Hacker sends this through the mail to record a video of the process


[Ruben van der Vleuten] wanted to get a look at the adventure a package experiences when shipped from one place to another. So he threw together this mishmash of components to record the experience. We certainly enjoyed watching the fast motion video found after the break. We wonder what the shipping agency thinks about this sort of thing?

Camera, digital storage, and battery technology have gotten to the point that it’s both cheap and easy to do this sort of surveillance. But there are a few logistical things that [Ruben] took into account to make this work quite well. First off, he need to hide the camera in a way that would ensure the package didn’t look suspicious. He ended up writing his name on the side of the box and boring a hole through one of the black letters which is smaller than a pea and very hard to spot. To make sure he wasn’t recording a ton of empty (dark) frames he also included electronics to sense motion. When the package is moving the video is always rolling. when not moving the hardware wakes for just 3 seconds every minute to shoot video.

[Thanks Brandon]


  1. Howard says:

    Wow, that is easily the coolest video I’ve seen in a long time. Congratulations on an incredible idea and really nice result!

  2. Daniel says:

    I was thinking about doing this very thing just last week.

  3. gavin says:

    im amazed that it was not covered by all sorts of other packages the entire time, he got some great footage.

    • Jason says:

      true question is: how many times did he have to do it to get that lucky?

      • Sven says:

        I was just thinking that either:
        1. He was incredibly lucky.
        2. This is test #43
        3. This is an ad for DHL or whoever.

        • homer says:

          The company he used was Post Danmark: http://i.imgur.com/YZ93s4Z.jpg

        • Johan G says:

          From reading the comments at vimeo it is both 1:
          “Actually this whole video was shot in one trip. I wanted to have all the footage from one trip only. And indeed i was lucky with the camera facing outwards.”

          and 2:
          “In the other video (vimeo.com/63107369), you can see a compilation of different shots made during several trips.”

          Having seen the other one, I’m happy he dubbed over the whole thing with music, as it kind of brings a whole new meaning to “handling noise” (even though the parcel is in no way mistreated).

          A very nice video by the way. I really like the graphics.

  4. Ken says:

    It is a good thing they didn’t air mail it… It would have been destroyed, cause it would look like a bomb on X-Ray. ;)

    • oodain says:

      plenty of packages have the capacity to looks like a bomb.
      getting sent a package of heavy electrolytic caps and some wires can as well.
      still havent had any actual troubles, plenty of manually checked packages but no real issues.
      i think they use chemical detectors today to rule out explosives .

      • Dax says:

        The point is that when the scanner detects oddly shaped stuff, it calls out for a human inspector, who then looks at the X-rays and sees a weird device that is all wired up, battery connected, ready to do something. Now, he’s not an EE, so he can’t know what it’s supposed to do – for all he knows it could be designed to short circuit and start a fire, or electrocute the person who’s opening the box.

        • I doubt a human inspector would destroy that. On an X-Ray it wouldn’t look like there was anything that could explode, so they’d just open it wearing safety kit and have a look inside. After making sure that it’s safe, they’d then seal it back up.

          To be honest though, I doubt they’d even open it. Modern airport X-Ray machines are dead impressive, and they give the operator loads of information. I think the software on most of them can even figure out what kind of material that it’s detecting and colour code the image. The operator would look at that and see that it’s a circuit board connected to a lithium-ion battery and just let it through.

          • bdunderscore says:

            Lithium-ion batteries are considered HAZMAT and must be declared for shipping. If an inspection found undeclared HAZMAT it would likely be destroyed.

        • George says:

          Here’s the thing, real bombs are not these masterful circuits with blinking lights and wires that you see in movies. There needs to be some chemical explosive, and those are pretty easy to detect.

          • If it’s got a lithium battery, it’s got a chemical explosive. Like Dax said, wire it to short circuit on command. That’s a pretty nefarious thought that would potentially be quite disastrous in a large shipping facility.

          • Deep Space says:

            A guidance from UPS: “Any device with installed batteries must not turn on while in transport. Protect switches that can be accidentally activated, or remove the batteries and protect the terminals.

            Even very simple devices like flashlights or rechargeable drills can generate a dangerous quantity of heat if accidentally activated.”

          • Greenaum says:

            Yep, the modern scanners at airports that you see on those tedious Customs-following documentaries seem to show explosives up as different colours. Modern X-ray machines can divine quite a lot about what they’re looking at, it gives a lot more help to the operator than just a lot of half-transparent shadows.

