All About The Amazon Key System
In 2005 Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, launched Prime, a subscription service that, in addition to streaming video, music, and e-books, gave its members free two-day shipping in the United States.
Since then, Amazon has added more options to Prime to make the delivery of purchased items faster and more convenient. Prime members get same-day delivery and drop off of some items within an hour or two.
Since the clients aren’t always at home to receive their packages, Amazon put lockers in the nearby convenience stores and building lobbies. These lockers are for apartment blocks and other housing complexes that do not have mailroom services to process the packages securely. Packages are delivered and stored in the set of lockers until when the customer is ready to retrieve their package. All they have to do is key in their pickup code into the system, and a corresponding locker door with their package inside will open. They have even tested out the Amazon Prime Air, an ambitious project that uses drones to carry packages of up to five pounds and drop them in your backyard.
In a bid to ensure even more efficient delivery, Amazon has rolled out the Amazon Key for its Prime members. This is an in-home delivery system that allows Amazon couriers to open your door and put your package inside your house, instead of leaving it out on the porch where a stranger can help themselves to your package if you are not home. Amazon Key relies on Amazon’s new Cloud Cam and a compatible smart lock. The camera is the hub and is connected to the internet via your home Wi-Fi connection. It talks to the smart lock over Zigbee, a wireless protocol that is utilized by many smart home and internet of things devices.
What is Cloud Cam?
The Amazon Cloud Cam is an indoor home security camera that works with a compatible smart lock and allows Amazon to decide when to open your house for a package delivery. You can also get it as a standalone offering, and is part of the Alexa-enabled devices that will integrate Amazon into your home life.
It captures videos in 1080p full HD resolution and features:
- Night vision
- Two-way audio
- Wide viewing angle
- Activity clips from the last 24 hours, accessible via the Amazon Cloud Cam app
The camera detects motion and records a video clip automatically for you to review later, and also send you a notification for the detected motion. It also has computer vision. It sends recorded clips to the clouds for review, and over time it will learn what belongs in the house, such as a pet, and stop triggering alerts and sending you notifications whenever it sees the pet moving around.
While this is not fully rolled out, it definitely is an interesting and important feature of the Cloud Cam. You also have the option of indicating parts of the house that you want to be ignored, such as a ceiling fan. The Cloud Cam should be installed inside your house, within 25 feet of the smart lock, and facing your front door.
Each Cloud Cam has a microphone and a speaker, allowing you to talk to, say, your pet or kids, from the office. It can operate as a freestanding unit or while mounted to a wall, but you have to plug it into a socket for it to work. You can order the Cloud Cam as a standalone security feature for your home, or purchase it as part of the Amazon Key service.
The subscription service will let you archive and review recorded footage, and activate the high-end features such as motion detection, people detection, and zone monitoring. Since it is integrated with Alexa, you could, for instance, ask Alexa to show you who is at your door if you are in the basement.
How Does Amazon Key Work?
When a courier arrives with your package for in-home delivery, they scan a barcode on the parcel, which then sends a request to Amazon’s cloud to verify that the delivery person is at the right address and at the appropriate time. If everything checks out okay, the cloud then grants permission by sending a message to the camera, which then starts recording a video of the delivery. The courier gets a prompt on their app and swipes the screen to unlock the door. This swipe access to the door is a one-time permission. They drop off the package inside of the front door, re-lock the door with another swipe, and go to their next delivery. The client gets a notification that their delivery has been done, and a short video that shows the drop-off to confirm that everything was done well. The customer can also watch a live video of the entire delivery on their phone.
This system works with Yale and Kwikset locks, two popular brands in the market. As mentioned above, the Cloud Cam is made by Amazon and is part of their Alexa devices (an attempt by Amazon to get into the smart home space.)
The system costs $249.99 (but, depending on the compatible smart lock that you choose, can cost nearly $300), and includes a Smart Lock and the Cloud Cam, and free installation. Once the system is installed and the service made available, in-home delivery will appear as an option whenever you order something on Amazon. It will work with same-day, one-day, two-day, and the standard Amazon shipping. There is no additional charge for this service, and according to Amazon, it is available on over 10 million items, as long as the item isn’t too big and bulky.
If you already own a Yale or Kwikset Smart Lock, you can buy the Amazon Cloud Cam for $120. Once set up, the system won’t doesn’t you anything to maintain.
