Instructables
Picture of Mailbox Phone Alert


The mailbox phone alert sends you a text whenever you get mail. I remember anxiously checking my mail multiple times a day during the spring of my senior year of high school as I awaited letters back from colleges. Nervously, I would walk up to the mailbox. My heart would skip a beat as I opened it. Nothing inside. I would then go through the same process an hour later. I thought, if only there were a solution to this nerve wracking struggle of checking the mail all the time. I have come to the solution, but sadly I am two years late. Fortunately, this is still a super handy device that I enjoy using and now YOU can prevent future mail angst by making it for yourself. 

This project is perfect for you if you're anxious to get your mail, you have issues with mail theft, you like to be updated by phone on every aspect of your life, or you just want to make something cool.

The device uses a photoresistor to detect the light levels in the mailbox. When the light is above a certain threshold, the Arduino knows the mailbox is open. There is a red button on the front of the device that you press to arm it. After you press the button, the next time the mailbox is opened, presumably by the mailman, you will get a text. It will not send you a text again until you have armed it again. This ensures that you don't get a text every time you open the mailbox. Every time you pick up your mail, arm the mailbox phone alert and enjoy instant mail notification.

Preliminary advice: Inform your mailman of your contraption so that he does not think you have a planted a bomb in your mailbox and use a non-metal mailbox for good cellular connection.
 
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chris9113 months ago

I'm having trouble with this, It will not send a text and i have checked everything. Could it be that i am using a TracFone sim card and not a bigger name provider? It was just the cheapest one i could find.

IBMer7 months ago

Neat idea. Not sure it would work here in my area. Our mail delivery person doesn't show up until 7:30pm. I'm not sure there is enough light to trigger the LDR or Photo Cell. I'd probably have to go with some kind of a contact switch to register when the mailbox door is opened.
I feel bad for our mail carrier. They Must either start very late in the day, or has too many stops. A real bummer when you pay for Priority Mail, or Next Day Air and you don't get the item until 7:30pm...
I'm thinking of doing something similar, except using the RF Transmitter / Receiver in the 433Mhz range. I'll probably use a momentary switch triggered by the mailbox door opening. Maybe add a Solar Cell on top of the mailbox to keep things powered up.

bedwards197 months ago

Great project, nice idea as a gift for those with mobility issues, good work

Inanimate1117 months ago

Ive been looking for something like this for a while, I am barely home and would like to pick up my mail when its there and not have to worry about it. Great project and I'm going to try it out and see if i can change the text message alert to maybe a email or something that is free.. But not sure how to do this, if anyone has any ideas that would be great.

mrcurlywhirly8 months ago
Very interesting project, I'm looking for some sort of alert, though i am fortunate enough have conduit close to where i will be setting up a mailbox. So i can easily run a pair of wires into the box and have a tilt switch on the back of the spring loaded brass flap the mailman will have to push letters in through, that was going to close the cct for a simple buzzer. Had not thought of this type of setup, Its very clever, though I would be more concerned about theft of the SIM and/or the Arduino than most of my mail!
eddevine10 months ago
What SIM card are you using? The ones I've seen require an expensive plan with a provider
sl0j0n11 months ago
Hello, "nikoala3".
I thought this was a cool use of tech.
I like to see people using their heads in creative ways.
Speaking of which, I sometimes think that we should use the resources available to help us to 'think' better.
In that vain, I suggest that your actions indicate a possible case of OCD.
The fact that you wrote that you experienced the same anxiety repeatedly,
and that you felt compelled to repeat your actions are possible indicators.
I wouldn't mention it, but I have this problem, and have learned to deal with it.
Since you obviously are intelligent enough to figure out to modify your mailbox, I think that you would be well-served to investigate this possibility.
Furthermore, you may want to investigate the possibilities of self-treatment using nutritional supplements.
This something that I think a person of your intelligence could easily do.
I hope you will look into the possibilities.
There is convincing evidence that we can modify ourselves to improve our own internal & external functions.
Ultimately, it is your decision as to how you live. ["Live long and prosper".]
Have a GREAT day, neighbor!
sl0j0n
sdcharle sl0j0n11 months ago
I was going to call you the most sophisticated spambot ever, but then realized you forgot to link to the nutritional supplements you are selling.
sl0j0n sdcharle11 months ago
Hello, "sdcharle".
I'm not "selling" anything.
READ the comment again.
See if you can figure out what I was writing about.
Have a GREAT day, neighbor!
jslarve sl0j0n11 months ago
That's not OCD. I check my mailbox all day too, because people steal things and I get paid via snail mail. Busy-bodyness is treatable, though.
sdcharle11 months ago
Nice Instructable, and you did a good job with the video, too.
fastenspy11 months ago
Hello, I can not find the GSM / GPRS shield on RadioShack.

This one is not as good?

http://www.befr.ebay.be/itm/GSM-GPRS-Shield-for-Arduino-/221176159800?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item337f205e38&_uhb=1
nikoala3 (author)  fastenspy11 months ago
Hi, yes, sorry it appears that RadioShack does not carry it anymore. I am not sure how the one that you have linked works, but you could try to use it. Here is another link to the one I used:
http://www.seeedstudio.com/depot/gprs-shield-p-779.html
Hope this helps!
fastenspy nikoala311 months ago
tanks nikoala !
etkoehn11 months ago
neat stuff
hammer987611 months ago
First off, congratulations on being Featured. Great idea.

