Topline

New technology announced Tuesday by Amazon that allows the palm of a user’s hand to double as a credit card or company ID could find its way into use in office buildings and sports stadiums, according to the e-commerce giant, which said it chose the palm technology because it’s “more private” than other biometric markers as consumers continue to have concerns over data privacy and big tech.

Key Facts

The technology, called Amazon One, uses custom-built algorithms and hardware to create a person’s unique “palm signature,” allowing for everything from making credit card or loyalty card purchases to entering a location like a stadium, or badging into work securely, the company said in a blog post.

Amazon, which is increasingly looking to evolve from e-commerce to bricks and mortar, will begin using the new technology in two of its Amazon Go stores in Seattle, where Amazon One will be added to the store’s entry gate.

Now, consumers who shop at Amazon Go open a dedicated app and hold their phones near a gate that contains a scanner.

To collect payment, those locations use what Amazon calls “just walk out” shopping which automatically charges items to a customer’s Amazon account.

Amazon clearly is hoping to license the palm-reading technology to other users and said in the blog post that it is “in active discussions with several potential customers.”

Crucial Quote

“We believe Amazon One has broad applicability beyond our retail stores, so we also plan to offer the service to third parties like retailers, stadiums, and office buildings so that more people can benefit from this ease and convenience in more places,” said Dilip Kumar, vice president of physical retail and technology at Amazon.

Key Background

Retailers and financial transaction services have long eyed using biometric technology to speed contactless payment but have yet to get past consumer concerns about data privacy and a general unease with having facial images out in cyberspace waiting for a hack attack. In April 2019, Alibaba’s financial services arm, Ant Financial said it would spend $448 million to promote its point-of-sale payment device “Dragonfly” that would allow Alipay users to pay using only their faces, according to Technode. Biometric Update reported last week that facial recognition payments have not yet become popular in China due to problems with cumbersome enrollment and concerns about the security and privacy of the data and images involved. A 2019 survey by Wharton found that nearly half of Americans are concerned about the privacy risks associated with biometric authentication, according to ID Agent, which tracks cybersecurity issues. Amazon said its new technology is protected by multiple security controls. Palm images are not stored on the Amazon One device but are encrypted and sent to a “highly secure area we custom-built in the cloud where we create your palm signature.” The company said it chose palm recognition in part because it is considered more private than some biometric alternatives because you can’t determine a person’s identity by looking at an image of their palm.

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