At present, Visitors going to Amazon Go cashier-less stores need an app to get in. Soon, the tech giant may ask just to scan their hands instead. The US Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application from the company on Thursday to identify people not by their faces but by characteristics associated with the palms of their hands like wrinkles and veins.
The application does not guarantee that Amazon will apply such technology, but we can’t also ignore it entirely. The New York Post reported in September that the company was testing technology that would allow customers to scan their hand to pay instead of swiping a card. If Amazon develops such technologies, it will consider using it in its Amazon Go stores. If you look closely at the development team, many are working on Amazon Go, including Dilip Kumar who has been the head of technology for Amazon Go and vice president for the company’s physical retail initiatives.
This effort by Amazon is a glimpse of putting its tech-forward spin on changing how people shop. But that will also raise new security concerns and that will not look good for a company that is already facing increased scrutiny over privacy concerns related to its other products such as Alexa voice assistant and Ring home security gadgets.
The patent that was published shows “a scanner device [that] is used to obtain raw images of a user’s palm that is within a field of view of the scanner. … The first set of images depict external characteristics, such as lines and creases in the user’s palm while the second set of images depict internal anatomical structures, such as veins, bones, soft tissue, or other structures beneath the epidermis of the skin.”
The developers further describe the placement of scanners at entrances or exits of a given location and associating a scan with a person’s account so that “if the user picks an item from an inventory location and leaves the facility, their account may be billed for that item.”
Amazon has now over 24 Amazon Go locations in the US since it started with the first one on the ground floor of the company’s Seattle headquarters. It requires visitors to scan a special Amazon Go app before entering and the stores with the help of sensors and cameras allow shoppers to take food and beverages off the shelves and simply exit without stopping to pay. Their linked account is automatically billed after leaving.
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