Amazon has the world in the palm of its hand with its latest biometric device

Having won online retail, Amazon is increasingly looking to dominate the bricks and mortar world too, as the launch of a palm-reading device illustrates.

Amazon One is described as ‘a new innovation to make everyday activities effortless’. Leaving aside the toe-curling tautology, it does seems to have considerable potential. Palm readers are a similar concept to fingerprint readers, with the important difference that they can work from a distance of a few inches. This means they’re much more convenient to use, especially in these germophobic times.

“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,” blogged VP of Physical Retail & Technology at Amazon, Dilip Kumar. “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’s hard to argue against the first-world problems that would be solved by replacing the ticket or card with a mere wave of the hand, but every time Amazon finds a new way to make everyone’s life easier it does feel like you’re handing over another piece of your soul. Before this we had a vigilante doorbell and more recently an app that tells you what tone to speak in. Now Amazon wants to control the interface between the physical and electronic worlds.

While the first real-world implementations of Amazon One will be in its own human-free stores, the company plans to license it out along with its other retail technologies. Much of the US press, even some that rely on the Amazon founder for a living, seem to be having a bit of a flap about the privacy implications of this launch, without being able to put their finger precisely on why.

Amazon anticipated this and focused on privacy and security in the short FAQ section at the end of the blog. Palm scans aren’t stored locally, but instead in a special bit of the AWS cloud, so the device will need to be connected. We’re told you can request to delete data associated with Amazon One via the online portal, which is something.

Nonetheless people are bound to be nervous at the thought of a baddie getting hold of their palm scan somehow and using it to steal their identity or something. As smartphone fingerprint readers have shown, however, it doesn’t take long for attitudes to shift. Greater resistance may come from people not wanting to have yet another part of their lives controlled by a US tech giant.

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