Amazon Files ‘Vein Scan’ Technology Patent

The technology would ID customers by scanning their palm to detect blood vessels underneath the skin.

January 03, 2020

SEATTLE—Would you hold out your hand to pay for groceries? That’s what Amazon is banking on with a new patent application for technology that would identify customers with a scan of their palm to detect the blood vessels underneath the skin, USA Today reports. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office application shows the retailer is considering the technology for use at Amazon Go stores, not Whole Foods grocery locations.

Fingerprint scanners have been in use for a long time, but they require the recipient to touch something. Vein scanning doesn’t require a physical connection to identify the customer. A shopper would hold out his hand over an infrared light while a camera takes two images—one on the surface and one that scans for “deeper characteristics such as veins.” The scanner would be hooked up to a computer system that would ID customers based on the scanned data.

“Accurate and fast identification of a user provides useful information that may be used in a variety of ways,” the retailer’s patent filing stated. “For example, entry to a material handling facility, office, transportation facility or other location may be controlled based on user identity.” Amazon also said the scan could verify the person’s identity, then link them to “an associated account,” such as a bank account.

Amazon also identified hand scanning as safer than a chip insertion to protect identity theft. “Traditional systems for identifying users suffer from several significant drawbacks including susceptibility to fraud, speed, accuracy and operational limitations,” the company’s application said.