Amazon is bringing its Amazon One palm scanner to select Whole Foods as a payment option

Sarah Perez
·4-min read

Amazon is bringing its new biometric device, the Amazon One scanner, to Whole Foods store. The retail giant this past fall introduced the Amazon One scanner, which allows shoppers to enter a store by having their palm scanned. The customer's palm signature can be associated with their payment mechanism in a retail environment -- like Amazon's cashier-less Amazon Go stores, where customers shop, then walk out without having to go through a traditional checkout process. Now at Whole Foods, the Amazon One scanner will be added as a payment option at checkout.

That means customers could choose to scan their palm over the reader to pay for their purchases, instead of paying with cash or a credit or debit card, for example. It will not replace other payment options, Amazon stressed.

Amazon says it's initially adding the Amazon One palm scanner to the Whole Foods Market store at Madison Broadway in Seattle, but plans to roll it out to seven more Whole Foods Market stores in the greater Seattle area in the months to come. Seattle will likely serve as a test market for the new technology before Amazon chooses to roll it out more broadly.

Since its launch in September, Amazon One scanners have already been installed in several Amazon stores in the Seattle area, including Amazon Go, Amazon Go Grocery, Amazon Books, Amazon 4-star and Amazon Pop Up. The retailer says "thousands" of customers have now enrolled their palm signatures.

With the Whole Foods launch, customers will be able to sign up for Amazon One at a kiosk or device in the participating Whole Foods stores, where they can choose to enroll one or both palms. The scanner uses computer vision technology to create the unique palm signature, which is associated with the payment card the customer inserts into the device.

Existing customers who previously enrolled in Amazon One at a different location will have to re-insert their credit card one time in the Whole Foods store to continue to use the service in those stores, Amazon said.

In addition, customers will be able to link their Amazon One ID with their Amazon account in order to get their Prime membership discount to apply to their Whole Foods Market purchases via the Amazon One device in the future.

"At Whole Foods Market, we’re always looking for new and innovative ways to improve the shopping experience for our customers," said Arun Rajan, senior vice president of technology and chief technology officer at Whole Foods Market, in a statement about the expansion. "Working closely with Amazon, we’ve brought benefits like Prime member discounts, online grocery delivery and pickup, and free returns to our customers, and we’re excited to add Amazon One as a payment option beginning today. We’re starting with an initial store at Madison Broadway in Seattle and look forward to hearing what customers think as we expand this option to additional stores over time," he added.

The device, of course, comes with concerns, given Amazon's track record with biometric technology. The company has sold biometric facial recognition services to law enforcement in the U.S.; its facial recognition technology was the subject of a data privacy lawsuit; and its Ring camera company continues to work in partnership with police. It was also found to be keeping Alexa voice records indefinitely, with no option for customers to delete them. (Amazon later changed that -- and, to be fair, Google and Apple were mishandling customer voice data, too.)

Just yesterday, Amazon announced tests of other retail and AR technology in a London area hair salon, which would involve cameras capturing customer images. The company said it wasn't retaining "customer data," but declined to answer a question about the non-personal data being collected at the salon.

In today's announcement, Amazon notes that the Amazon One device is "protected by multiple security controls, and palm images are never stored on the Amazon One device." It says the images are encrypted and sent to a secure area built for Amazon One in the cloud where Amazon creates the customers' palm signatures. It also offers a way for customers to unenroll from Amazon One from either a device itself or from one.amazon.com, which also deletes their biometric data when all their transactions have completed.