Amazon One will let you pay for purchases with nothing but a palm scan

The new payment system from Amazon is contactless, doesn't require an Amazon account, and will be available at two Amazon Go stores in Seattle starting today.

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Image: Amazon

Amazon has announced a new contactless biometric security system that can verify identities and process payments at the wave of a hand.

Called Amazon One, the new system is designed to be "a fast, convenient, contactless way for people to use their palm to make everyday activities like paying at a store, presenting a loyalty card, entering a location like a stadium, or badging into work more effortless," Amazon's vice president of physical retail and technology, Dilip Kumar, said in a blog post announcing Amazon One.

"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," Kumar said.

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Amazon One uses a hardware device that takes advantage of Amazon's computer vision technology to evaluate multiple aspects of an individual's palm. "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," Kumar said.

Kumar 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. 

As Kumar stated, Amazon One is designed to be quick and easy to use, and in keeping with such the requirements for getting started with Amazon One are also simple. Enrollment in Amazon One is done 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.

Amazon One users don't need an Amazon account, either—just a mobile phone and a credit card. Linking Amazon One data to an Amazon account does allow users to manage information, remove biometric data, and see usage history when logged in to their Amazon account. Deleting biometric data does not require an Amazon account, though: That can be done right from the One kiosk.

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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.

If you're eager to try out Amazon One you'll need to be in Seattle for now: One scanners are available today in two Seattle Amazon Go stores, at 7th and Blanchard and the South Lake Union store, and are currently being used only for entering the store. 

Kumar said Amazon plans "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," and he encouraged interested third parties to reach out to Amazon to get involved. 

As for where Amazon One will be in the future, Kumar isn't giving out any details. "We're excited to see Amazon One in more retail environments and are in active discussions with several potential customers, but beyond that, we'll have to ask you to stay tuned," he said.

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