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Amazon customers will be able to watch deliveries made by Amazon Key live as they happen. (Amazon Video Screenshot)

So they’ll get the code to our front door? What’s to stop them from just stealing everything in the house? How much does this cost again?

Those are a few of the questions I’ve been fielding from my own family while trying to convince them to let me test out Amazon Key and Cloud Cam at our house. The new smart lock and camera system enables in-home deliveries from the e-commerce giant, among other features.

My family is far from the only one a little unnerved at the prospect. Amazon’s announcement of the new service has triggered a wave of concern and parody from people who aren’t comfortable with the notion of Amazon controlling access their front doors.

Maybe I’m a sucker for Amazon, or just don’t care about privacy, or more likely I just like to try new stuff. In any event, I think this new service could actually be useful, if it works like Amazon says it will. I may be in the minority, but before you pass judgment, here’s more on how Amazon Key actually works.

Setup: Amazon Key is being sold as an in-home kit that includes an Amazon Cloud Cam and a smart door lock. You can buy the package on Amazon and install yourself or opt for free installation. Amazon Key is available to Amazon Prime members and only in selected areas of the country for now.

Initial Cost: Yes, you do have to pay Amazon for the privilege of giving the company access to your front door. The Amazon Key In-Home Kit package starts at $250 but can cost more than $300 depending on which compatible lock you choose.

Subscription: Cloud Cam video storage is free for 24 hours, no subscription required, but subscriptions ranging from $7/month to $20/month enable extended storage times, people identification, the ability to set zones for the motion-detector to ignore, and downloading and sharing video.

Granting guest access in the Amazon Key app. (Amazon Video Screenshot)

Access: Amazon outlines three scenarios for granting access to your front door.

  • First there’s guest access, which will work through an Amazon Key smartphone app, allowing you to give specific people access to your house, ranging from family members to pet sitters.
  • Second, Amazon says it’s also working with professional service providers such as Merry Maids and Seattle-based Rover.com to give them authorized access to homes via Amazon Key “in the coming months.”
  • Third is the option that’s stirring all the controversy, in-home delivery of items from Amazon.

Selecting in-Home Delivery: Once you’re set up with Amazon Key and register your delivery address in the Amazon Key App, the company says you’ll see an option for “FREE in-home delivery” when you check out on Amazon.com, if you’re buying an eligible Amazon Prime item.

Delivery driver vetting: Amazon says deliveries are “made by some of the same professional drivers who you trust to deliver your Amazon orders today. These individuals are thoroughly vetted, with comprehensive background checks and motor vehicle records reviews.” I can tell you from first-hand experience, this will  not be a persuasive for some people.

How delivery works: Here’s the process, as explained in Amazon’s help pages.

On delivery day, you will receive a notification in the morning with a 4-hour delivery window for when the delivery driver will arrive at your home. Right before the driver arrives, you will receive an “Arriving Now” notification and can optionally watch the delivery happening live. The driver will knock first, then request to unlock customer’s door via their Amazon handheld scanner. Amazon verifies that the package(s) belong to the address and the driver is near the door, turns on Cloud Cam and unlocks your door. No special codes or keys are given to the driver. The driver will then place the package(s) just inside your door and request to lock the door. Once the delivery is complete and your door is re-locked, your will get a final notification and can watch a video clip of the delivery. You do not need to provide any additional information for the driver, such as keypad codes or remote unlock.

Yes, Amazon turns on your home camera and unlocks your door for you. When you put it that way, agreed, it’s a little creepy.

Then again, it’s all on video, the driver doesn’t have a reusable code, and Amazon offers a “happiness guarantee” if anything goes wrong. And the alternative, in many cases, is risking the possibility of someone stealing a package from your doorstep.

The Amazon Key help pages answer more questions, including whether to use Amazon Key if you have a pet with access to the front door, or aren’t comfortable shutting off your security system on delivery day. (The answer is no on both fronts.)

What do you think? Does knowing how Amazon Key works change your mind, or confirm your concerns? Let us know in the comments below. In the meantime, I’m going to see if this story helps me make the case for Amazon Key at my own house.

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