Amazon has announced a new biometric payment scanner system that could in future be used in supermarket checkouts.

The idea is the ‘Amazon One’ scanner allows for someone to simply wave their hand over the device to make a payment. This is because the device has a registered image of the user’s palm, that has captured the vein patterns of the palm.

Amazon will launch the system at two cashierless Go stores in Seattle, but it hopes to introduce the technology in other Amazon stores and sell it to third parties like retailers, offices and stadiums.

Biometric scanner

Indeed, the system could be configured not just to authorise payments, but it could authorise entry into a building, office space or stadium for example.

Vein authentication has been around for a number of years now, and is considered by some experts as a more secure biometric system than fingerprints, which can be left behind on certain surfaces and lifted off and used maliciously.

Typically, vein authentication scanners use a person’s finger or hand vein pattern.

Vein patterns are said to be highly unique, with only a one in 34 billion chance that two people share the same vein pattern.

And Amazon seems to think the technology is worth exploring.

“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,” the firm explained in a blog post.

“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,” it said.

“Beyond Amazon Go, we expect to add Amazon One as an option in additional Amazon stores in the coming months,” it added. “And, we believe Amazon One has broad applicability beyond our retail stores, so we also plan 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.”

As mentioned above, scanners such as these that scan the palm or vein are not new technology, and there are commercial offerings already on the market.

However with the weight of Amazon behind it, the technology could potentially witness greater traction.

Security issue?

But there may be some privacy and security concerns to overcome first.

In December 2018 for example, security researchers Jan Krissler and Julian Albrecht demonstrated how they were able to bypass palm scanners made by both Hitachi and Fujitsu, with a fake hand made out of wax.

Essentially, the researchers were able to copy their target’s vein layout from a photograph taken with an SLR camera modified to remove its infrared filter.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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