New smart locks would allow Amazon to deliver directly into homes

Amazon's plan to address theft of packages left on shoppers' doorsteps is a new smart lock system. Customers could remotely control access to their homes for deliveries and other professional services. 

Julio Cortez/AP
An Amazon employee packages a delivery at the fulfillment facility in Robbinsville, N.J., on Oct. 25. The online tech giant announced a new system that would allow deliveries to be left inside customers' homes.

Amazon.com Inc has plans to drop off packages directly into shoppers' homes.

The world's largest online retailer on Wednesday announced Amazon Key, a lock and camera system that users control remotely to let delivery associates slip goods into their houses. Customers can create temporary passcodes for friends and other services professionals to enter as well.

The move, in the works for more than a year, may help Amazon capture sales from shoppers who could not make it home to receive an order in person, and did not want the package stolen from their doorstep. It also signals Amazon's ambitions in the growing market for home security devices, where Alphabet Inc's Nest Labs competes.

"This is not an experiment for us," said Peter Larsen, Amazon vice president of delivery technology, in an interview. "This is a core part of the Amazon shopping experience from this point forward."

Members of Amazon's Prime shopping club can pay $249.99 and up for a cloud-controlled camera and lock that the company offers to install. Delivery associates are told to ring a doorbell or knock when they arrive at someone's house. If no one greets them, they press 'unlock' in a mobile app, and Amazon checks its systems in an instant to make sure the right associate and package are present.

The camera then streams video to the customer who remotely can watch the in-home delivery take place. The associate cannot proceed with other trips until the home is again locked.

It is unclear if such protections will persuade customers that the service is safe to use.

Mr. Larsen said theft was "not something that happens in practice," based on early tests of the Amazon Key program.

He added that if a problem arises, "You can call customer service, file a claim and Amazon will work with you to make sure it's right," reimbursing customers in some cases.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Amazon's biggest retail rival, has similar plans. It said last month it would test delivering grocery items "straight into your fridge" with August Home, a smart lock business that Assa Abloy AB said it will acquire.

Amazon's new service goes live on Nov. 8 in 37 U.S. locations, the company said. The "Cloud Cam" is also available by itself for purchase, it said. 

This story was reported by Reuters. 

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