Could Smart Locks Be The Future Of Secure Online Retail?

Could Smart Locks Be The Future Of Secure Online Retail?

Have you ever been nervous about a package delivered to your doorstep? You’re not alone. Shipping security is a major concern, both for customers and for businesses trying to keep those customers. Though it’s virtually impossible to estimate how many packages per year are lost or stolen, many customers resort to extreme measures—such as delivering packages to work or to someone else’s house—to avoid the threat entirely.

Now, online retailers are taking new steps to make home deliveries safer. Jet, specifically, is working with smart lock provider Latch to provide more than 100,000 residents with a new system of smart locks. These locks would allow delivery drivers to enter a building and securely drop off a package; customers can also use their smartphones to unlock their houses at will, letting other guests in at their discretion.

So is this the future of secure delivery for online retail?

Smart Lock Availability

There are already many smart locks available in the market today. Brands like August, Danalock, and Kwikset all offer variants on the smart lock model. Some merely lock and unlock remotely, while others come equipped with security cameras, and still others are programmable. Being able to let in only authorized people is certainly a leap forward in security, especially when it comes to delivering packages, but it’s not without its problems.

Challenges for Smart Locks

Before Jet expands its initial rollout, and before other major online retailers get on board with the smart lock idea, there are some significant security concerns to iron out with the technology:

  • The threat of hacking. If it’s a piece of technology, it can probably be hacked. Smart locks are no exception. Most smart locks are tied into a wireless network, which means anyone able to gain control of that network can gain access to the lock, specifically. Obviously, following best practices with wireless technology, including choosing strong passwords and updating those passwords regularly, can significantly decrease your risk of falling victim to this attack—but nothing is inherently hack-proof. The possibility of faking authorization is a real one, and one that smart lock producers and retailers will both have to consider moving forward.
  • Improper use of authorization. Let’s assume that a delivery driver gains access to your home and drops off a package. What’s to stop them from picking up a valuable you left on the table by the door? What’s to stop them from poking around your house for a few minutes before returning to their route? The majority of deliverers will use their new authorization responsibly, but you can’t rule out the possibility of deliverers who will exploit the system. Establishing other home security features, including security cameras, can mitigate this risk.
  • Availability. Smart locks seem like a good idea, but who will gain access to them? Not everyone has a smartphone, and not everyone will be willing to adopt the system. Will it be available to a select group of customers, or anyone who wants to get a secure delivery?
  • The cost of rolling out the system. Even the most basic smart lock costs at least $100, ranging closer to $200 in cost. Will online retailers be willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to upgrade one neighborhood? Think—do you personally order enough products from online retailers to justify that kind of investment?
  • Customer comfort. The notion of a lock that allows access to your house remotely is going to be unsettling for some customers. No matter how many security features it contains, they aren’t going to be comfortable with the system. This can lead to unexpectedly low levels of adoption, which could compromise plans for the efficiency of the overall system.

So could smart locks represent the future of safer online delivery? It’s certainly possible, and Jet is making a significant investment to prove that’s the case. However, there are still many security concerns and gaps to address before we rely on smart locks to keep our packages safer. Until then, have a backup plan for deliveries set to arrive while you aren’t at home.

This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.

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