It feels like Amazon is in the news every other week for a purchase they made, a new kind of store they developed, or as is the case today, a new technology they created. Enter Amazon Key:
I was just speaking to a friend about one of the very issues that Amazon Key hopes to solve: security in deliveries. Most of my network has Amazon Prime and frequently utilize the free two-day shipping in the US for faster, more convenient deliveries. Everything from groceries to pet toys are being delivered at a much quicker and consistent pace to millennial condos and apartments across America. But with that comes a higher rate of theft or increased worry that your important package might get stolen.
Let’s get into how Amazon Key works to fix that. It relies on a system of Amazon’s new Cloud Cam and one of several compatible smart locks. The Cloud Cam is the central hub, connecting to your home Wi-Fi and communicating with the smart lock over a wireless protocol called Zigbee. As the video showed, whenever a courier arrives with a package, they can scan an Amazon barcode that sends a request to Amazon’s AWS cloud servers. If everything checks out with the person who scanned the code, the cloud grants permission for the camera to start recording, and the courier can then swipe to unlock your door. The customer will get a notification that their delivery has arrived, as well as a video stream to confirm that everything was done correctly. This will also work with over 1,200 service providers that Amazon is partnering with right now, so that cleaners, dog walkers, etc. can also utilize the Key functionality.
While the video paints the entire transaction in a very non-threatening light (I mean, who wouldn’t want to clean their apartment and get a gift for their mom without much effort?), it opens the door for much deeper questions. Mainly, are Prime customers ready to trust Amazon to potentially monitor their homes, to get detailed information on who is entering and exiting their homes, and to dictate who is allowed to get in or out? This is a huge trust hurdle for the company. After all, you have to really trust a company to let it record what is going on inside your home at any given time of day. Even if Amazon is making this process as minimally invasive as it can, I can see hiccups for different types of consumers. What if you have pets that easily scare or run? What if people get startled and react negatively at the entry of a stranger? What if you don’t want someone entering your house after a certain time, even if you are a Key customer? Will there be a special instruction section, like when ordering pizza?
On top of all that comes the intrinsic worry about IoT safety with the smart lock. Call me a naive non-adopter in this case, but unless the American people have a really short memory about corporate mismanagement of data and increased digital vulnerability in the last 2 years, I am bearish on the adoption of this technology. However, if Amazon Key does make a dent in its Prime market, it would position the company to start knowing a lot more about the lives, habits, schedules, and interactions of all their users. That is a huge upside (for Amazon – not for you directly), and apparently Amazon thinks it is big enough to venture into this trust-first space.