Amazon is planning to roll out new biometric scanners which will use hand scans as a means of identifying customers at Whole Foods supermarkets. The company is currently testing the system in its own offices, giving employees the opportunity to make purchases from vending machines with their hands.
Code-named Orville, the system can process transactions in just 300 milliseconds rather than the three or four seconds card payments take, reports the New York Post (opens in new tab).
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The payment system will be made available to Amazon Prime subscribers who will be able to link a payment card to a scan of their hand so they can benefit from fast check-out in stores.
Amazon's hand scanning system differs from traditional fingerprint readers in an important way. Much like iris scanners, there is no need to physically touch the scanner. Instead, sensors use depth geometry and imagery to identify hands with impressive speed and accuracy.
The New York Post's anonymous sources say that the system is currently accurate to within one ten-thousandth of a percent, but Amazon is said to be looking to improve this to one millionth of a percent.
Faster, but at what cost?
The move away from requiring payment cards – or even a phone – would certainly make payment quicker and easier for customers. What's not clear, however, is how the system will be received.
With any biometric system there are privacy and security concerns, and this appears to be something Amazon has considered in opting for hand recognition rather than facial recognition.
It remains to be seen whether Whole Foods customers are ready to embrace hand-based payments, but we'll find out as the system is due to roll out to a small number of stores by the start of 2020, before spreading to all US branches of the supermarket.
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