Amazon's biometric scanners: the future of payments?

By Matt High
It was reported last week that Amazon is working on payment terminals that allow users to pay with biometric data from their hand print No, not the stu...

It was reported last week that Amazon is working on payment terminals that allow users to pay with biometric data from their hand print

No, not the stuff of sci-fi novels or a prototype dreamed up in the bowels of Amazon HQ, rather, the latest disruptive foray into the financial services sector from one of the big five tech companies. 

According to a Wall Street Journal report from 19 January, Amazon is developing the new payment terminals to allow shoppers to link their payment card to their hand print. This would, it was claimed, enable payment in compatible stores with a simple swipe of the hand across a scanner. 

Development of the technology is in its early stages, but it was reported that the company has already began collaborating with Visa and Mastercard on the proposed tech. Alongside this, it has been claimed that Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Synchrony Financial have also considered their cardholder accounts being linked with the technology.

Amazon filed a patent for the technology on 26 December last year, describing it as a "non-contact biometric identification system [that] includes a hand scanner that generates images of a user's palm". It stated that it could potentially be used in stores as well as other facilities, and that "information about the identity of the user may also be used to associate particular actions made by that particular user with an associated account". 

Amazon and financial technology

The fintech sector is familiar ground to Amazon, with the company having key financial pillars across payments, cash deposits and lending. Here's a closer look: 

  • Amazon Pay: a digital wallet for customers and a payments network for both online and brick and mortar merchants and shoppers. 
  • Amazon Cash: launched in April 2017 to enable customers to deposit cash with no fee to a digital account. Users need no bank account or a phone to open an account, making it an attractive proposition for the unbanked or underbanked.
  • Amazon Lending: a programme in which Amazon offers short-term business loans to qualified sellers so that they can finance additional inventory to sell through the Amazon marketplace. Loans are invitation-only and amounts range from $1,000 to $750,000.

For more information on all topics for FinTech, please take a look at the latest edition of FinTech magazine.

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