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Amazon introduces contactless payments with Amazon One

The company says it’s got the security angle well in hand

Photo (c) RiverNorthPhotography - Getty Images
With the wave of its hand, Amazon is raising the bar on contactless payments. On Tuesday, the online retailer announced Amazon One, a service add-on for events, gyms, office buildings, etc. that allows people to simply hold their hand over a scanner for a couple of seconds and gain admission or pay for items. 

At present, the technology is available only at two Amazon Go stores, but the world can expect a more robust rollout if the pilot phase proves to be successful.

Working backwards

You might think that Amazon One came out of surface contact health safety issues related to COVID-19, but the idea’s genesis is the time drag that it takes consumers to slide a credit card in, approve a purchase, enter in PIN numbers, and the like.

“As with everything Amazon does, we started with the customer experience and worked backwards. We solved for things that are durable and have stood the test of time but often cause friction or wasted time for customers,” wrote Amazon’s Vice President of Amazon Physical Retail, Dilip Kumar in a blog post. 

“We wondered whether we could help improve experiences like paying at checkout, presenting a loyalty card, entering a location like a stadium, or even badging into work. So, we built Amazon One to offer just that—a quick, reliable, and secure way for people to identify themselves or authorize a transaction while moving seamlessly through their day.”

How it works

Interested consumers have the option to enroll at stores and venues using Amazon One; all it takes is scanning one palm or both. Simple as that. For customers to actually use the service, Kumar says that the technology requires an “intentional gesture” -- one where a person holds their hand over the device with the palm of the hand working as a biometric identifier. 

Privacy advocates will be watching Amazon like a hawk given the earlier concerns its foray into facial-recognition software raised with shareholders, employees, and the ACLU, but the company is ready to face the fire.

Kumar says that the palm images will be encrypted on a “highly secure area in the cloud” and not on a scanner at the location. To add a little more security, anyone can delete their personal Amazon One-related data any time at Interested consumers can also sign up for the service at that same website.

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