          • Greenaum says:

            @Ian, batteries must occasionally short out by accident. I’m,not sure they actually go boom so much as maybe get hot and leak caustic gunge. They must have procedures for all sorts of wierd accidents in postal sorting offices. It’s unlikely to kill anybody.

    • asdfasdfasdf says:

      i think they just test batches of packages for chemical fingerprints of explosive stuff.

      don’t think they xray each package. but i’m just guessing out of thin air and some how-it’s-made like video about the post office.

  5. Bitflusher says:

    Cool project!
    I think it was extremely lucky coincidence the package was mostly at the outside of the containers/crates. either that or this was repeated X times until.. success.

  6. PeterF says:

    This would be awesome if not for the use of painters tape instead of duct tape… thats a big mistake :)

  7. truebassb says:

    I’m surprised it made it to the destination! I will assume they didn’t passed it through X-Rays otherwise i bet they would have opened it and mess everything up.

    • Blue Footed Booby says:

      I’m surprised too, though now that I think about it more it’s entirely possible that they see enough electronic gadgetry coming through that they assumed it was just computer parts. For all I know batteries like that look really distinctive in x-rays and they’re trained to ignore them.

    • Queeg says:

      If it wasn’t sent by air I wouldn’t expect it to be scanned.

      • t&p says:

        So if I send a package by ground, it won’t be checked? Would it be safe for my brother to send some weed from colorado?

        • barry99705 says:

          Pretty sure the chemical detectors would pick that up.

        • Anonymous says:

          Quite a lot of drugs get sent through the mail. From gossip I hear, quite a few make it through. Not that I’d try it myself and then tell the entire Internet, so please don’t think I would. Seriously.

        • anonymous says:

          I know for a fact that a good amount of weed gets mailed to Hawaii from the mainland, usually California. Mostly via USPS, as far as I can tell. I think weed is a pretty low priority for them. It’s probably riskier to ship to Hawaii than anywhere else via air because there are strict laws restricting importing plants and animals (to protect the native ecosystem).

          • asdfasdfasdf says:

            hehe. and what exactly they do to non-native plant that they find being imported? …just a guess but i think they burn it. So work the irony of this…

          • Greenaum says:

            “Just protecting the environment, officer”

  8. Isotope says:

    What, no comments about being done before? Plenty of people spazzing out about the wall-wart mouse, but no trolls here? Oh, wait, maybe it’s just because everyone who comments on here is too young to remember this http://gadgets.boingboing.net/2008/09/15/spy-box-the-lifecast.html Pretty sure there was an earlier one too.

    And more importantly, no mention of the parcel mailed to Julian Assange? http://archive.is/lIwe8

    • John says:

      You’ve got to admit that this project makes a hell of a lot more sense than the electronics from a mouse inside the shell of an AC-to-DC adapter.

      • Greenaum says:

        Yep. This is a good and very interesting project. It’s not boring, pointless, obvious, and pointless. Hence the praise instead of criticism.

        Or were you thinking people criticise wart-mouse because they’re just a bunch of meanies?

  9. G Fetters says:

    Did anyone notice the id card on the person at the post office doesn’t appear to match the face of the person wearing it?

  10. fabo says:

    I sent a battery operated shock, vib & temp instrument overseas a long time ago, Its intended purpose was recording any abnormal incidents on expensive cargo. I like the camera, but would think it is illegal to record inside a government facility (post office) without permission.

  11. TehMeh says:

    Oh that was neato, thanks! I really liked the part in the distribution center with all the curly slides for the mail :)

    • diydsp says:

      Yes, the curly slides were beautiful. There was even a brief time when the package doing the shipping was on the slides, just a little after 2:30. :) It makes me wonder about whether the people who see them everyday still perceive them as beautiful, and whether how many of the things around me that I see every day are beautiful, too.

  12. dave says:

    Way better than the WartMouse.

  13. Eirinn says:

    Wait… That’s in Copenhagen Denmark isn’t it?!

  14. Tom the Brat says:

    And, now we know! But where’s the rhinoceros that stomps it?

  15. EccentricElectron says:

    Ha, a quality case-mod post at last from HaD :-)

  16. Neckbeard says:

    You know what would be cool? This on an international level.

  17. Hirudinea says:

    This almost makes the postal system cool, and so much easier than mailing a midget and having him describe the trip when he arrives like you had to do in the past. The only improvement I could think of would be a small time stamp on the video so you could see exactly how long the package spends where.

  18. Am I the only person who thought of the italian job and the bank job for some reason? This would be an AWESOME filming technique for (amateur) movie scenes that are important, but don’t need to super lengthy or of high resolution…

  19. Bill S. says:

    Hmm, how long before someone combines remote monitoring with some sort of quadcopter or other robot to wreak havoc inside a distribution facility.

