Amazon “In-Car” Delivery

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 In Brief

Name one apparatus you already have at home that a package can be locked away safely outside the living quarters. Yeb, you got it. Don’t feel comfortable with the pizza guy inside when no one’s home – not a problem. Pop the trunk.

“How do you find the car, and, can you do it on a commercial scale?” Well, there are ways around it, says the IoT. All you need is a couple satellites and statecraft in the same orbit.

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One key aspect of facility management is optimizing the utilization rate of idled, scattered, spaces. The centuries old concept just received a leapfrogging upgrade with capacities empowered by the IoT. You can now identify and locate spaces like the trunk of your car anywhere in world as the status switches between vacant and occupied in real time. We previously covered article “In-home Delivery”, another customer-centric innovation by Amazon, where the delivery guy is pre-approved to access an empty homes to secure deliveries in a safe place. In-car is similar, with the only difference being access to a car instead for the same purpose and through the same method. Through the application, it begins with the customer allowing Amazon to access the vehicle’s location through GPS. Next, the vehicle needs to be installed with the technology that supports granting remote access. Customers can expect a present in the trunk in 4 hours.

Both the In-home and In-car concepts are brainchilds of “Amazon Locker”, a network of self-service parcel delivery service designed around utmost logistics convenience for the customers. Come crunch time, the Amazon locker of choice is selected from available areas as the delivery destination. Both the customer and the delivery man receives a unique bot generated pick-up code to be entered on the locker’s touch screen. The delivery man delivers and the customer opens the locker via the pick-up code.

For years, big apartment landlords were facing a host of problems associated with parcel management. Staff would spend hours arranging packages to meet safety conditions, legal-security requirements, logistics and available space as available manpower allows. All in all, for a long time, it was a big pain in the neck. And then, IoT came along – Amazon to the rescue. AvalonBay Communities, Inc. a major real estate company that invests in serviced apartment properties, also one of the bombarded landlords, gave it a go with Amazon.

Amazon looking for ways to reduce shipping costs, particularly in last mile runs that are known for adding steep margins to the total due to increased risks of handling, damaged, stolen as well as erroneous shipments. With the locker posting as a destination light tower, the delivery guys can be led directly to the precise location with pinpoint centimeter accuracy using the best route given existing terrain, traffic and available transportation modes in the area thus significantly reducing last mile risks that incur without a light tower to follow. As difficult steps are cut out of the process, it saves a lot of money, not only for the landlord, but for the carrier as well.

Having great success with the now partner, AvalonBay Communities, Amazon signed numerous contracts to manage parcel delivery for big serviced apartment chains over America in 2017, adding up to approximately 850,000 units in total, using the Amazon Locker System to hold merchandise from-to apartments. The Locker System gives customers access to a reliable 24-7 semi-automated delivery-pickup system by storing incoming shipments for the owner regardless of seller or sender, on or off-line, without additional staff requirement to the landlord. The parcel owner receives delivery status notifications through the app along with the locker number and access code. The apartment landlord, on the other hand, is charged a small one-time sum $10,000 to $20,000 to have the locker system installed without any additional charge or recurring monthly bill, thereafter. Most, if not all, apartment owners that were hiring extra to manage excessive parcels, are willing to pay for it and not passing the buck to the residents as the trade off from immediate gain from additional staff and extra space is obvious. Most real estate companies with over 80,000 large apartments, such as AvalonBay Communities, Inc. or Greystar, receives over 1,000 parcels per month for each complex and the number has been increasing by 30%, yearly. Another downstream benefit of the locker system is that lockers are used interchangeably between residencies according to parcel size, i.e., no locker is left idled as a result of unshared right of ownership.

A topic on a tangent could be that the concept is not enticing enough for complexes with staff that manages everything on the estate and manage them well. In reality, with higher end properties come higher expectations. Comparatively underperforming functions, e.g., parcel management that could be managed so much cheaper or, better yet, with zero overhead altogether, works the other way for luxury. A genuine problem, rather, is the locker’s space requirement that increases with GDP, i.e., 2% or more annually. Amazon will need to develop a locker that can be installed outside of the building, as well, in case of limited space and it will have to be connected to the internet to support key applications. Another point is that the locker system does not support oversize parcels at the time. And that’s where Amazon is weighing the options for the best solution.

