Amazon Sees Palm Readers in Your Retail Shopping Future

Illustration for article titled Amazon Sees Palm Readers in Your Retail Shopping Future
Image: Amazon

Move over Bill Gates, it’s time for Jeff Bezos to get a little more time in the spotlight of conspiracy theorists. On Tuesday, Amazon announced the rollout of its new Amazon One devices that use a customer’s palm for identification and payment at physical retail stores. The devices are already available for use in Seattle locations for Amazon Go stores, and the company wants to expand it to any retailer willing to partner with the enemy.

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According to an announcement by Dilip Kumar, vice president of Amazon’s physical retail business, the Amazon One device creates even less payment friction in the company’s cashier-less retail stores. Instead of being identified by an account on their mobile phones, customers can simply walk into the store, scan their palm, shop for products, and the purchases will be automatically charged to a credit card.

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Is this a precursor to the fabled mark of the beast that was prophesied in the Book of Revelations? It’s too early to say, but Bezos isn’t really likable enough to be the antichrist.

As for privacy concerns, Amazon said that users’ biometric information will never be stored on the device and an encrypted image is transmitted to the AWS cloud where it’s stored. It’s also possible to delete all biometric info from Amazon’s servers through an online portal or on an Amazon One device.

Kumar said that signing up takes less than a minute and users’ don’t have to have an Amazon account. A credit card, phone number, and a palm print are the only requirements.

Amazon claims it won’t store purchase information, but it will collect basic information on the locations that individual customers visit. Of course, that arrangement could change, and Amazon’s blanket privacy policy leaves plenty of wiggle room for it to attach more data collection to service in the future. A spokesperson for the company told Recode it has “no plans to use transaction information from third party locations for Amazon advertising or other purposes.”

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Amazon is emphatic that this is tech it wants to spread to third-party partners and payments aren’t the only function it has in mind. Entering a location like a stadium, badging into work, and loyalty cards are other use cases it cites for the immediate future.

When Recode asked Kumar about the potential of brick-and-mortar retailers balking at the notion of partnering with a company that’s trying to put them out of business, the exec pointed to the fact that plenty of Amazon’s competitors use its Amazon Web Services cloud computing offerings. Amazon managed to force its way into cloud computing so early and expand it so rapidly that few can compete with its tech and pricing. It apparently sees that kind of potential in frictionless point-of-sale systems.

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The test will come down to how much convenience and cost-cutting this can really provide for retailers. There’s not a huge upside for customers to scan their palm over using a mobile app or credit card.

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DISCUSSION

larsvargas
Lars Vargas was hoping 2020 would be quieter

I realize the genesis of this was likely pre-Covid, but I’d rather not have another public device that I have to touch.