Google Introduces BufferBox Secure Delivery Pilot in San Francisco

Google is expanding the pilot of its BufferBox kiosk delivery service to San Francisco. The services are already available in Toronto.

Google is now launching its secure BufferBox kiosk delivery services in San Francisco as a pilot project through its BufferBox division, which Google purchased in December 2012 as a way to offer locked, secure package deliveries to customers.

The San Francisco BufferBox deployment was announced by Mike McCauley, the product manager and former CEO of BufferBox, in a Sept. 30 post on the Google Commerce Blog.

"We've all been there—coming home after work only to find a failed delivery notice at the door," wrote McCauley. "What if you could never miss a delivery again? Today, we are expanding our pilot of the BufferBox service to San Francisco."

BufferBox services are already available in Toronto, where the company was based before Google acquired it.

"With BufferBox, you can order from your favorite online retailers and have items delivered to a convenient BufferBox kiosk in your local coffee shop, supermarket or retail store," wrote McCauley. "You'll receive an instant email notification when your parcel is ready for pickup. You can even use BufferBox with our recently expanded Google Shopping Express service—simply enter your BufferBox Address as your shipping address when checking out and select the 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. delivery window to collect your items later that same evening."

So far, for the pilot project, BufferBox kiosks are available in many partner locations around San Francisco, including Dogpatch Cafe, Coffee Bar, Noe Hill Market and 7-Eleven, wrote McCauley. San Francisco residents can sign up to start using the service for free during the pilot. "It's early days, but we look forward to integrating the service further, expanding to more locations, and sharing more news with you soon," he wrote.

When it bought BufferBox last year, it was just in the midst of the first rollouts of its package lockboxes to its first 100 locations in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. So it has taken some time for Google to deploy new BufferBox services in a second city.

The price tag for the buyout was not disclosed, but reported that Google paid $17 million for the almost 2-year-old company.

Amazon has a similar Amazon Lockers service as part of its online commerce platform, where consumers in a growing number of locations can have their Amazon purchases shipped to a secure Amazon Locker, where they can pick it up when it is convenient.

A Google spokesman said at the time that the acquisition was aimed at helping its customers. "We want to remove as much friction as possible from the shopping experience, while helping consumers save time and money, and we think the BufferBox team has a lot of great ideas around how to do that," the spokesman told eWEEK.

The BufferBox concept included eventually charging users $3 to $4 per package in the future for accepting the parcels, which are placed in a secure locker by delivery carriers. When a package arrives at one of the lockers, the customer receives an email and then can pick it up at the self-service kiosk using a one-time code.

The Google BufferBox acquisition followed the November 2012 news that Amazon, the big gorilla in the consumer Internet retail sales marketplace, was expanding its fledgling Amazon Lockers program inside Staples stores around the United States.