Here’s how Amazon’s rumored pay-by-hand tech could work

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A new report sheds light on Amazon’s thinking about the rumored plan to let customers pay for purchases by scanning their palms.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon may sell pay-by-hand kiosks to other businesses. Previous reports linked the technology primarily to Amazon’s own retail stores, including Whole Foods and Amazon Go.

Amazon plans to pitch the terminals to businesses with a lot of repeat customers, such as coffee shops and fast-food restaurants, according to WSJ. Customers would use the terminals to link their palm print to a credit or debit card.

Customers could establish the link between their bank accounts and palm prints by inserting a card the first time they use the terminal and then scan their hands. After that, the terminals would be able to charge customers with a wave of the hand.

WSJ reports that Amazon’s pay-by-hand ambitions remain in early stages. The tech giant is reportedly working with credit card companies, rather than trying to cut them out, because it values their ability to protect customer information.

Rumblings of the technology first appeared in September, when the New York Post reported Amazon was testing hand-waving payments at Whole Foods stores. In late December Amazon filed a patent application for a “biometric identification system” that includes a hand scanner that can read characteristics such as veins, bones or soft tissue.

An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment.

The terminals could be a boon to several Amazon businesses, WSJ notes. Amazon could store the data in the cloud and use it to track when, where and how much customers spend. It could link that spending to Amazon.com purchases as well, painting a more detailed picture of how customers spend money that the tech giant could use to court advertisers.

Though it hasn’t become mainstream, palm-scanning is not exactly a new technology. Consumer advocates were warning about how the use of biometric data like hand-scanning could put people in danger of identity theft years ago. And it has been used in a variety of areas, from school lunch rooms to doctors offices.

Payments represent an important priority for Amazon, and the tech giant has in recent months uncorked some interesting new financial features. In October, Amazon unveiled the ability for customers in India to pay utility, cable and cell phone bills through the digital assistant Alexa. At CES in Las Vegas, Amazon debuted a way for customers to use Alexa to pay for gas at the pump.

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