Amazon has developed a new delivery system, Amazon Key, available for Prime members, that unlocks the front door for package delivery and other trusted services. (Dreamstime/TNS)

New service gives Amazon a key to your house for deliveries

Amazon’s retail empire was built on the work that takes items from a website listing to the front door. A pair of new products aims to drop those boxes safely inside the home.

The online retailer recently introduced Amazon Key, a program for Amazon Prime members that, when linked to an internet-connected door lock, grants entry to delivery people or other authorized folks.

The service can be paired with a new Amazon-built security camera, called Cloud Cam, that records deliveries, beaming live or recorded video to a smartphone app.

Bundles that include Cloud Cam and a compatible smart lock start at $250. Amazon Key launched in 37 cities and surrounding areas, including Seattle and the Eastside, Nov. 8.

Once the kit is installed, customers can select an in-home delivery option at checkout. Amazon will send a notification when a package is about to be delivered, giving customers the options to cancel in-home delivery and ask for the package to be left outside, to watch the in-home delivery take place live, or to view a recording later.

The bundle aims to eliminate the issue of packages being stolen from a doorstep and follows a similar delivery experiment that Amazon rival Wal-Mart announced last month.

It’s also the latest example of Amazon’s tactic of stitching together its services in a way that’s convenient for customers, and, ideally, makes people more likely to try other Amazon products. The company’s voice-activated speaker, for instance, can tell jokes and read the news, but it’s also geared toward getting people to place orders on Amazon’s retail site, or stream music through paid Amazon services.

Similarly, Amazon Key creates an incentive to browse Amazon’s marketplace of home service providers who, Amazon says, in the coming months will be able to seamlessly gain entry to the home when the resident isn’t there. Cloud Cam users are encouraged to enter Alexa’s world, with the capability to display live footage on Amazon Echo Show devices using voice commands. And the in-home delivery concept requires a $99-a-year Prime subscription.

The new service doesn’t give Amazon personnel blanket permission to unlock the front door, the company says. Instead, Amazon Key generates a one-time authorization code to unlock a door for a few minutes after the company verifies that the delivery driver is at the right place at the appointed time. Besides granting similar access to cleaners, dog walkers and other service providers plugged into Amazon’s home services marketplace, it will give entry to friends and family as well.

As a standalone product, Cloud Cam costs $120 and includes storage of the last 24 hours of clips. Paid subscriptions open the option to review the past week or month of clips and link more cameras. Those plans range from $7 a month to $20 a month.

The camera features two-way audio, giving viewers the option to talk to people on the other end of the video connection, or, say, yell at a dog to get off the couch. It also comes with night-vision and motion-sensing capability that can trigger smartphone alerts when activity is detected.

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