready. Customers can then tap a hyperlink on their smart phone (no need to touch a screen on the actual Pod) to open the cubby’s automatic doors and grab their lunch.
According to an email from the company, Minnow has processed 4,000 food orders thus far. That’s significant, but currently most of Minnow’s pods are in office buildings. At a time when more and more people are being directed to work from home, that’s not exactly good for business.
However, a Minnow representative told me that the company is currently in talks with residential buildings about installing pods, which can be set up in as little as an hour and are totally turnkey (the company provides hardware, software, and support). Spaces lease them out for a monthly fee.
If folks continue to stay at home — and at this point, it looks like we’re going to be social distancing for a while — I could see services like Minnow’s pods gaining a foothold in apartment buildings as resident managers grow weary of coordinating delivery drivers coming in and out of the building.
There’s an obvious appeal for consumers. Even if delivery drivers drop off food at your doorstep, you still don’t know for sure if the container is sanitary, or how many people touched it on its way to your home. If you live in an apartment building, where you have to leave your home and go outside to get your order, that adds even more opportunities for contamination. Placing food in pods like Minnow’s, where they’re promptly disinfected by UV light, adds an extra layer of security that I imagine many people would welcome.
This might all sound over the top right now, especially since people are still allowed to go out and grocery shop and do takeout from their local restaurants (which you should do if you can!) But we don’t know how long COVID-19 will last. If quarantine measures escalate and paranoia around contamination grows, contactless and sanitizing tech like Minnow’s could be a helpful option for those hungry for food delivery.