Your palm is unique: that particular combination of veins, lines and creases is like no other. That uniqueness makes it a prime candidate for use in the field of biometrics, joining other techniques such as fingerprint, facial and voice recognition.
Palm ID is already being used in a few places around the world, including Jeju International Airport in South Korea. But recently, tech giant Amazon announced the launch of its system called Amazon One. Its initial roll-out is small: only at a couple of Amazon Go shops in Seattle, USA where shoppers can pay for goods quickly and easily. But there are big ambitions. ‘We plan to offer the service to third parties like retailers, stadiums and office buildings, so that more people can benefit from this ease and convenience,’ said Dilip Kumar, Vice President of Amazon’s physical retail business.
In the same way as iris recognition uses mathematical pattern-recognition techniques on images of one or both of your irises, palm ID uses computer vision technology to scan the vein and line patterns of your palm to create a ‘palm signature’. You connect that palm signature to a payment card. Then you pay for items merely by holding your hand over a scanner. Combined with the ‘Just Walk Out’ experience of Amazon Go shops (which use cameras and sensors to bill you for what you pick up and walk out with) it’s the ultimate in frictionless shopping. You do not even need a phone. You simply walk in, grab what you want and wave your palm as you leave.
It’s not only speedy and convenient – palm ID is also regarded as one of the most privacy-preserving forms of biometrics yet devised. Unlike facial recognition, your palms are not visible at a distance and so cannot be used to authenticate you without your permission. Naman Aggarwal, Asia Pacific policy counsel at digital rights organisation Access Now, says it’s a more accurate system, too. ‘All biometric techniques have different false acceptance rates and false rejection rates. Palm ID does seem like an improvement within the realm of biometrics.’
In this era of COVID-19, the case for biometrics is being pushed harder. With cash and PIN keypads deemed to be health hazards, frictionless payments and admission systems seem to be eminently sensible. So, it may not be too long before your palm could be used to assert your identity to speed you through passport control, enter the office and pay for goods at your local supermarket.