Tech Thursday – Online Shopping: Preventing Porch Pirates

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Welcome to Tech Thursday, the column with the purpose of discovering new high-tech products and developing technology created to help make everyone’s lives convenient, cool, or all of the above!

Online shopping is vastly used now around the world; you can purchase all types of items from the comfort of your home or while you’re on the go for business. Whatever you buy gets shipped directly to where you need it to go.

With the Christmas holiday creeping around the corner, online shopping and shipping will ramp up exponentially. It won’t be uncommon to go down any street during the weekday and find packages stacked up at the doors of your neighbors. But with increased online shopping comes another issue: porch pirates.

This is the name given to thieves that swipe packages off the porches of homes where the resident is currently away. Porch pirating is a much easier method of burglary that doesn’t involve break-ins. They can simply drive around and look out the front of homes for any package waiting to be picked up. Then after a little further scoping to determine if someone is home or not, they can hop right out, snatch the box and take off before anyone noticed what happened.

It’s a very hit-and-miss method as they won’t know what’s in the package until they get someplace safe to check, but it makes for easy profit and inconveniences the heck out of you still. Thankfully there are some services and products that can help curb potential pirates from your porch.

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11-30-17 Tech Thurs Amazon.jpg
Courtesy photo/Amazon

What is it?: Amazon Key.

What does it do?: Smart lock and security camera that allows temporary guests in your home.

How do you use it?: Replace your deadbolt, set up the camera and use the app to control your lock.

How is it convenient?: Never need to leave a spare key around for guests.

Overall feedback: Mixed.

Recommended?: Yes.

Cost?: $250 (Amazon Prime members receive free service).

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Amazon is aware of the porch pirate issue and developed a new product and service to help combat the problem. The Amazon Key is a smart lock and security camera setup you use to replace the deadbolt on your front door. The touchpad allows for keyless entry and can be controlled with an app.

The main feature of the device is for Amazon’s new In-Home Delivery service. When the delivery truck arrives at your door with your package and you’re not around to answer, they can log in to your keypad and temporarily unlock your door to drop off your package right inside instead of out on your porch so it stays safe in your home. The security camera allows you to monitor the delivery live or see the footage for later.

You can also schedule temporary time frames for the door to be unlocked if you’re expecting the cable guy or your babysitter to arrive at certain times, so there’s more than one reason to acquire Amazon Key. Do note that Amazon Prime members receive the In-Home Delivery for free.

While it’s an interesting idea, not many people are very comfortable with allowing strangers temporary access in their homes; Amazon conducted a survey and found that 63 percent were very uncomfortable with the technology. Those who were comfortable were found to be in the younger generation that could adapt to the unorthodox methods. As a frequent Amazon shopper myself, I would not mind using this product, but it really depends on how you feel about the temporary invitation this device gives to delivery drivers.

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11-30-17 Tech Thurs BoxLock.jpg
Courtesy photo/BoxLock

What is it?: BoxLock

What does it do?: Secures your packages on your porch.

How do you use it?: Install outside your door, setup with the app, keep charged monthly.

How is it convenient?: Offers a non-intrusive approach to securing shipped packages.

Overall feedback: Positive.

Recommended?: Yes.

Cost?: Retails for $120, pre-order on Kickstarter.

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For those wishing for a non-intrusive method to securing their packages instead, available in Summer of 2018 will be a new gadget called BoxLock. This is a specialized smart padlock that can be used on any storage container. While not currently available, it can be pre-ordered on its Kickstarter page.

The idea behind BoxLock is to allow delivery drivers to secure your packages in a storage box outside your front door. The lock has a barcode scanner on the bottom that checks for “out for delivery” packages addressed to your location. If none of these two requirements are met, it stays locked so that clever thieves can’t use a fake shipping label.

BoxLock can be sold with its own special container, or you can purchase your own of any size. Make sure that you secure your container to your porch so that no one just takes the whole container! BoxLock claims that the lock can operate a month on a full charge, and will alarm you via the app when its battery is low.

BoxLock already has $40,000 pledged, passing their goal of $20,000 and will go into production by mid-December.

If you like this article and want us to investigate other new tech to talk about, be sure to recommend it to the Daily Sun.

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