Whole Foods wants a hand from shoppers at checkout
If Amazon implements its latest high-tech checkout innovation at Whole Foods, customers won’t need to pull out a credit card — a wave of the hand will do the trick. The solution uses hand-based identification to facilitate payment.
The hand-based payment technology is quietly being piloted at Amazon’s New York offices, according to an article in the New York Post. To pay with the technology, a user places a hand in front of a reader and, if recognized, the system charges a corresponding credit card. Unlike fingerprint recognition hardware, the new technology does not require a user to press skin against the reader for it to be recognized, but instead uses computer vision and “depth geometry” to read the unique characteristics of the hand.
The main draw is speed, with the hand scanner reputedly able to complete a transaction in a few hundred milliseconds vs. credit card transaction’s three to four seconds. Amazon plans to begin piloting the solution in a handful of Whole Foods stores at the beginning of next year and foresees an eventual rollout to all store locations.
The technology could speed the checkout process while offering some advantages over similar controversial technology trending abroad.
In China, “Pay By Smile” has been growing in popularity as big tech vendors like Alipay and Tencent have begun rolling out their own solutions, according to The Guardian. Using facial recognition to pay, however, raises concerns about privacy, state surveillance and data security that does not sit well in North America. In the U.S. and Canada, retailers that have piloted the use of facial recognition for things like smart coolers have faced blowback from privacy and consumer advocates.
Identifying a hand, rather than a face, would seem at least at first blush to be a less invasive way of automatically recognizing a customer.
There could be some hurdles to hand recognition working cost-effectively at scale, though. The technology is currently only accurate to one ten-thousandth of 1 percent, according to the Post article. Amazon.com engineers are working to reduce that to a millionth of one percent before going live.
- Amazon tests Whole Foods payment system that uses hands as ID – New York Post
- Smile-to-pay: Chinese shoppers turn to facial payment technology – The Guardian
- Walgreens tests tech that sort of recognizes you in-store – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What advantages/disadvantages might hand recognition have over other methods of enhanced checkout? What does the development of this technology say, if anything, about the efficacy of other options Amazon has been working on, like “Just Walk Out”?