No Keys, No Tags, No Swipe – Just a Microchip Injected In the Body to Replace Those Functions and More!
T E C H N O L O G Y
In Stockholm, SWEDEN – employees are getting injected with microchips. A pre-loaded syringe slides in the fleshy area of the hand between the thumb and index finger. Then, with a click, a microchip is injected in the employee’s hand. The process lasts a few seconds, and more often than not there are no screams and barely a drop of blood.
This is being conducted at the Swedish startup hub Epicenter. The company offers to implant its workers and startup members with microchips the size of grains of rice that function as swipe cards: to open doors, operate printers, or buy smoothies with a wave of the hand.
The implants have become so popular that Epicenter workers stage monthly events where attendees have the option of being “chipped” for free.
“The biggest benefit I think is convenience,” said Patrick Mesterton, co-founder and CEO of Epicenter. As a demonstration, he unlocks a door by merely waving near it. “It basically replaces a lot of things you have, other communication devices, whether it be credit cards or keys.”
The technology in itself is not new. Such chips are used as virtual collar plates for pets. Companies use them to track deliveries. It’s just never been used to tag employees on a broad scale before. Epicenter and a handful of other companies are the first to make chip implants broadly available.
And as with most new technologies, it raises security and privacy issues. While biologically safe, the data generated by the chips can show how often an employee comes to work or what they buy.
“Of course, putting things into your body is quite a big step to do and it was even for me at first,” said Mesterton, remembering how he initially had had doubts.
“But then on the other hand, I mean, people have been implanting things into their body, like pacemakers and stuff to control your heart,” he said. “That’s a way, way more serious thing than having a small chip that can actually communicate with devices.”
A company based in Belgium also offers its employees such implants, and there are isolated cases around the world where tech enthusiasts have tried this out in recent years.
Ben Libberton, a microbiologist at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, says hackers could possibly gain huge swathes of information from embedded microchips. The ethical dilemmas will become bigger the more sophisticated the microchips become.
“The data that you could possibly get from a chip that is embedded in your body is a lot different from the data that you can get from a smartphone,” he says. “Conceptually you could get data about your health, you could get data about your whereabouts, how often you’re working, how long you’re working, if you’re taking toilet breaks and things like that.”
Libberton said that if such data is collected, the big question remains of what happens to it, who uses it, and for what purpose.