SAN FRANCISCO - No more getting packages stolen. No more worries about being there to receive them. Starting next month, people in 37 U.S. cities can have Amazon drop their package inside their front door, without ever giving anyone a key.
On Nov. 8, Amazon will begin offering a secure-lock service, called Amazon Key, that will give Amazon Logistics delivery personnel a code to unlock a customer's door for 5 minutes. Using a new Amazon device, the Cloud Cam, the entire delivery will be live-streamed to the customer's devices and also sent as a video snippet.
The service is an effort to thwart one of the problems of Amazon's popular package delivery service — package theft — as well as give users "choice, peace of mind and convenience," in the words of Peter Larsen, Amazon's vice president for delivery technology.
The company has been testing Amazon Key for several months at various sites around the country and thinks it's going to be a game-changer.
"This is not a trial. This is the fundamental way we think customers are going to order and receive their goods," Larsen said.
The new service could represent a shift in how consumers think of Amazon. Not just as the source of packages left on their porch, but as an entity they're comfortable letting into their homes. Available only to Prime customers, it's also another way to knit them more tightly into the ever-growing Amazon ecosystem.
How it works
The company demonstrated the service to reporters at a rental house in San Francisco on Tuesday.
The customer first buys a smart lock and the Cloud Cam camera. The starting price is $249 for the camera and smart lock. The Cloud Cam is also available for purchase as a stand-alone security camera for $199. Both will be available for purchase beginning Wednesday and can be installed by the customer or for free by a professional Amazon technician.
The camera is set up to show the front door from inside the house, allowing the customer to watch on the Amazon Key app to see whoever opens it. The smart locks, from Yale and Kwikset, come in several colors, variations and price points.
Once signed up for the free program, when customers go to purchase something on Amazon, they will see all items available for Key delivery marked with the designation "In-home delivery."
The day the ordered item is set to arrive, a customer gets a note on her phone, saying an in-home delivery will come that day and a time window during which to expect it.
When the delivery person arrives, the app sends the customer another note saying the delivery person is at the door.
Using a list that appears on the app, the delivery person is first instructed to knock on the door or ring the doorbell.
If no one answers, the delivery person swipes a button in the app that sends a message up to the cloud, which sends a message down to the customer's Amazon-enabled smart lock. This allows the delivery person to swipe a button on the app that unlocks the door.
"Note that the delivery person never touches the lock and doesn't have a key or a code," said Larsen.
The delivery person opens the door "just a crack," puts the package inside the door and then closes the door, he said. The worker then swipes another button on the app that automatically locks the smart lock. He must confirm that the door is closed and locked before leaving.
The code the system sends to the lock is for one time only, and is only valid for five minutes after the delivery person first arrives at the door. Via the app and the lock, the system even knows how close he is to the door and may prompt him to step closer to the door before sending the signal to unlock the door.
After five minutes the door automatically locks itself even if the delivery person hasn't locked it. If there is any problem with the lock or the service, the app instructs him to stay at the doorway and call Amazon customer service to ensure that the door is closed and locked before leaving, said Larsen.
The customer can watch the entire delivery in real time on a phone, via the Cloud Cam that is aimed at the door. He or she is also sent a time-stamped video delivery snippet on the phone to watch it later, as well as a message when the package is delivered and the door re-locked.
The video can also be watched live or later on an Amazon Echo Show, Echo Spot or Fire TV.
Amazon Key deliveries will only come through Amazon Logistics, not via UPS, FedEx or the U.S. Postal System, all of which also deliver Amazon packages.
The Amazon Logistics drivers who will have access to the Amazon Key Service all work for local delivery services that have contracted with Amazon and have been "thoroughly vetted and background-checked," said Larsen. They will not come from Amazon Flex, which allows individuals to sign up to deliver packages in their free time.
Until the moment the door is unlocked, the customer always has the option of hitting a "Block Access" button on the app that immediately changes it to traditional delivery, with the driver ringing the bell and then leaving the package outside the door.
The system can also be set up to grant a one-time access code to friends or family, or give them ongoing access should the user choose to. Customers will also be able to set up access for workers from its Amazon Home Services program, as well as Rover.com, a dog-walking service, and Merry Maids, a house cleaning service.
"We will be adding more later," said Larsen.
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