In a move that could further upend traditional brick-and-mortar retail engagement, the United States Patent and Trademark Office published an application this week from eCommerce giant Amazon.com detailing a software system that would identify individuals through unique biometric qualities and characteristics associated with the palms of their hands.
The Dec. 26 patent application describes “a scanner device [that] is used to obtain raw images of a user’s palm that is within a field of view of the scanner … The first set of images depicts external characteristics, such as lines and creases in the user’s palm, while the second set of images depicts internal anatomical structures, such as veins, bones, soft tissue, or other structures beneath the epidermis of the skin.”
An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment.
Throughout the United States, the company has opened twenty-four “Amazon Go” locations since the initial store appeared in the company’s Seattle headquarters building’s ground floor almost two years ago. Before entering an Amazon Go, visitors must scan a special app at a turnstile. The stores have an array of sensors and cameras enabling shoppers to take food or beverages from shelves and then exit. Their linked accounts are subsequently, automatically billed after they leave.
In their patent application this week, the inventors detailed where such scanners could be placed through a retail location and noted that “if the user picks an item from an inventory location and leaves the facility, their account may be billed for that item.”
Biometric check-ins for shoppers at future Amazon properties will likely raise even more concerns from privacy advocates for a company already closely watched for privacy violations related to Alexa, the popular voice assistant, and Ring, Amazon’s home security products.