Package delivery when residents aren’t around is now officially a thing, adding convenience for shoppers and addressing the scourge of porch piracy.
Following similar moves begun in 2017 by FedEx, Amazon and Walmart’s Jet.com unit, UPS is piloting deliveries to multi-unit New York dwellings in partnership with smart lock maker Latch. UPS and Latch began preliminary tests in Manhattan earlier this year and have now expanded the pilot to Brooklyn, with plans to add the service in other U.S. markets.
Jet.com’s program also utilizes Latch’s smart lock technology. In addition, Walmart is testing in-home grocery delivery, similar to Amazon. Unlike the grocery delivery tests, Latch’s work with UPS and Jet.com involve access to building lobbies, not individual dwellings.
For each Latch delivery, the UPS driver receives a unique credential on a handheld device which only works for the specific building. Each time the credential is used Latch records the entry digitally, creating an audit trail that identifies the user and the time of access, establishing a secure record of the transaction.
Latch lets users remotely unlock a building’s doors with its mobile app, including the main entrance. An embedded wide-angle camera captures every interaction by a non-resident so users can monitor them from the app.
“Drivers get access to a lobby or a package room in buildings without doormen,” said UPS spokesman Kyle Peterson. “It’s being tested in hundreds of such buildings. The driver enters a code and leaves the package in an agreed-upon secure location, which Latch establishes in coordination with the building manager.”
Peterson added Latch assesses the security inside the building with the manager to make sure the system is appropriate for the property.
FedEx began piloting smart locks in select markets prior to the 2017 holiday season and is evaluating its benefits for customers, said company spokesman Jonathan Lyons. “FedEx is continuously exploring ways to enhance the convenience and security of our residential delivery services, including the use of smart lock technology,” Lyons said.
“The use of smart access devices on doors of apartment and condominium buildings is a big step forward for the package delivery business,” said Jerome Roberts, UPS’s vice president of global product innovation. “It can be difficult to securely deliver packages in high-density, multi-family urban residences, especially when people are not at home. Smart access devices give us a keyless way to deliver packages to buildings and leave them safely in lobbies or building package rooms.”
The market for this kind of service is sizable. Latch estimates there are 20 million multifamily units in the U.S., with about 350,000 being added each year. It’s unclear how many of them have some kind of concierge service where a doorman can accept and secure deliveries, negating the need for a smart lock system.