Amazon unveils payment by hand-waving

Amazon unveils payment by hand-waving
Handy tech: Amazon’s palm recognition payment system Amazon One is trialled in Seattle, Washington. (AFP)
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Updated 01 October 2020

Amazon unveils payment by hand-waving

Amazon unveils payment by hand-waving
  • Amazon One uses each individual’s ‘unique palm signature,’ an alternative to other biometric identifiers such as fingerprint, iris or facial recognition

WASHINGTON: Amazon unveiled a new biometric payment system using palm recognition, to be made available to rival retailers and also promoted as a replacement for badge entry at stadiums or workplaces.

The system called Amazon One was touted as “a fast, convenient, contactless way for people to use their palm to make everyday activities like paying at a store, presenting a loyalty card, entering a location like a stadium, or badging into work more effortless.”

The US technology giant said it would be installing the system at its Amazon Go retail locations, starting with two stores in its hometown of Seattle, Washington.

Amazon vice president Dilip Kumar said the system was developed as “a quick, reliable, and secure way for people to identify themselves or authorize a transaction.”

Amazon One uses each individual’s “unique palm signature,” an alternative to other biometric identifiers such as fingerprint, iris or facial recognition.

“No two palms are alike, so we analyze all these aspects with our vision technology and select the most distinct identifiers on your palm to create your palm signature,” Kumar said in a blog post. In Amazon Go stores, the palm-waving system will be added to the store’s entry gate as an option for shoppers.

“In most retail environments, Amazon One could become an alternate payment or loyalty card option with a device at the checkout counter next to a traditional point of sale system,” Kumar added.

The company said it was “in active discussions with several potential customers,” which could include other retailers, but offered no details. The announcement comes amid rapid growth in the use of biometric payments ranging from fingerprint verification on smartphones to more sophisticated systems using facial recognition.

China’s Alipay — the financial arm of e-commerce giant Alibaba — has been using a “Smile-to-Pay” system, with a machine roughly the size of an iPad, for retailers.

The shift has also raised privacy concerns about how biometric data will be safeguarded and protected from hackers.

Amazon said the biometric data would be “protected by multiple security controls and palm images are never stored on the Amazon One device” but send to a “highly secure area we custom-built in the cloud.”

Doug Stephens of the consulting firm Retail Prophet, said Amazon would need to protect the data to gain user trust in the system to make it mainstream.

“Biometrics as a form of ID/payment etc. has always made ultimate sense,” Stephens said on Twitter. “The question is, will Amazon mainstream our comfort with them or violate our trust?”


German startup to help Saudi hotels utilize empty spaces

German start-up NeuSpace, established during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to help hotels overcome a slump in occupancy rates, is now working in Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
German start-up NeuSpace, established during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to help hotels overcome a slump in occupancy rates, is now working in Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 21 January 2021

German startup to help Saudi hotels utilize empty spaces

German start-up NeuSpace, established during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to help hotels overcome a slump in occupancy rates, is now working in Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • COVID-19 pandemic has brought slump in average hotel occupancy rates in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: A German start-up established during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to help hotels overcome a slump in occupancy rates is now working in Saudi Arabia.

NeuSpace aims to assist operators in coming up with new ways to generate revenue from their empty spaces.

Anne Schaeflein, a co-founder of the Dusseldorf-based company, told Arab News: “For hotel properties still in the completion phase, we feel it is best to evaluate the perspective, and to diversify pre-opening.

“To be empathic to the existing (or planned) infrastructure and environment of the location, we run a feasibility study and look at how the space could be best used from an ROI (return on investment) as well as community perspective. Turning function spaces into day nurseries, delis, and bakeries,” she said.

Anne Schaeflein, Collaborative Founder NeuSpace. (Supplied)

According to the company’s website, it aims to address the needs of hotel investors, operators, and the wider community surrounding the property.

“We deliver quick solutions to retain some of the hospitality jobs, and add others, and offer attractive living space for communities, all within one to four months, depending on the individual projects,” the company said.

A report in November by global hotel data analysis company, STR, found that the average occupancy rate in Saudi Arabia was 34.7 percent, down 38.7 percent on the previous year. As a result, the average revenue per available room fell 35.5 percent year-on-year to SR172.70 ($46.05).

Looking to the future, real estate consultancy firm, Colliers International, has forecast that average occupancy rates in Riyadh and Alkhobar will be 55 percent, 51 percent in Jeddah and Madinah, and 37 percent in Makkah.

On innovative solutions, Schaeflein said the startup’s concept was formed around the key pillars of value preservation, creating new housing space, and innovative housing concepts.

She pointed out that the company looked at how areas such as roof gardens or social spaces could be used by the wider community, or how pools and spas not being used by guests could be utilized by local residents.

NeuSpace also studies how back-office services and facilities could be offered to residents to better utilize staffing levels. This could include offering dog-minding services, turning rooms into office or retail areas, or renting out restaurant and entertainment spaces when footfall was low.