Giving delivery people access to unattended homes appears to be all the rage.
Last month, reactions to Wal-Mart’s test with August smart locks were split: Granting home access to couriers, who can even put milk in the fridge, was called either the ultimate in convenience or just plain creepy.
Amazon thinks it has a solution to put homeowners at ease: The new Amazon Key, announced Monday, is a similar delivery service that places packages inside the home and streams footage of the task, so remote homeowners can monitor the action on their mobile devices.
“Now, Prime members can select in-home delivery and conveniently see their packages being delivered right from their mobile phones,” said Peter Larsen, Amazon’s vice president of delivery technology. Amazon and Wal-Mart — with $37.96 billion and $123.36 billion in revenue last quarter, respectively — have the power to shape broad shopping trends. Should consumers take to their new services, or make purchasing decisions based on who can guarantee safe delivery, put the milk away, place beauty products in the fridge or powder room and facilitate other services, then retailers of various kinds may find themselves unexpectedly in the smart home game. Or scrambling to partner up.
Amazon Key requires Prime membership and the purchase of a new $250 bundle, which includes a partner’s cloud-connected lock and Cloud Cam, a brand-new Internet camera built by Amazon. Once the details check out, the system presents the new delivery option.
The Cloud Cam costs $120 each. It’s the company’s fourth camera-equipped home gadget, and the first outside of its Echo line of products. The Echo Show and Echo Spot have small lenses embedded above the display, while the Echo Look selfie tool is essentially all camera. Like the others, Cloud Cam also supports Alexa voice commands, but the Echo devices are oriented for fun activities, information, communication and shopping — which make them nice to have, but hardly essential.
Amazon’s latest camera has one job, and it’s serious business: “Cloud Cam has all the features you need to monitor your home, including a 1080p Full HD camera, night vision, two-way audio, and free storage for clips,” said Charlie Tritschler, vice president of Amazon’s device unit. “And with the secure AWS [Amazon Web Services] cloud powering Cloud Cam’s advanced computer algorithms and intelligent alerts, the service is always getting smarter.”
Paired with a Wi-Fi-connected lock, from either Kwikset or Yale, the scenario skews more serious smart home system than fun buddy. In fact, the move may be the company’s most aggressive play yet to plant itself even deeper into the home.
Missing packages are an irritation of modern life. Here’s Amazon’s way of addressing it: Drivers first ring the bell or knock at door. If no one answers, they request access from Amazon. The company verifies the driver, the address and the scheduled time slot, and then the door unlocks and the camera records. The drivers never receive a code or keys, and the homeowner doesn’t have to manage the affair. Shoppers could cobble together their own Alexa-compatible system, which would let them see who’s at the front door or give friends temporary access — both of which, Amazon Key can also do. But setting up a DIY system to deal remotely with deliveries can be trickier.
Amazon Key will soon offer another perk: Integration with Amazon Home Services to let in Merry Maids, Rover.com dog walkers and others from more than 1,200 businesses across 60 categories.
But before those doors can swing wide open, Amazon or Wal-Mart have to prove that people find in-home delivery more convenient than off-putting. That is not at all clear yet. But now that real-world results are on the way, that should come into focus soon.
Amazon Key will launch on Nov. 8 in 37 regions across the U.S., with plans to cover more locations over time.