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High five for Amazon, as retailer expands palm-recognition tech

Image credit: Sharon McCutcheon | Unsplash

Amazon has introduced palm-recognition technology to two Seattle stores and is hoping to encourage broader use in non-Amazon locations, such as sports stadia and offices.

Customers at the pair of Amazon stores near the retailer's HQ campus in Washington state, US, can show their palm for entry to the shop and again to buy goods, as part of the 'Amazon One' trial. "Just hover to enter, identify and pay", is the simple online description Amazon offers for its palm shopping experience.

Writing on his company blog, Dilip Kumar, vice-president of physical retail and technology at Amazon, said the company chose palm recognition because it is more private than other biometric technology, plus a user is required to purposefully flash their palm at the Amazon One device to engage. This is designed to be a deterrent against fraudsters.

“And it’s contactless, which we think customers will appreciate, especially in current times,” Mr Kumar added in his post.

The company expects to roll out Amazon One - which it describes as "the fast, convenient, contactless identity service that uses your palm" - as an option in other Amazon stores in the coming months, which could mean Whole Foods Market grocery shops in the US.

Amazon believes the palm-reading technology could be applicable in a number of additional scenarios.

“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,” Kumar wrote.

“For entering a location like a stadium or badging into work, Amazon One could be part of an existing entry point to make accessing the location quicker and easier.”

People can sign up for an Amazon One account with a mobile phone number and credit card. An Amazon account - Prime or otherwise - is not necessary.

Amazon continues to expand its retail horizons into every area possible. Last month, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) gave its approval to Amazon’s 16 per cent minority investment in UK-based online food delivery start-up Deliveroo. Amazon had previously attempted to enter the UK online food delivery market with its Amazon Restaurants service (which subsequently exited the UK market in 2019).

Amazon is also preparing to enter the health-wearable business with the launch of its Halo subscription service and a fitness band that will listen to a person’s voice in order to analyse their emotions.

In July, Amazon was granted FCC approval for its $10bn (£7.6bn) plan - dubbed ‘Project Kuiper’ - to launch a constellation of 3,236 satellites that will be used to provide high-speed broadband connectivity to underserved communities.

However, not everything is going Amazon's way. The German Federal Cartel Office is investigating Amazon over allegations that it may have abused its market dominance in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic by blocking sellers from inflating prices of in-demand goods. The investigation is mostly focused on Amazon’s relationship with third-party sellers on its marketplace.

In a broader sense, the data collection and retention practices of gigantic online companies such as Amazon are also under the spotlight. The UK government, for example, was urged in a report recently from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) to reconsider how data is stored and accessed to prevent the dominance of big tech companies in the future.

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