In the world of tech startups, we often see ideas for solutions to problems many of us didn’t know we had. Here are four examples of head-scratching ideas, some that are still active!
- Whistle, a FitBit style device for dogs. Still active.
- Washboard, delivering quarters to your home for laundry machines. Gone!
- Yo, a messaging platform that only sends ONE message. Still active.
- Teforia, $1000 Internet-connected tea infusion machine. Shutting down.
So, this begs the question, do we really need or want strangers inside our house when we are not home? Is this more of a Silicon Valley type “solution” that is out-of-touch with most people?
All of us at eSeller365 love disruptive innovation that pushes the boundaries of technology, especially in the field we cover, ecommerce. But even we disagree on the value of this solution.
Walmart and August
About a month ago, Walmart announced a collaboration with August, a leading company for smart locks, to begin testing deliveries inside your home. The Walmart offering also uses another third party, Deliv, to handle the actual deliveries.
Walmart’s reasoning for offering the service evolved around grocery delivery, allowing the driver to place fresh foods into refrigerators.
In another twist to the Walmart and August smart locks story, the company was sold a couple of weeks later to industry-leading lock company Assa Abloy. Did Assa Abloy, buy the Silicon Valley startup because of the Walmart deal?
Walmart’s ecommerce ideas have often utilized third-party vendors, or they acquired third-party solutions to further that side of the business. And to be honest here, it wasn’t until the Jet.com purchase that Walmart got serious about ecommerce.
But is this reliance on third parties good when it comes to security and safety concerns?
Amazon, having a significant lead in ecommerce over its rival Walmart and many others, tends to release devices and services from its own development team.
Its solution for in-home delivery is more inclusive and on the surface appears to try to alleviate some security fears.
With Amazon Key, customers approve access to the home at the time of the delivery. They can also watch remotely on their smartphone the entire process, providing essential security oversight while the delivery person is in the home.
Plus, Amazon already announced that Amazon Key would expand to offer convenient unattended access to professional service providers, including over 1,200 services from Amazon Home Services.
Amazon’s technology builds on another simultaneous announcement for its new Cloud Cam. This camera is not revolutionary, it is just like hundreds and if not thousands of similar devices on the market that have their own apps.
But Amazon’s Cloud Cam integrates into the whole Amazon ecosystem, which is increasingly becoming a smart-home system with Alexa integrations into all kinds of appliances and services.
To make it easier for Amazon customers to bring unattended access to their home, Amazon sells the Amazon Key In-Home Kit which even comes with free installation if so desired.
And for additional monetization of the service, the company is trying to upsell another new security service with Cloud Cam that stores more recordings on its servers (powered by AWS).
When one looks at both of these new service offerings, there is no comparison. Amazon Key is hands down the more capable and versatile service that integrates into the Amazon ecosystem.
The technology that powers Amazon Key is in-house, and the company has more control to introduce changes to the service with software and policy updates. They control the ecosystem, while Walmart relies on third parties to provide the technology and service.
Furthermore, Amazon is going beyond delivery, and there is no indication currently that Walmart can to do the same.
The August Smart Lock offering may provide those other functions that Amazon includes in Amazon Key, but now you are talking about less integration of the entire service.
It almost seems like Walmart got wind of the Amazon Key product offering and decided to enlist some third parties quickly for a test phase to beat Amazon on the announcement of offering in-home delivery.
Back to The Question, Do We Really Want Unattended Access to Our Home?
Amazon Key may offer some additional security features not found with Walmart’s offering, but they also come at a privacy price.
Do we want cameras in our homes that record every move? What about hacks into AWS to get at the records.
We already know people have a problem keeping their private lives from accidentally appearing on social media via their smartphones.
Smart Speakers alone have already been involved in potential criminal cases. What Pandora’s box are we opening up by actually recording events in our homes?
We already know of criminals following couriers to steal deliveries from front porches. This problem could be consequentially worse, and criminals may tail delivery drivers to gain access to homes. A professional gang can clean out a home of the most valuable items before the police arrive.
But let’s look at more likely concerns. Pets that may get let loose through the door when the door is opened by the delivery or service person.
Dogs and other pets may attack drivers and service people without the owner being present.
Obviously, some homes may have a garage only or laundry room only accessible from the outside that could prevent these types of issues.
But there is more. Who is liable if a delivery or service person slips and falls inside your home or injures themselves in some other way?
Will Amazon/Walmart or the company employing the service/delivery person pick up the cost or will your homeowner’s or renters insurance have to step up?
And there could be potential legal issues for third-party marketplace sellers.
If a marketplace seller sold the order being delivered and the delivery person is injured in the home and decides to seek legal remedy, don’t be shocked to hear about small business marketplace sellers being sued along with everyone else in such a scenario.
It’s mostly standard procedure for the Ambulance Chasing Profession (Personal Injury Lawyers) to file claims against all parties until a court starts dismissing individual parties from the case lacking direct liability.
Of course, a business liability insurance covers such potential issues, but how many micro businesses operating from home that may sell on marketplaces have such policies?
While some people may see these questions as doom and gloom, there are many people who do consider these potential issues. One only needs to look at recent elections around the globe to see how people are voting for candidates that exploit real and perceived security fears.
More companies are getting involved in home security, from Google to Comcast and let’s not be naive, Amazon’s Cloud Cam is another entry into that field.
If there is such a demand for home security, why would unattended access have a sizeable market?
Don’t these two concepts clash? Or will the convenience of allowing access to your home override security and privacy concerns?
The Counterpoint is That Convenience Always Wins
Ultimately convenience always wins in ecommerce. Right now Walmart and Amazon are trialing new technology such as Amazon Key which goes against the instincts of homeowners to allow strangers into their home.
As smart locks become more commonplace, this will change just as the apprehension with putting your card details into a computer was seen as ‘dangerous’ 10 years ago. Now buyers don’t give it a second thought.
Amazon and Walmart are at the forefront of this technology, and ultimately I believe in the coming years they will be the leaders in this space.Dave Furness, Director, eSeller365 and UnderstandineE
Dave’s point is very valid. I may have looked down the dark hole of problems and issues in this case, but when it comes to ecommerce, generally convenience always wins.
Disruptive tech innovation often leaps ahead of a legal framework to deal with it. In the litigious society we have in the United States, there are real liability issues that these services may open up.
What are your thoughts on Amazon Key and Walmart’s in-home delivery? Do you think this will catch on? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this article in the comments section below.
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