The Wall Street Journal unearthed a recently filed Amazon patent for "anticipatory shipping," a setup where the products you buy start travelling to your nearest shipping hub before you've clicked the purchase button. Welcome to the future, folks.
According to the document filed in December, Amazon would consider things like previous orders and searches, wish lists, and the time your cursor spends hovering over a listing to determine what to pre-ship where. Partial addresses might be filled out to ship an item to a regional hub, so that it's closer to the final buyer once he or she completes the purchase. The patent even says that packages without a recipient name might be speculatively shipped directly to multi-family residences (like apartment buildings) based on the predictive model.
Right now, this concept only exists in patent paperwork, and that might be as far as it ever gets. Nothing's forcing Amazon to actually make good on the promise, though if it can work it's a pretty brilliant idea.
What if the setup gives you something you don't want? Amazon says it might sell it to you at a discount, or give it to you as a free gift. The patent calls this "a promotional gift ... to build goodwill." We call it creepy ... but kind of awesome. [WSJ]