Mailbox Monitoring Project

I’ve been using snail mail as part of my e-commerce business for several years. I’ve never had any problems with theft until November 2021, when a string of thefts occurred. The first was outgoing mail, a few small packages going to customers. The second was incoming mail, a Christmas gift that my mother had ordered online.

I’ve had to change my habits. I’m no longer comfortable leaving outgoing packages in my mailbox, and I don’t want incoming mail to sit in the mailbox for long, either.

It’s quite frustrating, and I want to do something about it. I want to build something that can monitor the mailbox. I know I could probably save time and just buy a solar powered cellular surveillance camera, but I have more time than money right now, and I have two underutilized TTGO T-Beam’s that I am thinking of using, if this idea is viable.

Project Goals

  1. Remotely determine the open/close state of the mailbox.
  2. Remotely photograph the mailbox when the open/close state changes

I’ve been looking through the Meshtastic docs, and it looks like there is some GPIO functionality which could help me with the first goal. I also read in the docs that this functionality is not yet implemented, so I’m asking here for details.

My mailbox is 700 feet from my apartment with lots of trees between. I’ve done some tests and I know that I can send messages via the T-Beams at this distance in this terrain.

The other technical detail that I’ll have to figure out is power. I think solar is probably the only option, unless I want to regularly replace batteries. I’ve seen some inexpensive 5W solar panels online… I have no idea if 5W is enough though.

I’m thinking of how goal #2 could go. Does the T-Beam have the capability of attaching a camera? If not, could a RPi handle the camera, and the T-Beam acts as an IP bridge?

Does this idea seem feasible?

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Photos are going to be too much data

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look into ExternalNotificationPlugin. and in case you haven’t, search for Andreas Spiess video on the same subject.


The T-Beam could be used to control the camera if you program the GPIO out and it does have GPIO pin-outs on the board for that reason. An image would be a bit for the t-beam as the best speed youre going to get a close range is 32kbps, talking early dial up speeds, the internal storage of the T-Beam is also to small for any real resolution images to be stored.

I would use the T-Beam attached to a sensor to monitor the mail box, that T-Beam can then also tell other devices to do things like take a photo. You could have the T-Beam and a raspberry Pi on their own wifi network, the T-Beam in fact allows devices to connect to it. So what you would do is when your phone or computer get in range of the little wifi network near your mailbox, you can retrieve messages and photos that are stored on the raspberry pi/camera that you can set up and hide anywhere because it is wireless.

The advantage of doing this also is that it also keeps your mailbox project disconnected from your home network but you will still be able to talk to the T-Beam with another T-beam from within your house if you wanted.

Amazon Echo’s and Ring devices in fact do this, (Get rid of your amazon echo serious) In fact Amazon Echo uses LoRa to make the largest dragnet mesh and no one is even talking about it.