August 15, 2023
Amazon plans to enable palm-scan payments at the company’s 500-plus U.S. Whole Foods stores by year’s end with enrollment in Amazon One. Amazon Fresh grocery stores, select Panera restaurants, some stadiums and concert venues, and even a few Starbucks locations are said to be participating in the rollout. Amazon introduced hand-scanning sensor technology in 2020 in a bid to rival Google and Apple in the digital wallet sector. The e-retail giant now has the scanners installed in about 400 locations, some 150 of which are third-party owned, like the Hudson Group airport stores and Coors Field in Denver.
The Wall Street Journal reports that taking on those tech giants with Amazon One “won’t be easy” for Amazon, writing that “despite multiple attempts, Amazon has mostly failed at becoming a payment-services provider, like PayPal, Apple or Square.”
WSJ writes Amazon is at a disadvantage in that it “hasn’t succeeded at making mobile devices and operating systems” and as a result has defaulted to a plan B, “in essence, trying to make [such devices] unnecessary” for payments.
Apple, on the other hand, has over the past nine years built Apple Pay into a business with about $2 billion in annual revenue “and a key way to keep people locked into its iPhone ecosystem,” while Alphabet has made Google Pay a key component of its Android mobile platform, offering it in 40 countries, with an estimated 80 million U.S. customers and 50 million in India using phones with the ability to use it for financial transactions.
However, “Amazon One represents something bigger than payments,” suggests WSJ, calling it “Amazon’s most ambitious attempt to become a full identity provider, a sort of universal digital skeleton key that can be tied to pretty much anything else — including, eventually, health records.”
Creating a platform that does all that “with no device, no card, no other password-like item present is absurdly ambitious,” WSJ writes, noting that while now you can use Amazon One palm scanners “to enter a venue, identify yourself as a member of a loyalty program, or verify your age at a bar,” soon it might be possible to use it to “gain access to your company’s offices, a parking garage, or a gym — or sign in at a hospital or doctor’s office.”
Not everyone supports the idea of a Big Tech firm scanning hands so it can store personal data in its cloud. The Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado discontinued the Amazon One service after the advocacy group Fight for the Future launched a campaign opposing it over “concerns about the security of biometric data gathered by the system, and its potential misuse by law enforcement agencies,” WSJ writes, adding that “dozens of other organizations and 300 musicians and other artists” joined that fight.
Amazon One Palm Payment Technology Is Coming to Whole Foods Market Stores, Amazon, 7/20/23