Second, I would want to put the notifier in the back of the mailbox and tie/glue it down. If I am having problems with people stealing mail out of my US mail box (a Federal offense by the way), then I would fear for this item, too.
etkoehn hammer987611 months ago
if people were stealing the mail then she could put a camera on it. that would be awesome
nikoala3 (author)  hammer987611 months ago
Thanks!
You're right! Good idea.
RedZone13311 months ago
You have a great idea, there are many reasons why this device would be worth the cost . I had tried this w/ a wireless doorbell device, since we have a thief problem.I did write "Bell" on the outside.A wire with a magnet that drops a little flag down the back would be a good Grandma fix, so she doesn't have to walk back and fourth.
Here's a package tracker for Apple produces:https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/delivery-status-touch-package/id290986013?mt=8
LP211 months ago
Thanks !
Great Idea!, my Mail box is 1,000 feet from my house, Looong Country Driveway.
And we have Mailbox Vandels in my area.
LP2 nikoala311 months ago
:-D
MartijnD11 months ago
Nice project! However a bit complex maybe... The battery will only last 1 day I presume... What is the range you need to cross? Modifying a wireless doorbell will be much cheaper, a €30,- will reach 100meters, add directional coils to sender and antenna receiver could get you up to 250meters. The sender/ inside the mailbox is only active during sending, battery will last months, maybe even years. The receiver, connect to mains... Or walkie-talkie, a range of 2 kilometres, send a tune when box is open...
nikoala3 (author)  MartijnD11 months ago
Thanks! The benefit of the cellular shield is there is no limit to the range (except of course if you don't have cell service), so you can be notified even if you're not at home. I also thought the cellular shield was cool and wanted to experiment with it. I did not realize the battery limitations while originally making this project, so I would suggest using a power cord instead of batteries (if your mailbox is close to your house or if you have a slot mailbox). The doorbell idea is great! Definitely would work well. Thanks for the input!
Sky Woulf nikoala311 months ago
how about multiple battery setup with batteries in parallel, so you get continuous voltage, and replace batts every Friday or so. another idea is a higher voltage battery with voltage reduction circut for longer battery life
MartijnD Sky Woulf11 months ago
Or a solar powered battery pack...
chrissv nikoala311 months ago
I think what MartijnD means is that you put the GSM shield/Arduino unit in the house, connected to mains power and the wireless doorbell main unit. It replaces the photocell. Then in the mailbox, you simply have the doorbell button part (maybe with a tilt mercury sensor for the push button). Then you can still send the SMS message when the mailbox is opened.
sconnor211 months ago
Don't you think this thing might be a problem when your mail carrier sees it? It looks suspicious to the point that that your mail carrier will call the police and you will have the bomb squad at your front door.
angpal5911 months ago
That's ironic, I don't work and I can't see my mailbox so I was actually thinking of figuring out someway to let me know when the mail man has come, I don't need a text or anything like that, just some kind of alert, like a light or a buzzer or something like that, but great instructable. Figure one out for me, LOL, just kidding
Sky Woulf angpal5911 months ago
I too was thinking along those lines, like a speaker with a soundbyte like the old AOL email message "You Got Mail" to sound whenever someone gets in to the mailbox, we have mail thieves in my area
VansDesigns11 months ago
Maybe a version that could use the wifi on a home network router???
Possible, have other Arduino Wi-Fi device.
Dylon12411 months ago
And how much is this going to cost me! Why not an ethernet shield or better yet use the raspberry pi! I need a raspberry pi!
Ragooman11 months ago
nice project !
one thing, I'm not sure about is the requirement to activate the SIM card. You gave a very brief one line sentence about this step. I would expect there's an additional service charge from the Phone company, as an extra phone line, to operate this device.
is this true ?
nikoala3 (author)  Ragooman11 months ago
Thanks!
Yeah I was vague on purpose there. I think it can vary depending upon which provider you get the card from.
SIM cards do not exactly act as an extra phone line. They can be activated by being inserted into any international phone or prepaid phone. You can put plans or dollar amounts on the card, but if your card expires or you need to refill it, you should reinsert it into a phone and contact the service provider. So, yes, you are correct, there is an additional service charge.
Forgive me if my terminology is off... I am honestly not too familiar with SIM cards because before this project I had never dealt with them.
I hope that clears it up a little bit.
strick11 months ago
Cool idea, but if your mail lady opens your box and sees that she'll likely run away screaming and call in a bomb squad...
Marcaine Art11 months ago
I saw the picture and instantly thought "my mailman would have a heart attack thinking it was an explosive device"
jslarve11 months ago
This looks pretty nifty.
I'm working on a notifier, myself. Using RF-Link.
bschran11 months ago
nice project looks cool only thing i would be afraid of is the mail man would think the thing is a bomb and call the bomb squad out...
vroom35011 months ago
Or can use PICAXE code with wireless 433Mhz module in the mailbox and send to other PICAXE receiver can be connected to a bell or light, battery would long over a year or more, simple cheap than much cost GSM Shield and pay bill.
vroom35011 months ago
Great idea! but battery would run out in few day no good, I made a project separate cheap PICAXE wireless transmitter 433Mhz just switch when open the mailbox and send to Arduino receiver 433Mhz with GSM Shield in the house use adapter power, final send a SMS, save battery can long over a year for switch only than photoresister in Mailbox, but another possible use a photoresister with PICAXE just low drain current maybe a month or less.
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