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The Backdoor Project
    “Time is too precious not to accept remote delivery.”



Home goods and services are increasingly available online and through delivery. The savings of these solutions is substantial, particularly in terms of the time spent otherwise travelling to and selecting these goods.

The primary offset to these gains is that, typically, you have to arrange to be at home to receive the deliveries. While FedEx, UPS, Freshdirect, etc. are more than happy to deliver without a signature (provided you sign a waiver ahead of time), this means you’re subject to the risk of having your goods stolen or misdelivered without legal recourse.

This project solves that problem by providing you with a virtual presence for accepting deliveries.


Our building has a gated backyard located near the primary door. This system enables deliveries to automatically call their recipients for identification before being remotely let into the backyard to access a weatherproof storage container. The entire process is videod via webcast so the recipient can also visually verify the identity of the deliveryperson as well as watch their actions, and a video record is always taken for later reference.

Here’s an example:

    FreshDirect arrives with groceries for apt. #2 sometime between 6 and 9pm (the usual length of their window of delivery). When they show up they go to the gate marked “deliveries” and press the intercom button. A pre-recorded voice asks them which floor they are delivering to. (A small sign posted next to the intercom lists the names of the floor inhabitants in case of question). They say “Two”, and are automatically forwarded to John’s phone number (cell or landline).
    John is at work when he answers his phone. The delivery person says “It’s freshdirect, order for John Doe.” Because John is in front of his computer his calls up the bookmarked page for the gate webcam, which shows him the delivery person. He tells them to please put the groceries in the delivery container in the back yard and presses the “#” button on his phone. The gate automatically opens, and the deliveryperson proceeds into the backyard and puts the groceries in the weatherproof container there. When they leave the gate locks automatically behind them.

Later, if John has any questions about the delivery, he can reference the stored video and call record via the website.


There are two main components to the Backdoor system; the gate hardware, and the server which ties them together. These components consist of:

1) The gate hardware:

2) The server (a simple linux box), w/:

    Asterisk VOIP client
    MySQL DB
    Apache webserver w/ Ruby front-end
    Dynamic IP (w/ port 80 NAT’ing)
    Outbound VOIP AIX
    Motion detecting software

Total: $325 (assuming you have a spare computer to use; the software is all free.)

The hardware is bundled together at the gate and can be run to power and data via the floor 3 window. The software is all open-source and uses a free AIX service (GizmoCall) for placing the VOIP calls to the delivery recipients, meaning that operating costs should be nill. This leaves the one-time cost of the hardware, detailed below, plus the installation and configuration. Based on time and cost savings experience in trying out numerous delivery services, it’s our belief this cost is easily offset in one year of service.


The biggest cost we experience is in time, and delivered services can win us back a significant amount of it. This project proposes to enable safe, secure, and verified deliveries at any time regardless of recipient’s physical presence. This translates to substantial time and financial savings.