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Oct 4, 2019,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

Amazon tests hands-based payment system for its Whole Food stores

Customers of the Whole Food grocery chain could soon be paying for their purchases with a mere hand gesture. Amazon, which owns the chain, is developing a biometric scanner that can identify customers according to the size and shape of their hand and can link the data to the user’s account. Currently being trialled at Amazon’s New York offices, the system could be rolled out in some stores by early 2020.

Whole Food parent Amazon is planning to introduce a revolutionary new system that will allow the chain’s customers to pay for their purchases using their hands as ID. The tech giant is currently trialling a biometric scanner that could be introduced at some stores in early 2020, prior to a wider roll-out, as reported by the New York Post.


A new form of customer identification


The US giant is developing a technology that takes into account the shape and size of people’s hands, collating specific information that could be used as a unique identifier for each customer. Once linked to a user’s account, it can then be used as a means of payment.

Amazon is in the process of testing the scanners designed for the project with employees at its New York offices, where they are using it on vending machines. The system’s sensors are unlike fingerprint scanners in that they do not require users to touch the scanning surface with their hands. 


Faster than a card


According to the New York Post, Amazon is refusing to confirm the existence of the project, which goes by the name of Orville. “We don’t comment on rumours or speculation,” an Amazon spokesperson said. The system is well and truly in the pipeline, however, and will provide a faster checkout experience at Whole Food stores. While regular card transactions can take three or four seconds, Amazon’s biometric system can reduce that timeframe to less than 300 milliseconds, as reported by Business Insider.

Orville has other advantages to offer, as Majd Maksad, the founder and CEO of a personal finance site, explained: “People tend to spend more when they don’t have the experience of touching something tangible like money.”


A step too soon for customers?


There is one question still to be answered: are consumers ready to adopt such a form of payment? An independent researcher specialising in technology ethics, Stephanie Hare gave her reply: “I think they probably made a judgment call that Americans are probably not going to want to pay with their face, but they’ll be fine to pay with their fingerprint or their hand.”


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