However, if you want to view video clips from more than the last 24 hours, you will have to subscribe to one of the three additional subscription packages:
- Basic. Costs $6.99/month or $69/year. It offers access to clips from the last seven days for up to three cameras.
- Extended. Costs $9.99/month or $99/year. It offers access to clips from the last 14 days for up to five cameras.
- Pro. Costs $19.99/month or $199/year. It offers access to clips from the last 30 days for up to ten cameras.
The subscription unlocks advanced features such as:
- Unlimited downloads and shares for your video clips.
- Zones – specify areas to be ignored, such as fans, television sets, or a tree outside your window, to reduce the number of unwanted alerts that you receive.
- Person detection – this notifies when a person is detected, as opposed to general motion such as that of a cat or dog walking in front of the camera.
While the Cloud Cam and the smart lock are the keys to Amazon Key’s success, Amazon is hoping that you will use them for other things, such as granting access to your house to trusted friends and family. According to Amazon, they are also rolling out a service where you will be able to use Amazon Key in over 1200 Amazon Home Services, such as repair services, cleaning services from Merry Maids and pet sitting and dog walking from Seattle-based Rover.com. You can give someone a one-time pass with a time limit, permanent access, or recurring access for specific days and times. The access can be granted through the Amazon Key app or via a simple SMS message.
Safety Concerns of Amazon Key
While the Amazon Key is a great service, it raises several security concerns:
- Can Prime members trust Amazon to be able to monitor their homes at all times and to know when to unlock the door for a stranger to do the delivery?
- How secure is the house from theft by the delivery staff?
- Will the benefits of fast and secure delivery outweigh any privacy and security concerns that the customers will have?
- What would happen if a rogue delivery person wrecked something or stole an item out of view of the Cloud Cam?
- What if the smart lock malfunctions, allowing anyone to access your home?
- What if the delivery person does not close the door properly and the lock does not engage properly?
While it is one thing to order something online and trust that the exact item you ordered will be delivered, it is another thing to trust Amazon to open your door and let a stranger enter your house in your absence to deliver your package.
There is also the problem of smart locks being vulnerable to attacks. They are still in the infant stages, with lots of testing still being done. According to security experts, some security flaws on smart locks make them more vulnerable than traditional locks. There is always the risk of the lock, while connected to the internet, getting bricked or hacked into, giving access to your home to strangers and thieves. Since they are internet-enabled, a hacker can hack into the lock from a remote location so they do not have to risk exposing themselves by breaking the lock on-site.
Sometime this year, automatic firmware updates broke internet-enabled smart locks from LockState, affecting some 200 Airbnb customers, who were locked out of their rented houses. The owners had to get replacements for the locks. If this can happen, then it wouldn’t be too much a stretch to think that a faulty update to your Amazon Key could leave your door unlocked for an extended period of time, or lock the door, barring you from entering your own home.
The Cloud Cam is always watching, recording and erasing footage that is stored on the camera. Once it detects motion, it uploads the footage to Amazon servers for analysis to determine whether the detected motion is a security breach that requires your attention or is a normal movement such as your dog or cat running around the house. While this is good, it basically gives Amazon the rights to have footages of inside your house. So, if you use Cloud Cam, you give Amazon the right to process and retain the footage in the cloud to provide and improve their services.
If the cloud were to be hacked and the stored footage released, it would be a major security breach, with people’s private activities and homes out in public for all and sundry to view.
How Has Amazon Addressed the Security Concerns?
Amazon definitely knows that it is asking for a lot of trust from its Amazon Prime members, as it requires you to let them record what is going on in your home round the clock and unlock your door for strangers. It has tried to make the process totally transparent and minimally invasive, to make the entire process as smooth as possible.
On the morning of the delivery, customers will get a notification about the delivery, and a window of time when to expect the delivery to be made (4 hours). When the delivery van shows up, the customer gets an “Arriving Now” notification. This way, you can watch a live stream of the entire process on the Cloud Cam if you wish to keep an eye on things. Amazon will also store a copy of the delivery video for up to 24 hours so that you can watch it later.
Couriers are instructed to knock on the door or ring the bell first. This way, the people inside the house, if any, are alerted and know that someone is about to enter the house. It also gives the delivery person an opportunity to check for any potential hazard such as dogs. Couriers are also instructed to open the door for the delivery as little as possible, slide in the packages and leave, and if possible, not enter the house.
If there is someone at home during the day of delivery and they prefer to receive the package personally, they can select “Block Access” in the Amazon Key app as long as the delivery hasn’t been done. The delivery person will then use the standard Amazon delivery process.
