Customers at certain Amazon stores in Bethesda and Georgetown can soon opt to pay with their palms as the company expands its new payment technology.
Amazon is launching Amazon One, a system that uses algorithm-built unique palm signatures for customers to pay quickly and without contact, at more stores, the company announced Thursday. It’s now available at Amazon Books at Bethesda Row and 22 other Amazon stores in New York City and the Seattle metro area. The retail giant will later add it to five more locations, including the Amazon 4-star at Westfield Montgomery Mall, also in Bethesda, and Amazon Books in Georgetown.
Amazon started developing the technology before the pandemic and then unveiled the payment option last September, months before coronavirus vaccines were available and as infection rates were soaring.
“We wondered whether we could help improve experiences like paying at checkout, presenting a loyalty card, entering a location like a stadium, or even badging into work,” Dilip Kumar, Amazon’s vice president for physical retail and technology, said in a statement at the time. “So, we built Amazon One to offer just that — a quick, reliable, and secure way for people to identify themselves or authorize a transaction while moving seamlessly through their day.”
Amazon piloted the tech at two Amazon Go stores in Seattle, but at the time, the company signaled its expectation for broader retail use. The company posted a contact form on its website for businesses to sign up to use it, but, as of Thursday, only company-affiliated stores were listed as offering the payment option.
Sign-up requires customers to enter their credit card into an Amazon One device at the store, hover their palm over the device to be scanned, and enter their phone number, among other information, to save the signature. After they’re enrolled, customers can enter the store with their palms and use them to pay at checkout. The payment option doesn’t require an Amazon account, but customers can link Amazon One with their accounts.
It is unclear if the operations for Amazon One’s system will be based in the company’s second headquarters in Arlington. There are currently some 2,200 Amazon HQ2 job openings posted.
While the payment option is expanding to select Amazon Go and Whole Foods Market locations in other cities, the company didn’t say if the payment option will be available at Amazon Fresh stores, its branded grocery stores that feature shopping carts with camera scanners to register and pay for items. One location opened in Franconia at the end of May, and more are expected to open in Greater Washington.
Amazon’s biometric products and user data have been the subject of scrutiny and lawsuits in the past, including over its facial recognition technology and Alexa voice data. The company said in a statement that Amazon One is a “highly secure service,” emphasizing that palms are unique and the images will be encrypted with unspecified security controls. The signatures also won’t be stored on Amazon One devices and customers can choose when and how often they use their palms to pay, the company added.