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Amazon Wants You to Pay With Your Palm. It’s a Sneak Attack on Apple and Google.

The Wall Street Journal

Amazon AMZN 0.42%increase; green up pointing triangle has a new way to try to make itself a central part of your life: your hand.

By the end of this year, you’ll be able to scan your palm at any of the company’s more than 500 Whole Foods stores in the U.S., and join a service called Amazon One. Once enrolled, your hand is all you’ll need to pay there, Amazon Fresh grocery stores, some Panera restaurants, a handful of retailers at airports, some stadiums and concert venues, and a handful of Starbucks locations.

At places where the company’s hand-scanning sensors are installed, you can already use it to enter a venue, identify yourself as a member of a loyalty program, or verify your age at a bar. In the future, you might be able to gain access to your company’s offices, a parking garage, or a gym—or sign in at a hospital or doctor’s office.
Amazon’s expansion of this biometric technology, which it unveiled in 2020, is an effort to compete with Google and especially Apple AAPL 0.59%increase; green up pointing triangle in the realm of digital wallets, which are increasingly performing many of the same functions Amazon has in mind for its Amazon One service.

It won’t be easy. Despite multiple attempts, Amazon has mostly failed at becoming a payment-services provider, like PayPal, Apple or Square. Apple has spent almost nine years building Apple Pay into a business with at least $2 billion in revenue, and a key way to keep people locked into its iPhone ecosystem.

Unlike Google and Apple, Amazon hasn’t succeeded at making mobile devices and operating systems, so it is, in essence, trying to make them unnecessary. But Amazon One represents something bigger than payments. It is Amazon’s most ambitious attempt to become a full identity provider, a sort of universal digital skeleton key that can be tied to pretty much anything else—including, eventually, health records.

Doing all this using a system that identifies you with no device, no card, no other password-like item present is absurdly ambitious. Were Amazon a startup, such an attempt would be laughable on its face. But this is Amazon—a company with the kind of resources and patience that allowed it to go from being a giant in e-commerce to also being the world’s leading provider of cloud computing.

“The internet giants have been trying to get more traction in payments for almost a decade, because the size of the prize is not just payments,” says Harshita Rawat, a senior analyst for payments at Bernstein. Companies that become the identity provider for a person also get the opportunity to sell them other goods and services, and insinuate themselves deeper into their lives in myriad other ways, she adds.

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