Palm recognition could be the next form of contactless payment

Posted by Michelle Lewis on October 4, 2020

First we swiped our cards, then our phone or watch, and next we might just show our hand to pay or identify ourselves.

 

A new palm signature technology has been unveiled by Amazon, who last week launched a trial in two of its Seattle retail stores.

 

Hands Up, an objective biometric

Known as Amazon One, the technology uses the unique identifying ridges and lines on a person's palm to match to a stored identity and credit card. 

"No two palms are alike, so we analyze all these aspects with our vision technology and select the most distinct identifiers on your palm to create your palm signature."

Dilip Kumar, VP Physical Retail and Technology, Amazon.

Whereas facial recognition has many detractors who point to the potential for racial profiling and privacy concerns, a palm print is not characterised by racial identifiers and extending a hand over a reader is a gesture of choice. 

 

amazon-one.jpg

Source: Amazon

 

Dilp Kumar, Amazon VP, said that Amazon picked palm recognition for One because it's "more private than some biometric alternatives because you can't determine a person's identity by looking at an image of their palm."

Along with protecting personal identities, Kumar said that using the palm requires an intentional gesture, giving the customer more control over how and when to use it. 

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For payment, entry, identification

The new contactless biometric technology, will initially be used for payment at check out, but has many other use cases. 

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

"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. Or, 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,"”

Dilip Kumar, VP Physical Retail and Technology, Amazon.

No Amazon account needed

At first, the palm signature will be used in Amazon’s two Go stores in Seattle, and the company also plans to add Amazon One to other Amazon stores in the coming months

The technology uses image scanning hardware that includes proprietary computer vision algorithms to capture and encrypt a palm image. No  an Amazon account to use the service, just a phone number and a credit card. Amazon One users will also be able to delete their biometric data from the company’s online portal if they no longer want to use the service.

Amazon-One-palm-reader

How does it work?

Enrollment in Amazon One is completed by inserting a credit card into the One reader and holding a palm over the sensor, at which point the user's palm print (one or both can be scanned) will be linked to that card. Once enrolled in Amazon One, all it takes to activate the sensor to verify your identity or pay for a purchase is to hold your palm over the sensor for "about a second or so," Kumar said.

In terms of security, Kumar said Amazon treats sensitive data, like palm prints, "in accordance with long-standing policies." Palm images aren't stored on Amazon One devices, 'the images are encrypted and sent to a highly secure area we custom-built in the cloud where we create your palm signature," Kumar said.

Amazon has been working on this service for years, having applied to patent palm recognition technology at the end of 2019.

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