We carry electronics in our pockets and on our body, so why not right under our skin? A chip embedded in your hand makes life easier. Critics however warn that firms can control and watch their employees with an implanted chip like dogs. Is this so hot that it should burn us?
Imagine that you had breakfast and you go to work: You get in your company car, park in your designated place, go through a turnstile, unlock your office, turn on your computer – all this without keys, a plastic card or any other identification tool.
You can do all this with a chip implanted under the skin of your hand. Imagine experiencing such a morning as early as tomorrow. Yes, it is in fact possible.
Strange but modern
Swedish incubator Epicenter is one of the first companies that in 2015 turned employee biohacking science-fiction into reality.
“First, it seemed to me a little bit frightening but I also felt rather modern,” Lin Kowalská, who agreed to be chipped, told journalists back then, adding that the tiny thing in her body does not restrict her whatsoever - she practically does not feel it and does not have to take care of it in any way.
The mentioned tiny thing is a 2×12 mm capsule made of special biocompatible glass; it contains a RFID chip, which is a data storage and a copper antenna. All this is embedded between the thumb and the index finger to avoid any damage to the capsule.
Epicenter employees use the RFID chip (which is normally used to locate animals or shipments) instead of a plastic card. They no longer need to search in their purse or pocket to open a building door or a safe, to pay for their meal in the canteen or to start a copier. They just use their palm.
Disregarding the danger
There are now perhaps thousands of employees with a chip. Biohax, one of the largest suppliers of human chips, says that about 4,000 people have their products implanted in their body.
However, some specialists do not welcome this technological novelty with open arms and rather warn against potential risks. Both the Trades Union Congress and the Confederation of the British Industry in Great Britain recently spoke against chipping because it would give firms even more power and control over their employees.
Yet, Jan Hubík, one of the first hacked Czechs, mitigates these worries. The chip in the body is passive and practically non-functioning, unless you place it close to the scanner. Nobody can track you because the reading distance is about several millimeters. Moreover, the user has full control over what is in the chip and what the employer is allowed to know.
A chip from the heart
Three Square Market, the first firm that dared to biohack its personnel in the liberal-minded USA, focused on company security. An example? You cannot unlock your computer unless you went through the turnstile that day. The chipping of employees of a high-security datacenter in Cincinnati was even in their employment contract (and this was back in 2006).
Meanwhile, biohacking is searching for a more liberal way: the developers want to make it more natural to have, rather than not to have, a miniature capsule under the skin.
Three Square Market has the 32Chip Division that, together with the research center of cardiologist Michael Mirro, is developing a RFID implant that will permanently monitor the health of the chip user. Yes, it can save one’s life. On the other hand, we are talking about a device that is active and sends out very sensitive data.
Would you like to try it?
You don’t have to travel abroad to try the chip first-hand (or rather under your skin). For instance, Paralelní Polis in Prague will order and implant it for you. After that, you can pay with the chip in the local café.
You can also use it at work. According to Jan Hubík, you just go to the IT Department and insist on having the chip matched with your record in the access details database. Once it is done, you too can store away your plastic card…