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Image via Mike Grabham.
The Wi-Fi enabled Package Guard device. (Image via Mike Grabham.)

Tired of getting your Amazon packages stolen from the front porch? A Seattle-area entrepreneur may have a simple solution — one that may send the crooks running away, fast.

Mike Grabham, who runs the Startup Grind speaker series in Seattle, today launched a $45,000 Kickstarter campaign for a new invention he’s dubbed Package Guard.

The size of a frisbee, Package Guard is a Wi-Fi-enabled device that sits on front porches, alerting a customer when a package has been delivered to their house and, more importantly, setting off a loud alarm if anyone unauthorized tries to steal the package.

Package Guard is available in limited quantity for $40 preorder on Kickstarter, with an expected retail value of $69 to $79, depending on demand. However, customers can also get a limited “Package Theft Victim Special,” by sending in proof of previous package theft in the form of police reports, media coverage, or vendor statements and a minimum contribution of $5 that will cover shipping for the device, according to the Package Guard Kickstarter page.

Mike Grabham
Mike Grabham

“The product is really simple,” said Grabham in an interview with GeekWire today. “It sits on your doorstep and when UPS or Amazon or FedEx puts a package down on top of it, it lets you and your neighbors know with e-mail and text alerts that you’ve gotten a delivery. If someone tries to take a package, they get scared off because the packages cover the device, so they don’t know it’s alarmed. Also, it’s pretty loud.”

Customers can pick up their own packages by replying via text or email to a Package Guard message with the word “off” to disable the alarm. They can also have their friends or neighbors fetch their packages by adding them to Package Guard’s alert mailing list and having them text or email the device to power it off. The device has built-in security protections that keep it from going off when, say, a cat walks over it, Grabham said.

The idea for Package Guard came out of Grabham’s own experience with package theft. He and his wife have a nonprofit called Survive the Streets, which provides the homeless with winter clothing like hats, coats, and gloves.

In November of 2014, Grabham was expecting a delivery of coats, but couldn’t find them when he arrived home from work.

“Then we realized it got stolen from our front porch,” he said. “We had to file a claim with the vendor and re-order the coats. It definitely cost somebody some money, though luckily that time it wasn’t us. I thought, ‘There’s got to be a way to protect these packages somewhere.’ But there wasn’t. So that’s how this all started.”

It took Grabham just over a year to develop Package Guard once he came up with the idea and had completed his initial product research. Grabham has experience in developing tech products as the founder of five startups, four of which have been in tech, so that helped the process move quickly, he said.

“Many people are starting to wonder where to send packages because they don’t want to send them to their houses,” Grabham said. “Package Guard is doing the same thing that car alarms did 25 years ago when somebody tried to break in. When there’s an alarm, most thieves run. Not every one will, but many people get scared off. We’re not going to solve all package theft, but we will definitely deter a lot more than is being deterred now, which is pretty much nothing.”

Grabham cited national research conducted by insuranceQuotes.com released in December that said that 23 million Americans have had packages stolen from their homes. The exact numbers are hard to pin down, but what can be said with certainty is that the opportunity for package theft is increasing, as Americans are ordering more products online that must be delivered to their doorsteps instead of buying in traditional brick and mortar stores.

Grabham also conducted his own market research with Nextdoor, surveying 161 of his neighbors. Grabham found that 74 percent of people had experienced package theft or had a neighbor who had.

“It’s a clearly growing problem,” he said. “Package theft is so easy to commit, but there are no easy solutions right now. You can have your mail delivered elsewhere, but that costs you time. You can do locked boxes like ElephantTrunk, but those are expensive and many people don’t have space for them.”

Grabham argues that his market advantage is that Package Guard is incredibly simple to use. It doesn’t involve any behavioral changes and relies on existing Wi-Fi technology to send its alerts. He already has a working prototype, and now just needs money to make and distribute the device en masse.

With his Kickstarter, Grabham hopes to raise money to cover manufacturing and patenting costs, as well as to get FCC approval to create a wifi connected device. Grabham has plans to integrate the device “soon” with existing home security systems and cameras. He also needs funds for packaging design and to develop an app that will “add a few more bells and whistles” to the Package Guard alert system, which already works over text and e-mail.

In just a few hours, Grabham has raised nearly $2,500, and has gotten an endorsement on Facebook from Futurist Robert Scoble, and the campaign still has a month to go.

“We’re seeing a lot of great traction already,” Grabham said. “People are seeing that with Package Guard, they will finally have a way to stop the porch pirates.”

Here’s more on the product from the company’s Kickstarter campaign:

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