Sink Porch Pirates with Smart Home Technology
May 1, 2022
There are few things that can upset you faster than discovering the packages delivered to your door have disappeared. In fact, 11 percent of Americans have had at least one package stolen from their home in the past year and a half, according to a survey of US adults. And with supply chain issues continuing to impact the availability of some products, getting a replacement for a stolen item could be disruptive if not impossible.
Those Americans who reported a package stolen said that the most common step they took to prevent future theft (21 percent) was to install a video doorbell. But while video doorbells are a great way to catch porch pirates in the act, they can’t stop thieves from running off with your packages. Check out my recent post ‘What’s the Best Video Doorbell for Your Smart Home?’ to get more details on video doorbells.
Debbie and I are amateurs compared with many family and friends when it comes to home delivery of purchases. I have given the whole package delivery concern some thought though as I work from home, plan to install a video doorbell and the area we plan to build is fairly rural it hasn’t been a huge priority. But as Debbie and I travel pretty regularly that could leave us susceptible to Porch Pirates.
Thinking about this, from a design perspective on our home build, I was originally thinking about building a compartment into the home-facing side of one of the outer columns on the front porch. Great idea if the column was big enough but no way to guarantee delivery drivers would use it or how to secure the door once deliveries were made. As there’d be a lot of engineering involved in making this idea smart and again, our level of package delivery, re-inventing existing solutions just isn’t practical. So how do we keep our deliveries safe?
I’ve done some research on smart solutions to this challenge and came up with a couple viable options.
A bit in line with my original idea of a secured box on the front porch, I like the eufy SmartDrop. It’s an app-driven, smart delivery box that delivers 24/7 package protection that works with all couriers. This is also a great solution for those with existing homes, live in apartments or have exposed porches.
The SmartDrop allows you to secure your deliveries regardless whether you’re home, just stepped out, can’t get to the door or are on vacation, SmartDrop will be waiting for you with your packages safe and sound. It boasts a sturdy, all-metal carbon steel body that will protect your parcels from Porch Pirates as well as preventing weather damage with its IP65 rating thanks to a sophisticated water diversion system. The SmartDrop weights up to 44lbs and the exterior dimensions are 27.5“H x 21.6”L x 21.6”W and the interior dimensions are 25.0”H x 18.3”L x 17.7”W.
As a courier approaches, SmartDrop will guide them to leave a package quickly and easily. The courier just presses the ‘open’ button to leave a package if SmartDrop is empty. If there is already a package, the courier uses a PIN included on the address label by the user to open the SmartDrop.
When a delivery is made you’ll receive a notification via the eufy Security app and be able to see every package delivery with a 1080p HD camera on your phone in real time — or watch the recording later. It also supports AI human-detection, which differentiates between people and other objects. You can even talk to the courier via two-way audio or check how many deliveries you’ve received while you’ve been gone.
To retrieve your packages, simply press the ‘open’ button, use a Master PIN, open remotely on the app or with a traditional key. You can also remotely view the contents via live stream with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Unfortunately, it doesn’t currently support Apple HomeKit.
Some people may not have the space on their porch or simply don’t like the look of a locked bin. For those folks with garages, there’s Amazon Key.
Amazon Key in-garage delivery is a secure, convenient way to receive Amazon Prime packages inside your garage. It helps prevent package theft and provides protection from potentially damaging weather like heat and rain. It’s also contactless, because there’s no interaction between you and the delivery associate or contact between the associate and the garage door.
Amazon created its Amazon Key service in 2017 to thwart Porch Pirates, allowing its couriers to place packages inside your home. The service, only available to Amazon Prime members, has grown since then to offer delivery not only inside homes, but in garages, car trunks, and behind motorized gates. But at the start of the pandemic, Amazon indefinitely halted delivery in homes and cars, leaving garage and gate delivery as the only options.
In-garage delivery requires a compatible smart garage hub or wifi garage door opener to enable authorized Amazon delivery associates to leave Amazon packages inside your garage. In-garage deliveries are carried out by some of the same professional drivers who you know and trust to deliver your Amazon orders today. These individuals are thoroughly vetted, with comprehensive background checks and motor vehicle records reviews.
If you need to install an in-garage kit, it can take one of three forms depending on your needs:
- A myQ Smart Garage Hub that enables your existing garage door opener to connect to the cloud
- A new myQ connected garage door opener from either Chamberlain or LiftMaster, OR
- Either of those with an Amazon Cloud Cam to add video monitoring to your Kit.
Once installed, download the Key app and follow the simple steps to sync to your myQ. Then use the Key app to check the status of your garage door and open/close it no matter where you are. If you choose to add a Cloud Cam, you will also be able to view your cameras live feed and motion clips in the Key app.
