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Amazon to Let Delivery Drivers Open Your Front Door

By David Jones E-Commerce Times ECT News Network
Oct 26, 2017 5:00 AM PT
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Amazon on Wednesday announced a new service that will allow Prime members to receive in-home delivery of packages with the help of high-tech smart locks that allow drivers to open their front doors.

Amazon Key will launch officially on Nov. 8 in 37 U.S. cities and surrounding communities, with additional locations to be added over time. The service will be available at no extra cost to Prime members, and it will work with standard, two-day, overnight and same-day deliveries.

"Amazon Key gives customers peace of mind knowing their orders have been safely delivered to their homes and are waiting for them when they walk through their doors," said Peter Larsen, vice president of delivery technology at Amazon.

To use the service, Prime members must order an Amazon Key in-home kit, which includes the Amazon Cloud Cam and one of several compatible smart locks offered by Kwickset or Yale. The Amazon Key In-Home Kit starts at US$249.99. The locks can be installed professionally at no extra cost or self-installed by customers, according to Amazon.

Beyond Deliveries

When a driver requests access to the customer's home, the Cloud Cam confirms the driver is at the right address through an encrypted authentication process. After the request is authenticated, the Cloud Cam starts recording the delivery and the door is unlocked.

Customers can track the delivery using the Amazon Key app on their mobile phones. They get real-time notifications and can watch deliveries live or view recordings later. The entire delivery process is backed up by the Amazon Happiness Guarantee, the company said.

The agreement is a big step for Yale. Its parent firm, Assa Abloy, also on Wednesday announced that it is testing an in-home delivery service with 100 customers in Sweden, in collaboration with delivery firm PostNord and e-commerce retailers Jollyroom, Apotea and Komplett. Yale Doorman digital locks are being used in the tests.

"It's significant in that we're working with Amazon, obviously a powerhouse in online retailing, and working with them on one of the most innovative programs in e-commerce and home delivery," the firm said in a statement provided to the E-Commerce Times by spokesperson Terry Shea.

The Amazon Key program will provide features beyond home delivery of packages, the company said. Customers will be able to grant keyless entry for family and friends, and they'll be able to set frequency and length of time for access to the home.

Amazon plans to roll out a new program that will allow thousands of companies to access homes using the smart lock technology, including companies like housekeeping service Merry Maids and dog walking and pet sitting service Rover.

"Rover is changing the way pet owners discover, book and manage personalized care for their pets," said spokesperson Brandie Gonzales.

"This new integration with Amazon Key is the latest example of how we are leading the pet care revolution," she told the E-Commerce Times.

Growth Outweighs Risk

Amazon is gambling that the benefit of having secure home delivery of packages will outweigh the potential downside of the perception that it's seeking an invasive level of access to the customer.

"While many customers might see this capability as overly intrusive, Amazon -- and Walmart -- has identified an intersection of customer needs and new technologies," noted Matt Sargent, senior vice president of retail at Magid.

"This capability [is] not only possible, but incredibly interesting to a subset of cutting-edge customers," he told the E-Commerce Times.

The need already exists, according to Sargent. People have been looking for a way to provide secure access to prevent package theft, and to allow entry of housecleaners and other service providers. The advent of remote security cameras and smart locks has made fulfillment of this need a reality.

The in-home delivery service is another example of Amazon inventing new ways to reach into consumer wallets without an obvious business case, said Paula Rosenblum, managing partner of RSR Research.

"I think it's too intrusive and too risky," she told the E-Commerce Times.

Amazon Prime has about 90 million members in the U.S., according to a report Consumer Intelligence Research Partners released last week.

About 63 percent of all U.S.-based Amazon customers belong to Prime, the firm noted. Amazon considers Prime members critical to its growth, because on average they spend $1,300 a year on purchases -- nearly twice as much as non-Prime members.

From a security standpoint, smart lock technologies pose more of a physical challenge than a technology challenge, suggested William Malik, vice president for infrastructure strategies at Trend Micro.

"The technology may grant access only to authorized Amazon employees, but it would be helpful to understand Amazon's process for vetting delivery people, revoking their access, auditing conformance to Amazon's standards, and providing warranty to misuse of that access," he told the E-Commerce Times.

August's Experience

August for years has been running August Access, a home delivery service that provides retailers and services of all stripes -- including Sears Home Delivery and dog-walking service Wag -- with the ability to get secure access to customers' homes.

Years ago, when his former housekeeper had to return home to Brazil, she still had the keys to his house, recalled August CEO Jason Johnson.

What are people to do in situations such as that one, he wondered, change the locks? Although Johnson didn't feel he needed to do that, it seemed many people would value the ability to provide controlled access to their homes for certain activities,.

The desire to find a solution to that problem led Johnson and a cofounder to launch August.

"From the beginning, we thought about how could we provide conditional access to the home," he told the E-Commerce Times.

The August smart locks use secure Bluetooth technology, with a layer of encryption on top, plus a third level of security that has been subjected to a white hat security audit to guard the systems against potential intrusion.

Just last month, Walmart began working with August and Deliv to test in-fridge delivery of food. The companies have been testing the service in the Silicon Valley area with a select number of customers who have August smart locks. They are provided a one-time passcode for secure access to allow deliveries to be placed inside the home.

"We're interested in providing additional solutions and options for customers to make it easy for them," Walmart spokesperson Ravi Jariwala told E-Commerce Times.

Walmart earlier this month announced the acquisition of Parcel, a startup that delivers meal kits, groceries and e-commerce purchases to homes in New York City. Walmart plans to use Parcel for last-mile deliveries of groceries and packages from Walmart and Jet.


David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain's New York Business and The New York Times.


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