Amazon would pay buyers $ 10 in credits if they start using its fingerprint scanning technology, Amazon One. The new promotion was first spotted by TechCrunch, though there hasn’t been an official announcement from Amazon yet.
Amazon One launched in September 2020, with the company showcasing the technology as an easier, contactless way to pay for goods sold in its physical stores. The company also introduced Amazon One as a possible identity service that could be used in entertainment venues, such as allowing admission to someone who has already paid for tickets to a concert.
To use Amazon One, a person simply holds their hand over a scanner for a brief moment, and it will automatically recognize their palm imprint based on each individual’s unique pattern of lines, veins, and ridges.
Read more: Get to know Amazon’s new Pay-By-Palm-Print service
The idea is that it offers a faster and easier means of contactless payment. Amazon One is just one part of the company’s Just Walk Out initiative that envisions a completely frictionless shopping experience. The company also plans to make the technology available to other retailers in order to recoup some of the physical income generated by its rivals.
Right now, Amazon One is reportedly available in 50 locations, including some of Amazon’s Whole Foods stores. The company said in April that “thousands” of customers have already signed up.
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Despite all the promises, Amazon’s $ 10 free product offer suggests people aren’t eager to use Amazon One as much as they had hoped. So will Amazon’s free money offering make a difference?
The company faces an uphill battle. Biometric payment systems aren’t a new concept, but they haven’t caught on yet. One of the first offerings based on fingerprint scanning technology launched by the Piggly Wiggly grocery chain in 2004.
This company’s Pay By Touch program had a seemingly successful pilot when it was first launched in the Southeastern United States, but ultimately failed due to a number of issues. The first problem was that Pay By Touch was not tied to buyers’ credit or debit cards. Instead, it was based on the automatic clearinghouse network, and the transition from scanning and PIN to fingerprint scans and ACH transfers has not been well received by consumers. It was also complicated to register.
More troubling however was the technology used to implement Pay by Touch. It just wasn’t up to the task, with a high “failure rate” because the scanners weren’t precise enough. Piggly Wiggly finally gave up on the idea after wasting millions trying and not fixing it.
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Another unsuccessful effort occurred at Chicago-based grocery chain Jewel and Osco, which also used fingerprint scanners. While this effort was not unpopular with buyers, it also had issues with accuracy. Although Jewel and Osco tried to improve the technology, they ultimately gave up their efforts when its payment processing partner Solidus Networks abruptly shut down its biometrics business.
Amazon One has apparently overcome these reliability issues, but the other hurdle in the company’s path is privacy. There remains a large cohort of consumers who are reluctant to pass biometric data to large companies such as Amazon. Or, especially Amazon, because they know very well that the data will be used to track them and their buying habits.
Amazon has done its best to alleviate the privacy concerns. When he launched Amazon One, he emphasized that users are free to remove their palm prints from his system at any time. He further assured customers that their information would be automatically deleted if the service was not used for two years.
The $ 10 incentive will be met with skepticism, however, if only because of Amazon’s somewhat questionable track record in biometric technology. The company has taken a lot of criticism for pushing new technology in uncomfortable ways. The most notable example may be biased facial recognition systems for law enforcement agencies. Although it initially vigorously defended its Rekognition technology, the company eventually caved in and banned the sale of this platform to the police.
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There have been other controversies around biometrics as well. Privacy advocates will remember the fury around a startup called Clearview AI a few years ago. This company created extremely facial recognition technology that was sold to law enforcement. A New York Times investigation found that Clearview let law enforcement use its software to match any faces not in their own databases with images posted on sites like Google, Twitter and Facebook, in order to try to identify who they belong to. Clearview AI only shut down after social media giants sent cease and desist letters asking it to end the practice.
The episode did much to increase the general public’s lack of confidence in facial recognition and similar technologies, which can be extremely invasive when misused.
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Perhaps the best thing for Amazon right now is that consumers have shown a lot of enthusiasm for contactless payment technology, according to data from PYMNTS. In the May Omnichannel Grocery Report, created in partnership with ACI Worldwide, 43% of consumers said they were “very” or “extremely” interested in using contactless credit cards, and 27% of consumers said they were “very” or “extremely” interested in using contactless credit cards. said they have already used them.
Further evidence of the demand for contactless technology came from Visa’s Future of Urban Mobility Survey in July. In this study, 88% of commuters said they rated contactless payment as “important”.
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In terms of convenience, Amazon One is definitely a big winner. It’s pretty much the smoothest verification technology ever – no more digging through a purse for a wallet or smartphone to scan a QR code. Just wave and pay. It’s very simple, no one disputes that.
But for all the convenience that Amazon One could offer, promoting Amazon’s free money means that a lot of people are still not ready to sacrifice even more of their privacy for it.