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Next step for touch-free payments? Amazon launches palm scanner in two physical stores

The online shopping giant is introducing palm scanners in two of its Amazon Go stores in Seattle.

a person using a machine

Amazon One

Amazon has built a palm scanner, called ‘Amazon One’, to give customers another touch-free payment option in its physical stores. 

To sign up to use the scanner, customers must first put their credit card into the reader and then wave their palm over the scanner to associate their unique handprint with their credit card details. 

The palm prints are then sent to a secure area in the cloud, specifically built for the biometric endeavour, rather than being stored in the scanners themselves.  

In a blog post about the launch, the e-commerce giant said: “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.” 

And, while Amazon stresses that the palm scanner is contactless, as most of us our users to using our fingerprints to unlock our devices, it’s not guaranteed that customers won’t try and do the same with the palm reader.  

The online retailer also claimed: “Palm recognition is considered more private than some biometric alternatives because you can’t determine a person’s identity by looking at an image of their palm.” 

Other fintechs have attempted to implement palm scanning, with mixed success so far. 

For instance, doomed German payment processor Wirecard trialled a palm scanner in June 2019, after seeing a growing demand for biometric payments among its merchants.  

Dutch challenger bank bunq had, up until several weeks ago, the option for customers to scan their palms to gain access to their banking apps, but the security function often had trouble scanning female palms (myself included) owing to their fingerprints being too delicate. 

Despite the lack of palm scanners, fintechs are often at the forefront of the biometric security curve, with most having integrated at least one layer of biometric security in their apps.

Not quite palm scanning, but digital banking giants Monzo and Revolut, along with smaller fintechs such as Pago FX and EstateGuru use ID verification fintech Onfido to verify the identity of their customers, a step slowly being picked up by larger financial institutions. 

Amazon’s palm scanner will be introduced into two stores in Seattle, with plans to roll it out in other physical stores in the coming months. 

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