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Amazon seeks patent for palm recognition technology

By Hugh Wilson

Online retail giant looks to biometric technology to boost convenience in its physical stores

Amazon has filed a patent application for biometric technology that would let shoppers in bricks-and-mortar stores make purchases with the wave of a hand.

The patent application was published over the Christmas holidays. It outlines a system for letting shoppers use palm recognition to enter a retail store.

Inventors listed on the application include Dilip Kumar, vice president for Amazon’s physical initiatives, suggesting the online retail giant is aiming the technology at its Amazon Go cashier-less stores. Amazon currently operates 24 Go stores in the US.

At the moment, Amazon Go shoppers scan a barcode from a phone app to enter stores. This links to their Amazon account, allowing them to select items and leave without having to join a checkout queue.

The palm scanner application takes this a stage further, letting consumers enter stores with a simple hand scan, rather than fiddling with a phone. “If the user picks an item from an inventory location and leaves the facility, their account may be billed for that item,” the patent application states.

A patent application is no guarantee that the company is actively developing the technology, but Amazon has history in this area. In September the New York Post reported that the company was testing a hand-recognition system for purchases at its Whole Foods stores.

Patent diagram via the United States Patent and Trademark Office

“It’s ironic but not surprising that Amazon is building the most interesting technology in the retail shopping space,” noted tech investment expert Jeff Brown, author of the Bleeding Edge newsletter. “The incumbent retailers are just sitting on their hands, seemingly waiting to be disrupted.”

Amazon has not commented on the patent application.

FURTHER READING: Amazon shares surge 3 per cent after 'record-breaking' holiday season

FURTHER READING: Amazon share price forecast for 2020 and beyond

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