Amazon One: Palm scanner launched for 'secure' payments

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Amazon announced a new real-world store payment system that uses a simple wave of the hand.

The new Amazon One scanner registers an image of the user’s palm and lets them pay by hovering their hand in the air for “about a second”.

The product will be tested in two physical Amazon stores in Seattle.

However, the company said it was “in active discussions with several potential customers” to roll it out in other stores in the future.

“In most retail environments, Amazon One could become an alternative payment or loyalty card option with a device at the checkout in addition to a traditional point-of-sale system,” it said.

Amazon also said the system could be used to “enter a place like a stadium” or scan yourself into work instead of using an ID card.

“We believe Amazon One has broad applicability beyond our retail stores,” it added.

Under the skin

Palm scanners are not a brand new technology, and there are already some commercially available solutions.

“Palm-based identification is based on sensing the palm vein patterns,” explains Dr. Basel Halak from the Department of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton.

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“These patterns are different for each finger and for each person. Because they are hidden under the surface of the skin, counterfeiting is extremely difficult.”

Dr. Halak said the level of security is roughly similar to a fingerprint scan, but can be used at a distance of a few centimeters, which makes it much more convenient.

Media signatureMarc Cieslak of Click tries a device that scans a user’s palm to authorize financial transactions.

“Compared to other identifiers such as physical devices, this form of biometric authentication relies on physical properties that remain constant throughout life and are more difficult to forge, alter or steal,” he said.

Amazon hasn’t detailed exactly how its version of the technology will work, other than using “bespoke algorithms and hardware” and scanning “various functions on and under the surface” of the hand.

However, one of the reasons for palm detection is that it is more “private” than some other options.

“You can’t determine a person’s identity by looking at a picture of the palm of their hand,” it said, possibly indicative of the face recognition controversy.

The company stopped using its facial recognition software for police recognition after civil rights activists raised concerns about possible racial prejudice.

Amazon said other reasons for the choice were the “deliberate gesture” of holding a palm over a sensor and the non-contact nature, “which we believe customers are particularly appreciative of today.”

The data protection group Big Brother Watch criticized the development.

“Amazon continues to fill the market with invasive, dystopian technologies that solve non-existent problems,” said its director Silkie Carlo.

“Nobody should have to provide biometric information to buy goods or services. Amazon’s attempt to normalize biometric payment and home surveillance devices risks building a world where we can be more easily tracked and recorded, which citizens inevitably do will be disempowered. “

Early adopters can only try out the first version of the technology in two Amazon Go shops – the company’s experiment with a real supermarket that has no checkouts, but tracks the buyer and his pick-up.

No Amazon account is required. To register, a customer can simply insert their bank card and follow the on-screen instructions to link their handprint to that payment option, Amazon said.

The company promises that the print will not be stored on-site, but encrypted and stored securely in the cloud. Customers could also delete their data through the website.

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