Forget corporate badges and ID cards, a Swedish company now offers microchip implants that allow its employees to open doors, access printers, and purchase food with just a swipe of the hand.
The company, a startup called Epicenter, has been offering the microchips since January 2015. About 150 employees so far have microchips implanted in their hands, with the cyborg-like technology becoming so popular that employees are even throwing microchip parties. In less than a minute, a chip roughly the size of a grain of rice can be inserted between thumb and index finger, providing convenience for some and raising privacy issues for others.
As the CEO of Epicenter puts it, the biggest draw of the chip is that it reduces the need for other items, for example keys or wallets, while also allowing employees to “interact” with the company building. There’s no need to keep track of a key or fob to access the building, and some chips are even programmed with more high-tech features, allowing them to communicate with smartphone apps. Many employees are excited about the technological advancements, feeling that the chip propels them into a tech savvy future.
Yet others warn that the convenience and thrill of the chips are outweighed by privacy issues. Conceivably, the chip could also keep track of an employee’s location, even counting the number of bathroom breaks taken throughout the day. The microchips use the same technology as contactless credit cards or mobile payment apps, meaning that data flows between the chip and other devices. While the microchips don’t “read” data themselves, they produce data that can be read by other devices–which is what allows them to communicate with smartphone apps and make payments for food items in the company cafeteria.
As Ben Libberton, a microbiologist, points out, this means that there is a huge amount of data that could potentially be stolen from the embedded microchips. Libberton observes that “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. 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.”
As with any situation involving data, two huge questions loom: who is looking at the data, and what are they doing with it? Yet the chips continue to grow in popularity at Epicenter, and another company in Belgium is also offering similar implants. With no biological health risks, there’s no doubt that more companies will be adopting the practice–with employees who aren’t ready to become cyborgs quite yet keeping wallet and keys firmly in hand.
Source: World Economic Forum