Another interesting shipping model is Amazon Flex, an Uber-like service for logistics, i.e., closest-by part time drivers picking up and transporting packages to en route destinations. Ripping a page out of Uber’s book, anyone 21-years of age and older, has a car, a driver’s license and of course a functioning smartphone, can now deliver as many or few deliveries as they see fit for good side income, and most importantly, on their own schedule. A clean background check is also a requirement which means that an official, user-friendly, online service ran by the overlooking agency is available. The concept stemmed from a customer-centric perspective that most drivers are also frequent customers, or, more appropriately coined, Amazon prosumers. Less is more, Amazon Flex today also enables a larger fleet with minimized overhead that normally comes with ownership.

Amazon will perhaps be launching the in-car program in the not so distant future. Amazon shook hands with 2 auto giants, General Motors and Volvo Cars, to get the ball rolling. It will grant Amazon a delivery fleet in the millions from 37 auto dealers across the US. The deal, to many’s surprise, is of no concern to majority owners as access to their car is granted to no-stranger; trusted prime members. As with In-home that launched late 2017, a smart lock and security camera system can take care of security with about $220 out of pocket.

The new shipping model is free for Amazon Prime members that drives either a GM or a Volvo. Simply download the Amazon Key application, login to link to the existing Amazon account and connect with car service apps. On delivery day, the package will be delivered within 4 hours. The system notifies the car owner when the car is opened and closed by an authorized transport agent with the correct item. If the agent forgets to lock the car, the system automatically locks it anyways. Another example app is OnStar, designed by a subsidiary of General Motors that also links up with Opel, which allow drivers to search for parked cars, start/turn off the car and monitor fuel/tire level from the mobile. The target vehicle must be parked in an easily accessible public area.

With customers’ needs at heart, in-car also demonstrates the potential of logistics to increase non- and Amazon freight management alike. Most automakers are putting a lot of technology into new models to function properly in an Amazon world, namely Volvo and GM, as well as Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, GMC and many others planning to follow suit. Cadillacs will come with 4G LTE internet while GM and Volvo will not charge extra for IoT features. All competing for customers are trying to remain relevant with beyond-basic IoT features. Who will offer the most popular technologies, though, remains to be seen.

A very good thing happens with 2 overpriced anchors in place: an orbiting global navigation satellite system and a security policy to be able to locate anything, anywhere, at any given time. With that, you get free GPS, i.e., minus security and it might not be free. And with GPS, you get customer-centric innovations. The technology was invented by the US government in the 1980s for critical positioning capabilities. Aside from the US, Europe and China’s Baidu satellite navigation system, many other nations are planning their own orbiting system in the next decade in order to do away with foreign dependence and cater a capacity of their own.

There are over 100 million Amazon Prime subscribers today and growing, with millions of Amazon gadgets in customer homes (read more about Amazon Echo and Amazon Dash: “Amazon “The Era of No more shopping”) By empowering the people, customer-centric models come to life, improving standards from a customer perspective. Amazon thus plays an increasingly larger role, not only in everyday convenience, but also by founding significant macroeconomic merits.

Interestingly, trusted networks of willing prosumers (doesn’t mean progressive libertarians are perfect), are formed in open clubs with membership requirements for clean records and fees where trustworthiness continue to be monitored automatically by the very onestop platforms that provide them with streamlined guidance and SOPs for all activities, supply and demand alike, through a smart device. Of course, the government is distracted with a lot of additional work without such platforms. With them, though, it’s time to focus on the 2 ten-letter gerunds – downsizing and innovating.

 

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References and photos wsj.com, businessinsider.com, foxbusiness.com, pexels.com, todayonline.com, thepantheronline.com

 

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