Amazon just announced the Amazon Key. If you haven't read the wordy press release or watched one of the catchy videos, we'll explain as simply as we can.
Let's break it down
Amazon Key is a service that gives the people delivering your goods access to your home so your packages don't get left outside your door. It's also a way to let in professional service providers like maids, dog walkers, and others.
Because it's based on existing smart home technology, namely smart locks and indoor security cameras, you can also use it for personal stuff. The camera is still a camera even when you're not using it for packages. The smart lock means you won't have to worry about losing your key or whether you locked the door. You can let in friends or view live video of your front door (exciting!). You can record video to a microSD card for later or keep it in the cloud (for a fee).
The first step to getting this service is the Amazon Key In-Home Kit. This is your $250 buy-in and it comes with an Amazon Cloud Cam indoor security camera and a smart lock. The Cloud Cam is essential to the process and you can't substitute it for a different indoor security camera you might already own or prefer. Once you enter your zip code and get the confirmation that Amazon Key is available in your area, you get to pick from a select number of Amazon Key-compatible smart locks. They vary in price and color but the cheapest I could get was $150 (plus the $140 Amazon charged for the camera). During checkout, you'll get $40 taken off as part of this promotion (but that also means this will get more expensive if you wait). Luckily, Amazon also adds free professional installation if you want it. That's a nice kicker.
After your camera and lock are installed and the Amazon Key app is setup, there's nothing else to pay for. Whenever you go to order something on Amazon, you'll have a box you can check for "in-home delivery." The delivery person scans your package. The scan then verifies this is your package near your address, turns on the Cloud Cam, and unlocks the door. The delivery person places the package inside the door, requests for the door to be re-locked and leaves. You can watch the process live from your app no matter where you are. If you choose to "Block Access" in your app or decide you don't want in-home delivery for that package, the driver won't have access to your home and will follow the standard delivery process.
What's the catch?
Well, there's a few caveats to this deal. For one, it's only available to Prime members. That's a doozy and just another way for Amazon to keep you hooked.
It's also only available in select cities (37 areas as of today). So when you go to get the service started, you have to check your location with the service's eligibility in your area. I think part of this has to do with GPS. The packages are tracked and when a delivery person scans the package to trigger in-home service, the scan has to verify it's the right package near the right address.
The third caveat is you have to get Amazon Key-compatible devices. This means you have to use Amazon's proprietary Cloud Cam and one of the smart locks available with the Amazon Key In-Home Kit. You can't use stuff you might already own. This catch has the most opportunity to improve. Since Amazon is outsourcing the smart locks to third parties, that means there will soon be a large market of Amazon Key compatible smart locks. That generally means good things for you and me in terms of prices.
What do we think?
Let's get the most obvious out of the way - yes, this is creepy. It's weird giving strangers access to the inside of your home. It's also weird letting Amazon have constant access to a connected camera inside your home. But if you've never had a smart lock or security camera before, I could argue you'd actually be more secure in a lot of ways with this system. You'll have 24/7 access to the camera via the Amazon Key app. Amazon sends you notifications for every delivery and gives you the choice to keep out any skeezy-looking delivery guys with face tattoos. The delivery people are not free to roam your house and do what they want, and if they do that you'll have video evidence to hold Amazon responsible.
We live in a world where privacy is becoming a very valuable commodity. Most of us are lucky if we can keep our social security numbers and credit card information to ourselves. These days, just checking your credit score is enough to get your personal information taken by hackers. Right, Equifax? It's perfectly natural to be turned off by the idea of Amazon Key, but if you've had a package stolen or come home to find your new blanket soaked with rainwater, you might appreciate the convenience. Eventually, you might take up Amazon on a service like house cleaning or dog-walking, too. Plus, it's pretty nice that beyond the initial price there's no additional fee for the service.
The other thing that sucks about this service is you can't use your own locks or cameras. Many people have already invested in cloud-based security cameras and smart locks. We run deals on both all the time. I get Amazon wants to push its own hardware and software, but that's a pretty anti-consumer way of looking at this. The nice thing is it looks like Amazon isn't making its own smart lock but pushing the service through third parties like Yale and Kwikset. That probably means going forward more and more smart locks will be compatible with the program, which means greater competition and lower prices for us. You're stuck with Amazon's camera, though.
What do you think?
This is an interesting new service. No one else has really done something like this before. It's got a weirdness factor to it, but it's also got a lot of conveniences added in there. Tell us what you think about it. Hit us up on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, or just leave a comment. Let's talk about Amazon Key.
Here are some of the conversations that unfolded after we shared this post:
Seems like most of you are on the side of "No." "Strong no." and "Maybe, but no."
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