Knock, Knock, Knocking on Future’s Door

(Bloomberg) -- Do you dream of a future in which strangers can let themselves into your apartment building and deposit milk and eggs in your fridge while you’re away? I ask because every month or so I seem to discover another company determined to convince me such a utopia not only possible, but brilliant.

First it was Amazon. In October, the retail giant announced a digital-key system to let its delivery drivers enter properties when customers aren’t home. The creatively named service — Amazon Key — includes a Ring smart lock fitted to an external door, as well as a security camera to monitor the activities of the courier once inside.

Amazon Key spoke to the company’s long-term ambitions of digitizing homes, then incentivizing long-term customer allegiance by offering unrivalled convenience. Amazon could deliver groceries not just to your door, but directly into your kitchen. 

Europe hasn’t ignored the potential. At the end of May, a British startup called Klevio launched a smart intercom system that lets home-owners and guests unlock multiple doors with their phones. CEO Aleš Špetič told me last week Klevio's product differs in a few ways from Amazon's system. Klevio uses an electric strike locking system — that’s what you’ll have used when buzzing someone into your apartment building from upstairs — which means it can be easily retrofitted to almost any door, unlike similar systems that require the entire mechanism be replaced.

“We can connect to the existing wiring of a communal door downstairs, and put an electric strike on the frame of the apartment door too,” Špetič said. “All of a sudden, you can control both doors with your phone.”

You’d be forgiven for thinking Klevio and Amazon aren’t doing anything completely original, as companies such as Yale have sold smart locks for years.

But 2018’s smart-home technologies exist in a different world to what came before. Many are interactive: With Amazon Key, you can install a camera to physically see a driver, talk to them, and even bellow expletives if they let the cat out by mistake. And then there’s the ecosystem argument: Many modern smart-home technologies integrate with Amazon’s Echo, others with Apple’s HomeKit, and more still with Samsung’s SmartThings. This magnifies the usefulness of home-automation. 

So far, I haven't taken the plunge and installed a smart door lock. Maybe I’m just being old-fashioned, refusing to believe my home can be made more secure by letting strangers unlock my doors. Clearly that’s the future, though. In fact, by 2025 I fully expect I’ll be able to come home to find Amazon has delivered me a meal, and had it cooked and dished up.

And by 2026, I also expect that for just $10 more I can book someone to eat with me. No more lonely nights writing newsletters with one hand and eating store-bought lasagna with the other.

And here’s what you need to know in global technology news

Apple WWDC roundup: new privacy controls, the Mac-iOS coalescence and virtual reality

The end of an era. You may not have heard of Morris Chang, who retired today. He founded TSMC, the contract chipmaker, without which iPhones, Nvidia video cards and other gadgets would be more difficult to produce.

Qualcomm is still trying to break into PCs, with a new chip to bring some mobile features to always-on, always-connected laptops. In other news, Toshiba is selling off its PC business.

Oh no. The scooters are gone

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.