After installing the Key for Garage Kit, eligible Prime members will be able to choose “in-garage” shipping at checkout when shopping on Amazon.com. One note here, Amazon will automatically try to deliver items into your garage whenever you choose that address at checkout. The same goes for grocery orders from Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market. However, you can still have deliveries left at your front door by choosing Prime Delivery under delivery options during checkout.
In-garage delivery can also be enabled in the Ring app (Google Play, App Store). Just select the “Key Delivery” tile in the Ring app and follow the instructions to enable in-garage delivery. You can also enable delivery notifications and link a Ring camera to watch deliveries in real time.
At this point, Key is ready to use, but neither Amazon nor Chamberlain tell you that you can do even more by downloading the Amazon Key app. From this app, you can easily connect your Ring account and choose your driveway floodlight camera to pair with the Key system, as well as fine-tune your delivery settings. These settings include the ability to leave delivery instructions and attach a photo of the exterior of your garage.
On delivery day, you will receive a notification in the morning with a 4-hour delivery window for when the delivery driver will arrive at your home. Right before the driver arrives at your home, you will receive an “Arriving Now” notification. You can choose to watch the delivery happening live if you have opted to install an Amazon Cloud Cam as part of your In-Garage Kit. The driver will request to open your door via their Amazon handheld delivery device. Amazon verifies that the package(s) belong to the address and the driver is near the correct door, turns on Cloud Cam if you have one, and opens the garage door. No special codes or keys are given to the driver. The driver will then place the package(s) just inside the door and request that it be closed. The driver will not move on to his or her next delivery until the door is completely closed. Once the delivery is complete and the door is closed, you will get a final notification that the delivery is complete (and can watch a video clip of the delivery if you have a Cloud Cam).
It seems pretty easy and for most I suppose it is, once you get past the idea of someone in your garage when you’re not there. But there is obviously some homework to do. The first thing would be to check for Amazon in-garage delivery eligibility to see if your garage door opener is compatible with Key.
If your garage door opener isn’t compatible you can buy a myQ Smart Garage Hub which goes right next to your existing opener and allows you to connect to the Key app. The hub can be installed without any additional wiring and works with almost all existing garage door openers made after 1993. Once installed, there is no additional cost to choosing the “In-Garage Delivery” option at checkout.
If your garage door opener is older than 1993, congrats if it’s still working but it might be time to replace it anyway. If you need help with new garage door opener options, check out my recent post ‘Let’s take a look at your Smart Garage.’
Another challenge you may face is availability of in-garage delivery where you live. You can check HERE to see if your zip code is supported for Amazon, Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market. Unfortunately, right now our new home zip code is not supported but I still like the idea. I’m hoping as the area develops further that in-garage delivery will be enabled.
If you’re an Amazon Prime member and frequent Amazon shopper, I think Amazon Key in-garage delivery and the Chamberlain MyQ Smart Garage Control are a no-brainer. The system is easy to set up, works well, and is essentially free to buy. You don’t have to worry about packages being stolen, nor do you have to get a neighbor or relative to collect packages when you’re out of town.
The obvious drawback of Amazon Key is that this system only works for Amazon or Whole Foods deliveries. There’s simply no way to give access to USPS, FedEx or UPS so they can place deliveries from other retailers in your garage. Wouldn’t it be great if Amazon opened this system up to those delivery companies? Absolutely. Is that likely to happen? I doubt it.
For other deliveries, you’re just going to have to rely on a video doorbell or package delivery box, at least until a rival retailer or startup creates their own version of in-garage delivery.
There aren’t a lot of smart home solutions for secure package delivery as you can see. For most people I’d imagine that having a video doorbell gives them enough peace of mind on deliveries. For those in harsh climates or that order expensive items for delivery, the two options above may be solutions for you. I’d be really interested in your thoughts, especially if Amazon Key is available where you live, just to get an idea of how widespread the service is offered.
What’s your preferred solution? Do you already have a solution in place for this challenge? Would you recommend the solution you’re using? What similar products or devices are you currently using to accomplish the same tasks? How long have you used them? What do you like best about them?
Let Debbie and I know in the comments, DMs and emails as we really enjoy hearing from you. Thanks again to all those following Debbie and I through our home building journey. It’s great to hear your success stories and suggestions as we move through the process. And if you like the content I’m posting each week, don’t forget to ‘Like’ and ‘Follow.’ Until next week …
In full disclosure, I’m not an affiliate marketer with links to any online retailer on my website. When people read what I’ve written about a particular product and then click on those links and buy something from the retailer, I earn nothing from the retailer. The links are strictly a convenience for my readers.