Monday, October 30, 2017

What Price Your Package?

Last week, Amazon announced a new service called Amazon Key.  There has been a fair amount of press around it, so I'm not going to (completely) rehash what other's have already done.  Instead, I'm going to do what I always do: tear it apart and then offer some solutions.

First, a quick overview in case you don't like clicking links.  Amazon Key is an attempt to figure out how to secure deliveries.  Package theft is a real thing and the Amazon logo on a box sitting on a porch is a big 'come steal me' sign.  The Big A's solution is to sell a $249 kit to Prime members in select cities.  The kit includes a Smart Lock and Cloud-connected Camera.  Their courier gets a one time code to unlock your door, drop the package off and re-lock the door.  You get a notification and a video of this happening.

Package theft solved, right?  Maybe.  Read on.

Fixing One Problem and Creating another.

My issue with this is the whole courier-in-the-house thing.  I suspect that it will be the issue that many people have with this.  Amazon's answer, at least for the time being, is to only use their own couriers who they think will be more trustworthy (as long as they aren't abused by their employer).  This is why it is in only a select (37) cities.  Will they open it up to UPS, FedEx and Postal employees?  They are not saying no.

Whomever employs the delivery person is kind of beside the point.  It is still a stranger coming into your home.  In essence, this solves one security problem (front porch packages) by introducing a larger one (more access to your home).

Package Airlock

So, what is the solution?  From my office (bedroom) in the sunny southwest, it seems that Amazon has only half solved the problem.  The other half is more architectural.  If the issue is letting a stranger into your home, then don't.  Let them into a small portion of your home.  A portion that is secured from the outside, but also secured from the rest of the property.

This may seem like a solution that is a bit of over kill: adding a secure package space to the front of a home.  But it might not be.  An atrium or mud room would work.  Maybe even a backyard gate is enough so that the package is not seen from the street.  This has the added benefit of keeping delivery people and pets apart.  Of course, this is more expensive than a Smart Lock and a Web Cam, but given the average demographic for Prime customers, it should not be out of reach.  Heck, it could even be the garage, especially after we all get rid of our cars in favor of rent-as-needed Smart Cars.

Another solution might be to have a large parcel lock box at the front of the house.  While not all of Amazon's offerings would fit inside, those that are most prone to theft (smaller, snatch-n-run ones) would be safe.  Of course, now there's an unsightly box on your door step.  For me, that's a small price to pay for package security.

Only As Secure As The Weakest Link

Keep in mind, that if people want to get into your home, they are going to do it.  Because no one ever has cracked a Smart Lock.  And no lock is smarter than a brick through a window.  With the average police response time to a verified alarm B&E hovering around 7 minutes, there is a good chance that the perps will be gone before they get there.  (This is not a knock on our boys and girls in blue.  They are typically understaffed, so Breaking and Entering gets pushed down the priority list under armed robbery, muggings and all of the other crap we humans choose to inflict on each other.)

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