Amazon announced yesterday that it will make its Amazon One palm recognition technology available to shoppers in every one of its US Whole Foods stores by the end of the year. The tech links people's palm prints to their credit cards.
According to the announcement, " By the end of this year, all 500+ Whole Foods Market locations in the U.S. will offer Amazon One for payment and Prime membership benefits. This means Whole Foods Market customers who choose to use Amazon One will no longer need their wallet or even a phone to pay - they can simply hover their palm over an Amazon One device. For Prime members who link their Amazon One profile with their Amazon account, savings will automatically be applied." Amazon One tech currently is available in about 200 Whole Foods stores in the US.
Amazon says that "in addition to Amazon One’s availability at stores like Amazon Fresh stores and Whole Foods Market locations, third-party businesses are increasingly offering Amazon One as an identification and payment option for their customers—and some of them are also using Amazon One in new ways." Those businesses include Panera Bread and a number of airport/travel stores and sports venues.
Business Insider notes that "The palm-scanning technology has received criticism from privacy advocates. They say that Amazon is collecting biometric data that could be misused. Amazon says that customers have to opt-in to using One, and the data from those who do is 'securely collected'."
Engadget writes that "The palm recognition system is billed as an advantage over tap-to-pay and other contactless systems that still require some kind of physical item, including Amazon's computer vision-based Just Walk Out tech.It's also potentially helpful for businesses. It makes sure that alcohol buyers are of legal age, and the deeper nature of the scans (which look at both the palm and veins) create a distinctive vector 'signature' that supposedly can't be copied.
"The approach has its critics, however. Activists have called on music venues and other locations to drop Amazon One over privacy and human rights concerns. While Amazon touts secure cloud storage for palm signatures as well as anti-tampering protections, opponents are concerned governments could use the data to track protesters and marginalized people. Objectors are also worried hackers could still take and abuse data."
And, from TechCrunch: "Amazon insists that customer information is secure in its own AWS Cloud, where it’s protected by multiple security controls. Plus, it notes it’s not actually using the palm image to identify the customer, but rather a palm 'signature.' That’s determined by looking at the palm and underlying vein pattern to create a unique, numerical, vector representation for identity matching.
"Of course, Amazon’s entry into biometric payments isn’t only about speeding up checkout lines for customers’ convenience. By combining biometrics with payment card information and Amazon accounts, the retailer has created a system that could track customers in both the online and offline world, then serve highly personalized ads and recommendations, which would boost its revenue."
Here's a video Amazon has released to show the process:
- KC's View:
There will be folks who won't want to use the Amazon One tech because of privacy concerns, but unless one is going to the store and only using cash, and not carrying any sort of electronic device, the odds are pretty good that if someone wants to track your movements, they can. And maybe will.
I figure that my movements aren't all that interesting, and for me, the reduction of friction seems to be an advantage that outweighs the potential negatives.
It is a smart move for Amazon, and I hope just the beginning of an ongoing effort of connecting Amazon's and Whole Foods' value propositions in a way that is relevant to customers of both.