  20. Mike says:

    With the Jazz music, it reminded me of the kinds of things Henson and friends did on Sesame Street in the 70’s.

  21. t-bone says:

    That was excellent. It’s cool that the Danish Post Office seems to offer a “Keep This Side Clear And Pointed Towards Interesting Subject Matter” option.

    • Truth says:

      The video is called “From A to B highlights”. I’m sure all the dark footage of it being upside down covered over was edited out – because that would have been boring. Very cool project by the way, me likey :)

  22. Brian says:

    This is very cool, but i think he was very lucky to get so good shots. It should have been done with a camera on each of the 4 sides, so he was more likely to get a good picture. And a gps device and a accelerometer would have been super cool.
    And a note on all the bomb-comments in this post, I’m pretty sure that the danish postal system does nothing to detect bombs, especially when the package stays within the country.

  23. Chuckt says:

    Even if it was a safe package, you can get in trouble for having the “appearance” of Impropriety.

  24. Chuckt says:

    You could get accused of surveillance for impropriety and doing a dry run for motives you don’t have.

    • lejupp says:

      Only in America…

      • asdfasdfasdf says:

        well, you could be accused anywhere. It doesn’t even have to be something illegal for you to be accused. just require a offending part. I could start a case against you for making a typo on the internet, the judge would just laugh at me and make me cover your legal fees. but convicted of motives you don’t have, only in america and the UK. maybe israel.

        then convicted without trial only in america.

  25. Destate9 says:

    Diggin’ the Ocean’s Eleven music

  26. chiralspiral says:

    Reminds me of a more real version of this: http://youtu.be/VHn1zogeyO4

  27. Spike Snell says:

    That. Was. Amazing.

  28. tom says:

    nothin’ strange about a box with wires running all around, connected to electronic componets. Yea, it’d be in the bomb bin if I saw it. Plus in USA video recording inside post office is a no-no. Post on Youtube and you provided evidence of your “crime”.

  29. pat says:

    This is very cool! Congratulations Ruben, this is a very good idea and you got excellent results. It would be nice to do it again but with a GPS logger and an accelleration sensor to detect shocks (to see how carefull they are). Then you could send it across the globe.

  30. KennyG says:

    I would like to know what video editing software used to make the film? Excellent project. Reminded me of something out of a PBS television show I watched as a child.

  31. Jonathan Wilson says:

    Yeah it would be cool to send a bunch of packages containing sensors of all sorts around the world with different package companies and airlines and stuff to find out for sure which ones are the roughest on the packages. Marking some with “fragile” and others without it to see how well employees respect those stickers would be nice too.

  32. electronics says:

    Man, this was simply amazing!!!
    I know how it sounds when I say that I was thinking about doing the exact same thing, but… I really was :-)

  33. o4tuna says:

    Very cool!
    Now, time for a couple postal / mail /shipping CSBs:
    Couple years ago, I oredered a used intake manifold & carb off ebay. Shipping from the opposite coast. 5 weeks later, I get a call from a mail handling facility in the middle of the country. They want to know how I’m going to pay for the disposal of the hazardous waste addressed to me. WTF? Gave them the sellers info, which they already had, as it was certified. He refunded my money. Post office refunded him (insured, too). About 3 months later, it showed up at my door, reaking of gasoline…

    In the very early ’80s, I had a roomie from Hawaii. Every Saturday, he got a UPS package from home. Had a 1/4 pound of outstanding Hawaiian herb & $1000 worth of whatever was selling good over there that week. Still can almost taste that Lebanese blonde hash. Good times, good times.

  34. Alex Rossie says:

    total invasion of privacy into postal workers!

  35. That’s like some of the videos shown on Kid’s shows like sesame street, Mr. Dressup and others when they want to show kids how things work.

    Well done. Just like the pros do it.

  36. browsem says:

    COOL Danish post, at its best :-)

  37. Joe says:

    I’m a bit skeptical about all those great shots. Seems a bit staged. For most boxes I would expect shots of nothing but other boxes. Where is the HaD skepticism people?

  38. Jeff says:

    Life of a bag on Delta.

  39. paolo says:

    I thought I’d do the same thing here in Italy with an expedition from north to south, but I would have to take into account the fact that “some” packages do not arrive at their destination :(
    Perhaps with a streaming video I could find out where the parcels “disappear”…
    Great video, great idea! Thank s for sharing.

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