Amazon’s Mission: Getting A ‘Key’ To Your Apartment Building

NEW YORK — Amazon’s mission has had enough of doorbell calling.

The e-commerce behemoth is pressuring landlords throughout the country — sometimes with financial incentives — to allow its drivers to open apartment doors using a mobile device.

The service, called Key for Business, is marketed as a means to reduce package theft by making it simple to store items in lobbies rather than on the street. Amazon profits since it allows delivery drivers to complete their rounds more quickly. Furthermore, fewer stolen packages cut expenses, perhaps giving Amazon an advantage over competitors.

Those who have installed the gadget claim it minimizes delivery personnel’s continual buzzing and is a safer alternative to give out codes to a large number of individuals.

However, when the Amazon initiative, which was initially revealed in 2018, develops popularity, it may raise security and privacy issues. According to the firm, delivery workers are subjected to background checks and are only allowed to access doors when they have a product to scan. However, because Amazon leaves it up to the property to tell residents, renters may be unaware that Amazon drivers have access to their building’s front doors.

Any gadget linked to the internet, including the Amazon device, may be hacked, according to Ashkan Soltani, a privacy expert who served as a top digital counselor to former President Barack Obama.

“You’re effectively bringing a foreign internet-connected gadget into an otherwise internal network,” said Soltani, a former chief technologist at the Federal Trade Commission in the United States.

Questions concerning possible hacking were not answered by Amazon.

The gadget has already been placed in thousands of apartment complexes across the United States, though the business refuses to specify how many. It occasionally leaves a clue by placing a circular sticker with the Amazon grin logo on buzzers near where the gadget was installed. Three out of eleven buildings on one New York City street have the sticker. Two out of seven buildings in another area got the label.

Amazon salesmen have been knocking on doors, making cold calls, and approaching building managers on the street in cities throughout the country to persuade them to install the gadget. The business has also teamed up with local locksmiths to promote it to building managers while they are repairing locks. Amazon installs the gadget for free and occasionally rewards the person who allows them in with a $100 Amazon gift card.

In April, Soltani was approached by two Amazon salespeople who needed access to the building where he resides in Oakland, California, and he heard about Key for Business. Building management refused to install a device, thus none was installed.

Kenton Girard fared better on Amazon. Girard, a Chicago landlord, consented to have the gadget put in four of his buildings to combat package theft, which had become so severe that he was considering installing a delivery drop box outside.

Girard said of the Amazon gadget, “I would have paid to have it done.”

Only the United States Postal Service currently has access to apartment complexes in order to deliver mail to mailboxes. In 2018, UPS partnered with a smart-lock firm to test a technique for its employees to enter properties without buzzing occupants. However, the test was terminated, and UPS refused to explain why. Customers who are not at home may have their items delivered to neighboring grocery stores, dry cleaners, or florists, according to the business.

FedEx did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

For years, Amazon has aspired to stroll through people’s front doors. It introduced a feature in 2017 that allows customers to let delivery persons into their homes while they aren’t home and drop items in the entryway. Shortly after, Walmart did the same, except their delivery guys also loaded the fridge with goods. Amazon and Walmart do not disclose how many people use their services, although both have lately expanded it to new cities.

Amazon targeted apartment complexes in 2018, introducing Key for Business, and signed up large landlords to put the device in various properties. However, Amazon’s effort appears to have intensified in the last year or two, with salesmen being deployed around the country.

Amazon salesmen may earn $3,000 to $11,000 per month in incentives and commissions, according to recent job listings in Miami and San Antonio. Amazon won’t reveal how much money it’s putting into the project.

Some Amazon shipments are unable to get past front doors. According to retail analytics firm Rakuten Intelligence, the business delivers approximately 60% of its own goods; the remainder is sent by third-party delivery companies that can’t get inside.

Amazon’s aim is to get the gadget into as many buildings as possible, according to Philip T. Evers, a logistics professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, maybe a method to keep competitors out.

“The landlord might say, ‘You know, I’ll do this for one firm, but maybe we don’t want it for every delivery company out there,’” he explained. He went on to say that Amazon might find additional applications for the service, such as having delivery personnel pick up returns left in the lobby rather than forcing customers to go to the post office. Amazon has been tight-lipped about its future ambitions.

The gadget might save Amazon money, according to Jason Goldberg, chief commerce strategy officer at Publicis Communications, because workers can drop off more items during a shift and may have to provide fewer reimbursements to customers whose goods were stolen.

When a locksmith replaced the buzzer system at his Chicago apartment building in December, he offered to install Amazon Key for Business for free. Goldberg, who helps manage the property, later permitted Amazon salespeople to install the device in exchange for a $100 Amazon gift card.

“They give it away for free because Amazon profits more than we do,” Goldberg explained.

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