Amid a pandemic when customers often wear plastic gloves in stores next to their face masks, Amazon’s physical sales team is introduces a new biometric device that will allow customers to pay at Amazon Go stores with the palm of your hand. The company on Tuesday unveiled its alleged “contactless” Amazon One, a type of scanner where you first insert your credit card, then swipe the device over the device to associate your palm signature with your payment mechanism. Once your card is archived, you can access the store in the future just by holding your palm over your Amazon One device for a second or more.
While you are not really supposed to rest the palm of your hand on the device itself, it’s a new technology that will require user training – and that could be a problem, at least in the short term.
Today, consumers know the idea of pressing a finger to unlock an iPhone with TouchID, for example, or using a fingerprint to open a secure lock. It’s likely that many assume that you’ll also need to dip your palm on the flat surface of Amazon One.
At any other time, it would not be a concern. But since the device is being introduced in the U.S. which is still facing the COVID-19 health crisis, now may not be the best time to put another potential point of contact at the entrance of a store.
Amazon, of course, points out that the device is “contactless” which is something customers will appreciate. But unless the store staff isn’t at the entrance drying the device regularly, it will probably touch a lot when customers get up to speed on how exactly the thing works. Eventually, Amazon One may achieve the goal of being “contactless”. But in the meantime, the device should be trained, rooted and shown to all who walk by.
Amazon says the new device uses real-time computer vision technology to create unique palm signatures – a choice made by the company because it believes palm recognition is more private than any other means of biometric authentication. That way, you can’t determine someone’s identity just by looking at the image of their palm, Amazon says. It may be true, but since the palm signature is associated with a payment card, it is more important that the data be protected rather than how much the palm image is recognized.
Amazon also says that images are encrypted and sent to a secure area in the cloud where customers ’palm signs are created.
The device doesn’t need to have an Amazon account to log into the store – just a palm and a phone number – but customers can associate their account to view their usage history on the Amazon site. They can also add a second palm print, if they choose.
The Amazon One is being tested in two Seattle stores, including the original Amazon Go store at 7th & Blanchard and the store on South Lake Union at 300 Boren Ave. North. However, it will not replace other ways to get into magazines. Customers can always log in using the Amazon Go app, the Amazon app, or with associated assistance if they want to pay in cash.
The Amazon One shouldn’t be used just for entry into retail stores, the company notes. It is expected that the device will be used by third parties including stadiums and office buildings, as well as other retailers other than Amazon.
Amazon says discussions are ongoing with some stakeholders, but has nothing to announce at this time. It’s unclear to what extent a third-party vendor would trust Amazon to host its customer transaction data, however, data Amazon’s history in the use of third-party data in an anti-competitive manner.