Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington who specializes in legal issues related to technology, said Amazon’s new service relies on the same kind of trust homeowners commonly extend to services to which they hand over their keys. But he said those agreements often involve in-person interactions, which won’t happen when homeowners allow Amazon to unlock its doors.
“It raises questions about how do you specify and police expectations when the relationship is one mediated almost entirely by technology?” Mr. Calo said.
Amazon’s new service, Amazon Key, will require customers to buy a kit that starts at $250 and includes a security camera made by the company and a smart door lock made by Yale or Kwikset. When a delivery comes to a customer’s door, the lock first helps Amazon verify that the driver is at the correct address at the appropriate time. It then starts recording video and unlocks the door, capturing the entire visit.
“Customers told us they really want to understand and see what’s happening when deliveries are happening,” said Charlie Tritschler, vice president for Amazon devices. “It gives them assurance.”
Amazon is also offering the camera, called Amazon Cloud Cam, as a stand-alone product for $120, significantly less than other internet-connected cameras.
Amazon says it will guarantee protection for customers in the event a driver damages or steals something inside a home. It suggests homeowners keep pets away from front doors when deliveries are expected. If drivers can’t safely make deliveries, they’ll leave packages outside.
The company said Amazon Key will be available in 37 cities in the United States starting Nov. 8 and open to its Prime members, who pay $99 a year for fast shipping and other benefits. The system can also be used to grant home access to other services, such as Merry Maids, a housecleaning provider, and Rover.com, a dog-walking site.
Luke Schoenfelder, the chief executive and co-founder of Latch, the start-up working with Jet.com, said it has initially focused on installing smart locks on the front doors of apartment buildings to allow deliveries to building lobbies, rather than inside the apartments themselves. Allowing couriers inside apartments has more risks, but Latch plans to eventually do that as well.
“It certainly has a lot more challenges,” he said. “Pets are the biggest one.”
Still, he predicted that the strangeness of allowing companies like Latch and Amazon unlock front doors will go away as customers get more accustomed to the services, in the same way they got more comfortable stepping into a stranger’s car they had summoned with Uber or Lyft.
“The world is absolutely going there,” Mr. Schoenfelder said.