Amazon is no longer content with just delivering packages to your door. It wants to deliver them inside your door, too. Now, with the new Amazon Key–a $250 combination of Amazon’s own cloud-connected camera and a third party smart lock for Prime members–Amazon can do just that. Much like the service Walmart recently announced, delivery people can come to your door, open it (via a barcode), and drop your packages inside. Meanwhile, you can monitor the delivery live or even review a video of it later. Notably, cleaners and other service providers can sign up to use Amazon Key, as well.
No doubt, Amazon is removing all the points of friction between the consumer and its consumables. First, it was free two-day delivery with Prime. Then, it became ordering goods with your voice, via the Amazon Echo. It’s easy to imagine Amazon Fresh automatically stocking your fridge with fresh milk and vegetables soon (a feature that hasn’t been announced, but given that Walmart is doing it, it seems inevitable that Amazon will, too).
We think of Amazon as a service, but it’s also becoming clear that it’s the promise of that service that may drag us, at long last, into the fabled “smart home” age–and Amazon is providing whatever hardware upgrades are necessary to get there.
While most smart homes devices, like customizable Philips Hue lighting and predictive Nest thermostats, essentially automate the domestic gadget-tending we’ve all managed since the advent of electricity, Amazon isn’t promising to save us money or even make our homes more beautiful or cozy like these industry mainstays. No, instead, Amazon seems to be taking on emotional labor–saving us from worrying about that package left on the porch, or forgetting to reorder diapers on time. Its spate of hardware launches aimed at the home is meant to make that possible, including the Dash Button (magically rebuy almost anything with a tap!), the Echo Show (double check that this scarf isn’t too much with that shirt), and now, the Amazon Key (just let anyone in, to do anything that possibly needs to be done, at any time). Of course, that’s Amazon’s promise. In reality, the burden of emotional labor may still exist; you still have to remember to arrange the maid or buy groceries but now, but now Amazon owns part of that workflow.
In this sense, Amazon is essentially selling us this decade’s version of an iron that turns itself off, luring us to retrofit our own homes, Amazon brick by Amazon brick. Of course, not all these smart bricks will succeed. Does everyone really need a Huggies button? No. But some of us do. And as long as Amazon can be the company to lean on, with the right worry relief valve there at any time, we’ll probably keep giving it part of our paychecks while we warm up to the idea that Alexa isn’t just an assistant, but a friend.