February 24, 2020
The US Patent & Trademark Office recently published Amazon’s patent application for a non-contact biometric identification system that uses a hand scanner to generate infrared images of a user’s palm. The scanner is so precise that it can detect surface characteristics such as wrinkles and even deeper characteristics such as veins.
While filing an application does not mean Amazon will definitely develop such technology, if the biometric identification system is released, it will likely first be used in the company’s “Amazon Go” stores. Currently, shoppers visiting Amazon Go cashless stores must use an app to enter the store. This new biometric technology would require shoppers to simply scan their hands to enter, and the technology could be used for future applications in libraries, hospitals, offices, and other retail stores.
This futuristic way of identifying users would be an improvement over more traditional systems of identifying users which, according to the patent, are vulnerable to fraud, speed, accuracy, and operational limitations. The system also avoids physical contact between a user’s hand and a scanning device, which can be unsanitary and pose a public health risk in heavy-use environments.
However, this new method of identifying people using biometrics raises data privacy concerns, an issue currently causing legal troubles for the company.
Authors: Scott Kerr and Megan Brooks