• Barcode Ireland Team

Amazon One palm scanner - the future in the palm of your hands.

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

The palm of a hand waving.

An alternative payment/identification method.

In an effort to further improve customer satisfaction in its physical stores, e-commerce giant Amazon is currently trialling it’s innovative Amazon One scanner in two of its Amazon Go stores in Seattle. These stores do not have traditional checkouts, but rather track the customers purchases in-store and deduct from their credit cards.

This contactless biometric technology allows customers to pay for goods with the wave of a hand. Hovering the palm of a hand over the device for a few seconds connects a “palm signature” with a credit card.

As with fingerprints, no two palms are alike. Using vision technology, unique palm identifiers both surface and subcutaneous, are evaluated, selected and comprise the signature. This method was chosen as palm scanning is:

  • more private than other biometric measures such as retinal and facial recognition, less observable and safer

  • Easier to incorporate a liveness test i.e. that you have a living person before you

  • requires an intentional gesture over the device to use

  • is contactless which is advantageous in current times (although perhaps not more so than contactless credit card payments)

An Amazon account is not required in order to sign up to Amazon One which is a mere matter of inserting a credit card into the machine and registering one or both palms.

Although Amazon is currently deploying this payment technology in only two of its physical stores, it intends to do so in all it’s stores, and is "in active discussions with several potential customers" about rolling it out to other retail shops in the future. "In most retail environments, Amazon One could become an alternate payment or loyalty card option with a device at the checkout counter next to a traditional point of sale system," it said.

Further, "We believe Amazon One has broad applicability beyond our retail stores”. For example, it could be employed to gain access at stadiums, smart homes, airports and offices, in other words, as a payment method and an identifier.

In a first outside of their stores, the retailer will be bringing Amazon One to the Red Rocks amphitheatre in Denver, Colorado, before becoming available at other venues. In order to bring the technology to Red Rocks, Amazon signed a deal with entertainment company AEG which sells tickets on AEG's ticketing site, AXS.

Bryan Perez, chief executive of AXS, said other venues plan to add the technology in the near future declining however to disclose where or how many.

A potential stumbling block to widespread adoption may be consumer privacy concerns. Amazon stores this sensitive biometric data in the cloud. However, on the Amazon One website they state, "We take data security very seriously and protect sensitive data, such as your palm signature and payment information, at rest and in-transit in accordance with Amazon's high security standards,"

"Your palm data and payment information are not stored on the device and multiple layers of security controls protect your data at all times, including, but not limited to, encryption, data isolation, and dedicated secure zones with restricted access controls.”

Amazon say that customers may cancel the account on it’s website and the data will be deleted. They have however confirmed that they retain some transcripts of voice interactions on their Alexa device - even subsequent to customer deletion.

Privacy advocates constantly warn of the dangers of unchangeable biometric data being hacked or made available to law enforcement.

As Evan Greer, deputy director of the privacy group, Fight for the Future succinctly put it, “If your credit card number leaks, you can get a new credit card. If a biometric scan of your palm leaks, you can’t get a new hand”

Another stumbling block to widespread adoption may be a practical one. It will require the installation of Amazon One at every checkout or point of entry and, as in the past, many retailers will be resistant.

Currently, the onus is on the customer to ensure their smartphone registers their facial or fingerprint biometrics - when an Amazon One scanner fails to read the palm signature, the checkout free Amazon Go stores will require human employee intervention.

The Amazon juggernaut may establish Amazon One as an alternative payment/identification method, but it’s widespread adoption may take some time due to consumer/retailer reticence.

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