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Amazon will start delivering packages into the homes of Prime members

The program is called Amazon Key.

A delivery person drops off an Amazon package inside the home of a Prime member.
Amazon Key allows in-home delivery for Prime members.
Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Amazon on Wednesday announced Amazon Key, a new program for Prime members that lets delivery people drop off packages inside of customer homes.

To make Amazon Key possible, Amazon has introduced its own $120 internet-connected security camera called Amazon Cloud Cam. Customers who want to participate in the program need to purchase an accompanying “smart” lock to allow delivery people to enter their home. Combined camera-lock packages start at $250.

With the program, Amazon is adding what it thinks is a more convenient option than traditional outside drop-off while also coming up with one solution to package theft, which is rampant in some markets.

The obvious questions are whether people will trust a delivery person to enter their home unattended. Amazon is trying to assuage these fears by alerting customers when a delivery is about to happen to allow them to watch it live via their phone.

“Each time a delivery driver requests access to a customer’s home, Amazon verifies that the correct driver is at the right address, at the intended time, through an encrypted authentication process,” the company said. “Once this process is successfully completed, Amazon Cloud Cam starts recording and the door is then unlocked. No special codes or keys are ever provided to delivery drivers.”

An Amazon spokesperson said that the delivery people Amazon works with are “thoroughly vetted, with comprehensive background checks and motor vehicle records reviews.”

The company said the in-home option will go live on Nov. 8 in 37 U.S. cities and some surrounding areas. For example, I live in a mostly suburban neighborhood about 20 minutes outside of New York City and my home qualifies for the service. Customers can punch in their zip code to check for eligibility. Amazon is offering free in-home set-up to customers who don’t want to install the lock and camera themselves.

The Amazon Key launch is Amazon’s latest salvo in its battle to make the speed and convenience of its deliveries a major differentiator in its competition with other online retailers. Walmart recently announced a limited test to allow in-home delivery of groceries for some customers in Silicon Valley.

The Amazon Key app can also be used to allow others access to a home, like cleaners or contractors or just friends.

My guess on how this initiative will be received: Prime members who regularly experience package theft will consider it; most others will pass.

Here’s what the process looks like, according to Amazon’s marketing department:

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that Amazon’s new internet-connected camera was $140. It’s actually $120.

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