Amazon Announces New Contactless Payment System Using Just Your Hand

The service is called Amazon One, and is being rolled out in Seattle's Amazon Go stores today

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Amazon has announced a new contact-free payment system which will let customers pay with just a wave of their palm.

The system is called Amazon One and is being tested in two of the company’s physical stores Amazon Go stores in Seattle. Both stores have no cashiers and use just an app and sensors to workout and take customers’ payments after grocery shopping. They are rolling out today and Amazon says it has been in conversation with other companies looking at rolling it out in other retail stores, too. 

According to Recode, the first customers register to use Amazon One, they will scan their palm and insert their payment card at a terminal; after that, they can simply pay with their hand. The technology essentially works by registering the image of a customer’s hand. 

“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,” the company said. In its pitch to other retail stores, Amazon said Amazon One would reduce “friction for customers at checkout, thereby shortening lines and increasing how many shoppers are served along the way,” reports Recode

If Amazon One rolls out in other stores, Amazon will be able to see which shops customers went to, but not what they bought. A spokesperson said that the company has “no plans to use transaction information from third-party locations for Amazon advertising or other purposes,” though. It’s also not necessary to link your Amazon One to an Amazon account. 

But why did Amazon choose palms?

Speaking to BBC News, Dr. Basel Halak of the Electronics and Computer Science School at the University of Southampton said: “Palm-based identification is based on capturing the vein patterns of the palm.

“These patterns are different for each finger and for each person, and as they are hidden underneath the skin’s surface, forgery is extremely difficult.”

An Amazon executive also told Recode that it wouldn’t be easy for a bad actor to identify someone just by a picture of their palm if the images ever did leak, which they shouldn’t since they are encrypted and sent to a “highly secure area we custom-built in the cloud for analysis and storage.”

In the future, Amazon says this technology could be used for employees scanning into work or for people entering massive stadiums. We have to admit, it is very pandemic friendly. But, it would require a certain level of data storage and it’s not entirely clear how Amazon would navigate that issue for future endeavors.