Post #87: Palm-tech

It was just over a year – and a different world – ago when your author was last in California and penned a Blog post (#38) marvelling at the technology on show in an Amazon Go store in downtown San Francisco. As most readers will know, one of Jeff Bezos’ most famous mantras asserts that “it is always day one.” The company continues to push the boundaries of innovation as evidenced this week by the appositely named ‘Amazon One’, which will soon be available at Amazon Go stores before being rolled out elsewhere.

Amazon One is billed as a “fast, convenient and contactless way” for people to use their palm as a mechanism for making in-store payments and more. Think of it as effectively taking the concept of contactless to a new dimension. As we have written previously, via either relatively simple technology – such as this – or via implantables, the man-machine merger is coming. At its most basic, we should not be surprised by the development of Amazon One. If we can unlock our iPhones via Face ID, then why should we not use our palms to make payments? Both our faces and hands are unique.

One definition of innovation that we have always favoured is the concept of creating new markets from scratch, where they hitherto did not exist. Amazon has typically excelled at this. Consider their success not only with online retail and cloud computing, but also the Alexa device. The rationale behind Amazon One is that it will make everyday activities – not just paying in a store, but perhaps clocking on at work or entering a stadium – both quicker and easier. In its press release, Amazon says that it plans to offer the service to third parties too.

The technology which underlies the Amazon One innovation is computer vision combined with automatic data identification and capture. There is very little difference between it and, say, how supermarkets might recognise the barcodes on your shopping or scanners at airports allow you to board a plane. Amazon asserts that the impetus for developing Amazon One was based on customer feedback and the desire to reduce friction at its stores. This latter argument is also deployed regularly by the major payment processors (i.e. Mastercard and Visa) and it should not be forgotten that your Amazon One account will be linked to a credit card. 

Others may well look soon to replicate what Amazon is trying to do. On the flipside, some concerns about privacy and the appropriate protection of customer (Amazon says that all information is encrypted and stored securely in tis cloud) will almost certainly arise. Nonetheless, our broad sense is that palm-tech has now arrived

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