AMAZON GO AND THE PROBLEM OF IDENTITY

For a company, whose rapid growth has sounded the death knell of many brick-and-mortar stores, Amazon’s new pivot towards physical stores was highly surprising. Built to provide its users with a seamless digital experience, Amazon has caused a decline in the business of physical stores in each market it has entered. It banks on the fact that people will always and always prefer convenience over anything and as a result if one looks at any one of Amazon’s initiatives closely, the value delivered at the end is always convenience.
Whether it be building complicated supply chain networks to enable one day and even same-day deliveries, or creating a comprehensive cloud infrastructure that hosts a big chunk of the world wide web or even creating an entirely new digital assistant, every single move is to deliver convenience to consumers.

It is in that vein that Amazon developed Amazon Go, a revolutionary shopping experience that is similar to a normal supermarket in all ways but one- you don’t have to stand in line to pay for the stuff you’ve bought. In fact, you don’t have to pay at the store at all. You just grab what you want and walk out, and Amazon will deduct the cost of the goods from the card that is linked to your Amazon account. Sounds simple? It really is not. Amazon uses a complicated network of cameras powered by highly advanced AI algorithms to keep a track of you and the goods that you have picked up. It also has custom QR codes on the products and weight sensors on the shelves to further augment the tracking process. From the moment you enter the store and scan the code on the Amazon Go app, you are tracked by the cameras. 

This experience is truly unique, as documented by multiple people who have had the opportunity to use one of the few Amazon Go stores. Experts predict that AI-powered, checkout-free shopping is the future of retail and the Jeff Bezos headed conglomerate basically wants to corner the consumer market that still would prefer the ease and convenience of a nearby physical store, rather than the online marketplace. In fact, according to some tech-speculators, this enhanced retail experience will be taken one step further by using the shopping data that merchants like Amazon have on you to provide custom recommendations in-store as you shop. This could be anything from custom deals to custom welcome messages to item recommendations based on your purchase frequency. Essentially, the slightly creepy behavior that Amazon exhibits online, except this time in an actual store.

However, all of this proposed convenience does not come without challenges. Apart from the obvious tracking issues, two major concerns with this system are identity and data security.

Digital platforms are prone to be exploited or hacked, phishing, social engineering, and even brute force attacks have been successful in compromising people’s accounts and financial information. This exposure increases when your store allows people to simply log in to an app, scan a code and shop and leave. It takes simple exploitation of the account for a bad actor to buy anything they want and letting the legitimate owner deal with the cost. Even though data security and fraud detection practices are improving, a huge gap still remains to be covered.

One way out of this identification conundrum is to use biometrics for authentication. But that introduces two fresh problems into the mix. The first one is that even if you verify with biometrics, you can’t prevent bad actors from onboarding to your platform since there is no verification with a government ID or government database. Anyone can make an account and use it without detection with fake names and aliases. The second problem is the same problem with all biometrics- what do you do with the data? Do you store it on your servers? Is it secure there? Can it be spoofed? What happens if it is compromised? 

In a world where biometric authentication is largely local (ie your face or fingerprint on your device), introducing biometric recognition systems where the data will necessarily have to be stored on the cloud (as it has to be used across multiple locations), is very very problematic. 

However, this problem does have a solution. An identity system that is secure and decentralized, where the data is stored on a blockchain and is only shared only with the user’s consent. Once the data is shared, the permissions can be withdrawn at any time by the user. Not only does blockchain ensure inbuilt encryption, but the fact that the data is not stored on one single server also makes sure that the data cannot be easily compromised. 

This is precisely what Signy’s solution provides. In addition, our solution also ensures verification of the user profile with government IDs so that only legitimate users can onboard. With Signy’s ID system, an AI-powered retail system can become an easily achievable reality since the roadblocks of identity verification and data security are effectively out of the way.

The problems of identity verification and data security are not limited to Amazon Go. If your business also needs to remove these obstacles, Signy is here to help.

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