In a nutshell: If Amazon's latest patent is any indication, you may soon be able to leave both your wallet and your phone at home when you visit an Amazon Go store. The online retailing giant has designs for a biometrics system that can identify users with a hand scan linked to their account.
On Thursday, the US Patent and Trademark Office posted a patent application from Amazon for a new technology that would identify people by scanning their hands. The system would analyze patterns in the hands, including palm creases, bones, and veins.
The company would likely employ the scanners in its cashier-less Amazon Go stores. This is evidenced by the fact that several of the inventors listed on the application are associated with Amazon Go, including the division’s head of technology Dilip Kumar.
Currently, customers have to scan a QR code on the Go mobile app to get into the store. The tech would do away with the need for customers taking out their phones.
Hand-scanning devices are nothing new, but Amazon evidently feels it has something different enough to warrant patent protection.
The document describes the device as a “non-contact” scanner. It uses two sets of images to identify the subject. The first set scans for surface features such as lines and wrinkles. The second looks for internal characteristics, including vein patterns, bones, and other features "beneath the epidermis." It composites these images into a unique profile for the user and associates it with an account.
The patent approval is pending and may take a while to ensure Amazon is not infringing on existing technology. Additionally, just because the company has applied for the patent does not mean that it has something in development.
That said, the New York Post reported in September that the company was testing hand scanning in some of its Whole Foods outlets as a form of payment at the checkout line. It is unclear if this is the same device listed in the patent, but it certainly sounds like it.