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Amazon Rolls Out Contactless ‘Pay With Your Palm’ Pilot to 8 Whole Foods Stores

Amazon is bringing its contactless biometric “Amazon One” technology to eight Whole Foods Market stores in Seattle, enabling more shoppers to pay with their palm instead of swiping or tapping a credit card.

Dilip Kumar, vice president, physical retail and technology at Amazon, wrote in a blog post that thousands of consumers have signed up for the Amazon One service, which scans multiple aspects of a shopper’s palm for identification. Amazon has already added the service as an entry and payment option within several stores in the Seattle area, including Amazon Go, Amazon Go Grocery, Amazon Books, Amazon 4-star and Amazon Pop Up.

“Feedback has been great—customers have shared they appreciate how quick it is to enroll and use, and that its contactless nature has been helpful in our current environment,” Kumar said.

Amazon is in “active discussions with several potential customers” to expand the technology, but Kumar did not specify which retailers.

Customers who are new to using Amazon One can sign up at any Amazon One kiosk or device in participating stores.

When the consumers inserts a credit card in the payment terminal upon singing up, they then hover their palm over the device and follow the prompts to associate that card with a newly created unique palm signature.

The service uses custom-built algorithms and hardware to create a person’s unique recognizable palm signature, leveraging computer vision technology to select the most distinct identifiers on the individual’s palm.

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When Kumar first unveiled the technology in a September blog post last year, he wrote that Amazon opted to go with palm recognition because it’s considered to be more private than some of the other biometric identification options such as facial recognition, noting that “you can’t determine a person’s identity by looking at an image of their palm.” Images of the palm are never stored on the Amazon One device. The images are encrypted instead and sent to a cloud server. Amazon says consumers can request to delete data associated with Amazon One through the device itself or via the online customer portal at one.amazon.com.

Customers have the option to enroll in Amazon One with just one palm or both. Kumar said that once shoppers enroll, they can use the platform to pay at participating Whole Foods Market stores “in about a second or so.”

If customers have previously signed up for Amazon One at an Amazon store, they may need to re-insert their credit card one time at an Amazon One device in a Whole Foods Market so they can continue to use the service in those stores.

These users can even link their Amazon One ID with their Amazon account to automatically get their Prime member discount at Whole Foods.

“At Whole Foods Market, we’re always looking for new and innovative ways to improve the shopping experience for our customers,” said Arun Rajan, senior vice president of technology and chief technology officer at Whole Foods Market. “Working closely with Amazon, we’ve brought benefits like Prime member discounts, online grocery delivery and pickup, and free returns to our customers, and we’re excited to add Amazon One as a payment option beginning today.”

Whole Foods is debuting Amazon One at Madison Broadway in Seattle, and will expand the tech to seven other stores in the Seattle region over the next few months, including locations in West Seattle, Interbay, Westlake, Kirkland, Lynnwood, Roosevelt Square and Redmond.

“[Frictionless checkout] demands have only grown louder this past year as a result of social distancing restrictions and safety concerns,” Gavin Bisdee, group marketing director at retail store visualization software company Zynstra told Sourcing Journal. “The pandemic has created permanent changes to consumer behavior where frictionless and touchless checkout options are a highly sought after offering and an essential part of their customer experience.”

A March survey from Zynstra of 103 convenience store executives indicated that 80 percent of retailers saw “scan and go” technologies as an important part of the future, while 77 percent said the same for contactless checkout.

But Amazon’s tech seems like it could fit in retail experiences beyond convenience stores or grocery stores, especially given the direction overall contactless payments is continuing to trend in.

According to a daVinci Payments study, nearly 60 percent of male and female shoppers reported making the majority of their purchases through contactless payment services like Apple Pay or Google Pay in October 2020, up from just 19 percent of women and 11 percent of men three months prior.

And retailers were listening to these demands throughout 2020, with as many as 67 percent saying they accepted no-touch payment in some form last August, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Forrester.

Despite the contactless shift, Amazon insists that Amazon One is intended to be an additional payments option for shoppers. Customers can still pay and check out using a credit card, cash or any other form of payment accepted at the Whole Foods locations.

The extension of the Amazon One platform represents more in-store technology expansion for the e-commerce giant, which has introduced various technologies such as its “just walk out” grab-and-go concept in Amazon Go convenience stores. The Amazon Go tech is powered by a combination of overhead cameras, sensor fusion, computer vision and machine learning so that shoppers can take what they want in the store and leave without having to check out.

As part of its continued grocery push, Amazon also rolled out the Amazon Dash Cart last year. The smart shopping cart is designed to automatically scan items so that Amazon Fresh shoppers can skip the checkout line and walk out when they’re done shopping.