Amazon’s paying by palm to transform business transactions

palm payments

Amazon wants its Amazon One palm scanner to be the new way to pay for goods.

With cash transactions replaced by credit cards, replaced by debit cards, replaced by smartphones and replaced by smart watches, will Amazon’s palm scanner, called Amazon One, be the next ‘big thing’?

Amazon is trialling Amazon One in its two Amazon Go supermarkets in Seattle in the US. To use the Amazon One scanner, you have to insert your credit card, then put your palm over the device to associate your palm signature with your payment mechanism. Once your card is on file, you’ll be able to enter the store in the future just by holding your palm above the Amazon One device for a second or so.

Amazon said the palm scanner device uses computer vision technology in real time to create the unique palm signature. Amazon, whose CEO is the world’s richest man Jeff Bezos, added it believes palm recognition is more private than other means of biometric authentication – you can’t determine someone’s identity just by looking at the image of their palm, Amazon says. Palm images are encrypted and sent to a secure area in the cloud, where customers’ palm signatures are created.

Amazon added that it hopes to sell the Amazon One technology to other vendors and is in “active discussions” with “several potential customers”.

A spokeswoman for Amazon told The Telegraph it would not use shopping data collected by scanners in other companies’ buildings “for anything other than supporting those third parties”.

“Amazon One is a fast, convenient, contactless way for people to use their palm to make everyday activities like paying at a store, presenting a loyalty card, entering a location like a stadium, or badging into work more effortless,” Amazon said.

“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.

“We believe Amazon One has broad applicability beyond our retail stores, so we also plan to offer the service to third parties … so that more people can benefit from this ease and convenience in more places.”

palm payment
The Amazon One palm reader that is linked to your method of payment. Photo: Amazon

Amazon said little about what would happen to customers’ palm data, except that it would be protected from hackers by being encrypted and analysed remotely inside Amazon’s own cloud computing service.

Sanchit Jain, a retail market expert at Enders Analysis, told The Telegraph the technology could give Amazon a dominant position if today’s digital payments system was replaced by “frictionless” biometric payments, which would allow shoppers to breeze in and out with what they need without stopping.

“It does look gimmicky on the surface, but this could be Amazon remaining one step ahead of the competition. No one has managed to nail palm scanning so far, so Amazon, if it can do so successfully, is first in a very short line,” said Jain.

“If palm payments are feasible, this is a huge step toward that increasingly contactless reality – and Amazon will be the number one partner for businesses. Potential applications of the tech are limitless.”

He added Amazon’s decision to allow people to sign up with their payment card, without having an Amazon account, suggests the company is focused on selling the technology to others.

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