Recently, Amazon, an American electronic commerce and cloud-computing company, bought US firm Ring for more than $1 billion. The firm produces high-tech doorbells that records live videos of the customer’s doorstep and sends it to their smartphone. Ring hopes that working with Amazon will allow it to further develop home security products. It was founded in 2012 and has more than 2,000 employees, about a million customers and estimated sales of $155 million according to the Los Angeles Times.
At the end of last year, Amazon launched a new service in the U.S. called Amazon Key, which has a smartlock and an app that will allow users to let package deliveries into their homes remotely. The idea behind this was to remove the need to wait for couriers that would deliver anytime between a set of hours during the day. It could also be used to give permanent access to family members inside the house, removing the need to hide a spare key under a doormat or inside a potted plant. Installing the Amazon Key by a certified provider is free.
“Understandably there were many concerns raised about this service”
If you were to install the Amazon Key, this is how a typical delivery would look: the delivery person scans a barcode on the package when they reach your house. Amazon’s server then sends you a notification that a delivery is about to take place and simultaneously turns the camera on. The courier sends a signal that unlocks the door, puts the package inside and sends another signal to lock the door. The server then notifies you about the delivery and sends you the recorded video.
Understandably, there were many concerns raised about this service. For starters, what would happen if you have pets that were able to run away when the delivery person opens the door? What about planned thievery, where the delivery person sets up a bank account with a fake ID, waits for the day when you are out and Amazon has a lot of deliveries, gains access into your house and steals your valuables? This might sound far-fetched but there have been instances in the past where people went the extra mile to successfully steal something. Needless to say, many people are hesitant about using this service. Since then, Amazon started looking into ways to ensure the safety and privacy of its customers using the Amazon Key, along with ways to improve the smartlock itself. One way is by buying Ring, which owned the smart doorbell technology. The doorbell takes a live video of customers’ doorsteps and sends the videos to their smartphones. Amazon hopes that this will help customers trust their new service by ensuring the safety and security of their homes.
“The doorbell takes a live video of the customers’ doorsteps…”
Baird Equity Research analyst Colin Sebastian said: “As Amazon moves more aggressively into the grocery delivery space … we believe smart security devices will be an important factor in driving user adoption.” When smart doorbells are implemented, one advantage could be that customers can take action against the delivery person if the duration of the delivery is suspiciously long, as they are watching a live video of the delivery instead of one sent after the delivery is over.
The downside of this is that the doorbell only sends a video of people’s doorsteps, and not the inside of the house. While this ensures that the occupants have privacy within their house should the system be hacked, it also means that the customers won’t know much about what is going on just inside their house during the time that their door is opened by the delivery person. All they would know is the duration of the delivery.
“The company has a long way to go in addressing the concerns of its customers”
Also, in terms of ensuring security in homes, the doorbell isn’t really useful for house owners with pets. In the case of pets escaping, the doorbell can’t take preventive action against this event – it would simply record it and inform the owner about the event.
Acquiring Ring is a step in the right direction for Amazon but the company still has a long way to go in addressing the various concerns of its customers in an effective manner. The company will have to provide evidence that the Amazon Key won’t be a tool for malicious opportunists or planned thievery before more customers can start trusting and using this service.