In the midst of a pandemic, when customers often wear plastic gloves in stores along with their face masks, Amazon’s physical retail team is introducing a new biometric device that will allow shoppers to pay in Amazon Go stores using their palm. of the hand. The company on Tuesday introduced its supposedly “contactless” Amazon One, a type of scanner where you must first insert your credit card, then place your palm on the device to associate your palm signature with the payment mechanism. Once your card is on file, you will be able to enter the store in the future simply by holding your palm over the Amazon One device for about a second.
Even if in reality you are not hypothetical to press the palm on the device itself, is a new technology that will require user instruction and this could be a problem, at least in the short term.
Today, consumers are familiar with the idea of pressing a finger to unlock an iPhone with TouchID, for example, or using a fingerprint to open a security lock. Chances are, many will think you need to squeeze your palm onto the Amazon One̵
At any other time, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. But given that the device was introduced in the United States which is still facing the COVID-19 health crisis, now may not be the best time to put another potential point of contact at a store entrance.
Amazon, of course, points out that the device is “contactless,” which customers will appreciate. But unless the store staff are at the entrance cleaning the device regularly, they will likely be touched a lot as customers learn how exactly it works. Eventually, Amazon One may achieve its goal of being “contactless”. But in the meantime, the device would have to be staffed, wiped and demonstrated to all who enter.
Amazon says the new device uses real-time machine vision technology to create the palm’s unique signature, a choice the company made because it believes palm recognition is more private than other biometric authentication means. That is, you can’t determine someone’s identity simply by looking at the image of their palm, says Amazon. That may be true, but since the palm signature is associated with a payment card, it is more important that the data is protected than how recognizable the palm image is.
Amazon also claims that the images are encrypted and sent to a secure area in the cloud where customer palm signatures are created. No specific details about this process are currently provided. Amazon’s historical use of biometric products has also been controversial, however, having sold biometric facial recognition services to law enforcement in the United States, its facial recognition technology is also the subject of a data privacy lawsuit. It turned out that his Ring camera company worked in partnership with the police, raising civil rights complaints. And recently, it launched indoor drones for home security, a potential new threat to homeowners’ privacy.
There is room, therefore, to question Amazon’s plans to create a customer database database of biometric data.
Amazon says its new device doesn’t require you to have an Amazon.com account to enter the store – just a palm and a phone number – but customers can pair their account to see usage history on Amazon’s website. They can also add a second palm print if they wish.
Amazon One is being tested in two Seattle area stores, including the original Amazon Go store at 7th & Blanchard and the South Lake Union store at 300 Boren Ave. North. However, it will not replace the other ways to enter stores. Customers can still sign in using the Amazon Go app, Amazon app, or associated support if they want to pay in cash.
Amazon One is not to be used just for entry to retail stores, the company notes. Imagine the device being used by third parties, including stadiums and office buildings, as well as other non-Amazon resellers.
Amazon says discussions are underway with some interested parties, but has nothing to announce at the moment. It’s unclear to what extent a third-party retailer would trust Amazon for hosting customer transaction data, however, given Amazon’s history of using third-party data in an anti-competitive manner.