Has Walmart found a way to avoid us feeling like we’re under “house arrest” while awaiting a delivery?
Walmart has just announced they are currently testing a service with August’s smart locks, to allow delivery companies to access customers’ homes to leave their purchase inside the property instead of outside or with a neighbor, even allowing them to put products in the refrigerator or in the freezer. Customers could also smart home devices smart home to make sure the courier performs the task correctly, such as Nest monitoring cameras, bi-directional communication devices such as Canary or others.
This seems a classic case of what at first seems like a good idea, but that in the real world, is more trouble than it’s worth. The initial premise is fine: we live in a world in which we increasingly buy more products through the web to be delivered to our homes, except that we are not at home much of the time. We have gone from receiving packages occasionally, to several times a week, or even several times a day. I have heard friends refer to the situation of being at home waiting for a delivery as being “under house arrest”. Otherwise, we must rely on neighbors, the concierge, or have stuff sent to work.
Technology offers solutions. A smart lock can allow a courier into our home, and we can leave detailed instructions on where a delivery should be left. However, the idea of allowing a stranger into our home will not appeal to many people, at least initially, while monitoring them via a camera could be problematic. Such cameras allow two-way dialogue with whoever is in their field of vision, but again, managing them is perhaps not quite so simple as it might seem at first.
Will Walmart’s idea work in practice? The fact that the retail giant sees it as a way to compete with Amazon is significant, and it will likely be imitated and improved in the process. Walmart is piloting the scheme in homes in techie-friendly Silicon Valley through an opt-in system that ensures that users know they are taking part in a test, and without charge. A couple of months ago Jet.com came up with a similar system through an agreement with Latch, a relatively new locksmith system for apartment buildings in New York, offering free installation of the system to about 1,000 buildings to gauge user experience in a move aimed at increasing both the visibility of the online supermarket recently acquired by Walmart and that of the lock manufacturer, but I have not yet seen any results of the experience.
Would you let a courier into your home while you were out?
(En español, aquí)