Amazon now lets you pay with the palm in their stores


Amazon accounts for nearly 40 percent of e-commerce sales in the United States today, and it needs a cut of even more online shopping by selling payment services and other technologies to external shopping sites. Now, the online shopping giant is doing a play to take a piece of brick-and-mortar shopping, too – and wants customers to literally lend a hand to do it.

Amazon on Tuesday introduced a new biometric technology called Amazon One that allows customers to pay at stores by placing their palm on a scanning device when they walk in the door or when they leave. The first time they register to use this technology, a customer will scan their palm and insert their payment card into a terminal; after that, they can only pay with their hand. Manual scanning technology isn’t just for Amazon businesses – the company hopes to sell it to other retailers, including competitors.

The technology will be available at the company’s two entrances Amazon Go convention stores without cash in Seattle starting Tuesday, and reaching the rest of the chain’s more than 20 stores in the future, Amazon vice president Dilip Kumar told Recode in an interview Monday. Recode reported in December that Amazon had filed a patent application for such a manual payment technology.

The technology could also feature in Whole Foods stores, with Amazon hinting in a press release that it will introduce palm payments in the coming months in its other stores beyond just the Amazon Go locations. Kumar would not comment on a potential implementation of Whole Foods, though The New York Post reported a year ago that such a plan was in place.

But the Amazon executive has made it clear that the company expects to sell the technology to other retailers, as he started doing earlier this year with his “Just Walk Out” technology, which is the cocktail of cameras, sensors and computer vision software that powers Amazon Go stores. Kumar said the pitch of Amazon One for other retailers is right: Reduce the friction for your customers at checkout by shortening the lines and increasing the number of buyers you can serve along the way.

Amazon’s plan to license these two home technologies to other retailers, both competitors and non-competitors, is the real story: Amazon is not satisfied with the dominance of e-commerce, and wants to earn a share of more transactions in the physical world. retail, where 80 percent of the business is still done in the United States. So he built a futuristic suite of services to judge other retailers, while showcasing the technology in their own businesses as case studies.

An obvious question is whether retailers, many of whom consider Amazon a competitor of one kind or another, want to do business with the tech giant. Kumar pointed to Amazon Web Services, the $ 40 billion division of the company that leases computing power, data storage and a myriad of software capabilities to large and small internet companies, as an example. of Amazon offerings that attract competitors.

Amazon will collect data on where Amazon One customers buy when they use the payment option, but will not know what buyers are buying or how much they are spending in third-party retail stores. Either way, an Amazon spokesman said the company “has no plans to use transaction information from third-party sites for Amazon advertising or other purposes,” and buyers can sign up for the service without link it to an Amazon customer account if they choose.

Another obvious question is whether enough people will be willing to send scans of their hands to Amazon to save some time at the checkout. It is true that a touchless payment method may be more attractive today, during the pandemic, than even a year ago. But new payment methods often face steep adoption challenges, and that’s even when biometrics isn’t involved. Biometric tracking poses a multitude of privacy issues, including the potential for targeted hacking or a mass data breach.

Kumar, Amazon’s executive, said that the more places where Amazon can introduce the technology, the more valuable customers will find it and be willing to try it. That’s why the company plans to launch other use cases beyond payments, and Kumar said Amazon is discussing with potential partners the idea of ​​linking palm scans with build ID to replace business cards. office identities, or to event tickets for stadiums or arenas – two settings that don’t sound particularly appealing during the global health crisis, but may come back in the future when gathering in a crowd doesn’t pose serious risks to Cheers.

The executive added that Amazon chose palm scans over other biometric options for some reason. One, he said, is that it is not easy for a bad actor to identify a person simply by visualizing an image of his hand, if that material has ever been leaked. Another is the uniqueness of each person’s hand. “Even identical twins have many differences in their palm structure,” he said. A spokesman added that the images are encrypted when scanned, and then “sent to a highly secure area that we have built custom in the cloud for analysis and archiving.”

For some, the advantage won’t even be worth it. “How lazy are people who pass on their fingerprints so they don’t have to cut their wallets?” my wife asked him when I mentioned the new technology in an embarrassing discussion over dinner. But Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint scanning technology and its visual ID scanning technology also seemed a little crazy at first – until they weren’t.

And if enough customers trust Amazon with the deal, physical retailers will face an interesting dilemma: chase the future by aligning with the most powerful retail technology company, or stick to the present and hope your customers don’t. they do not go.

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