The door is only unlocked if the delivery person is carrying the right package that is slated for delivery to that particular house that day. If the package is wrong, or they come on a different day, the door will not be unlocked. The swipe-to-open permission for the delivery person is a one-time permission that can’t be used again.
The Cloud Cam is also an important security feature. Anytime someone uses the app, it starts recording a video while sending the owner of the house a real-time feed of the delivery. The door lock also ensures that no one enters the house after the delivery person leaves.
For now, Amazon only trusts its in-house delivery team to handle the Amazon Key deliveries, meaning that it is only available in 37 metro areas across the United States where Amazon Logistics does deliveries. Amazon hopes to expand this service in the future, and we can only wait to see if they will allow third-party delivery companies to handle Amazon Key deliveries. Click here to check if you live in one of the delivery every areas.
You should, however, know that Amazon Key is not compatible with other security systems that you may have in your home. This means that if you have an alarm system that needs to be disarmed whenever someone enters the house, you will have to turn it off on the day of the delivery. If you are not comfortable with turning off your security system on the day of the delivery, then in-house delivery is not for you.
The Amazon Key Happiness Guarantee
Amazon will work with you to give you the best Amazon Key experience. If you are not satisfied with the in-home delivery, or if the package or your property was destroyed as a direct result of the delivery, the Amazon Key Happiness Guarantee will be used to correct the problem.
You simply contact the Amazon team via the Amazon Key app to file a Happiness Guarantee claim. After collecting the necessary information such as your basic contact information and the documentation of the problem (photographs, videos, documents, or other proof of claim as required), their support team will work to resolve your problem as fast as possible.
You can only file an Amazon Happiness Guarantee claim when all of the following conditions apply:
- The in-home Amazon Key delivery was not completed to your satisfaction, or your package or property was damaged or destroyed as a direct result of the delivery; and
- The delivery was completed within the last 30 days.
- Amazon Key works with Alexa
You Can Use the Amazon Key Service with Alexa
Enable the Amazon Key skill on Alexa, and ask Alexa to lock or unlock your door or check the door’s status. In addition, you can enable “Unlock by Voice” in the Alexa App, which requires a 4-digit code when unlocking your smart lock.
You can also ask Alexa to show your front door on your Fire TV, Fire Tablet, Echo Show, or Echo Spot. Speak or listen through Echo Show and Echo Spot using Cloud Cam’s two-way audio — an easy way to say “hi” to someone who just got home. 🙂
Amazon Key is ideal for an Amazon Prime link subscriber who is usually out for most of the day and therefore cannot be home to receive their packages or those who experience package theft often. You should, however, be wary of using a smart lock that is connected to the internet and has the very real threat of being hacked.
Now that it has been around for about 6 months the bugs seem to have been worked out and Amazon Key runs smoothly. Now that it has been around for about 6 months the bugs seem to have been worked out and it runs smoothly. Click here to see if you can get Amazon Key
Pictured below are the different Smart Locks and Cloud Cams that you can get with the Amazon Key system.
Kwikset SmartCode 914 Keypad Smart Lock in Nickel + Amazon Cloud Cam, works with Amazon KeyKwikset 916 Smartcode Zigbee Touchscreen Smartlock Contemporary Style in Venetian Bronze + Amazon Cloud Cam, works with Amazon KeyKwikset 916 Smartcode Zigbee Touchscreen Smartlock Traditional Style in Nickel + Amazon Cloud Cam, works with Amazon KeyYale Assure YRD256 Lock SL Key Free Touchscreen Deadbolt in Satin Nickel + Amazon Cloud Cam, works with Amazon KeyYale Assure YRD216 Lock Push Button Deadbolt in Satin Nickel + Amazon Cloud Cam, works with Amazon KeyYale Assure YRD226 Touchscreen Deadbolt in Satin Nickel + Amazon Cloud Cam, works with Amazon Key
You can also buy a Cloud Cam separately to augment the system for coverage in other rooms.You can buy one, two or three Cloud Cams. And there are two different Alexa products tath work iwth the Cloud Cam .
Amazon Cloud Cam Security Camera, Works with Alexa. Buy one or in sets of two or threeEcho Show – Black + Amazon Cloud Cam Indoor Security Camera BundleEcho (2nd Generation) – Smart speaker with Alexa -Works with Cloud Cam Security Camera