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December 12, 2013

San Francisco Sees Debut of AmazonFresh Grocery Delivery

Back when the Web was first getting started, there were wild-eyed visions that this—more than flying cars or robots—this would be the thing that finally got us our fabulous “The Jetsons” lifestyles, with three hour work days and the ability to do just about everything from the house without ever having to leave the comforts of home. Well, we're still not there yet as a society, but are we ever getting close. Amazon has stepped up the idea with its grocery delivery service, AmazonFresh, recently launched in San Francisco.

Previously, AmazonFresh was available only in Seattle and Los Angeles, but now, the service is available in San Francisco's Bay Area. Those interested can shell out a hefty $299 a year, but those who do get access to a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat items, delivered the next day or even the same day. There's a subscription basis available, allowing customers to reorder certain staple goods when said staples are needed, while at the same time offering up a variety of seasonal treats—right now, checking out the website for the Seattle area shows a focus on the holidays, with Smuckers' baking and Scott paper products occupying point of place and gently admonishing users to prepare for the holidays. Prices may or may not be out of line, meanwhile, depending on where the user lives; if a pound of grapes for $3.50 sounds about right, then you're in an area where these prices match up well.

Amazon's competition in this area is slim in number but substantial in name recognition; while few may have heard of Instacart, which recently got going in Boston, reports suggest that Walmart is also involved in the grocery delivery line, and that's no small competition.

But Amazon may have one critical advantage in this concept in an idea that it's only been meaning to explore: the delivery drone. We've heard previously how Amazon wants to put delivery drones to work, airlifting small products to people's doors, or at least to designated landing zones nearby. But a bit of detail some may not have caught was that particular delivery vector works best with objects under five pounds in weight. Considering that things like produce and meat and similar groceries are often sold by the pound, it makes grocery delivery an excellent angle for aerial delivery. Naturally, it still requires a certain amount of engineering—refrigerated warehouse space and insulated bags for starters—but it's still the kind of thing that's at least somewhat possible. Prepared foods are another possibility here, but raw food is just as much possible.

Whether or not Amazon ties in its delivery drones with anything else, we may well be reaching point that, one day, we won't have to leave the house for most anything. That may not improve society as we know it, but it will certainly make it more convenient, and there's quite a bit to say for convenience.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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