Performing some routine functions has just become extremely easy, or so it seems.
Unlocking car doors, turning on lights, logging into your computer, storing your numerous passwords and making payments can now be done without any physical or with very limited physical interaction such as a mere waving of the hand, thanks to a device generally called Radio-frequency identification technology implant (RFID) inserted under the human skin!
No, it is not in the future, it is here right now.
A Swedish start-up hub called Epicenter offers to implant its workers and start-up 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.
Patrick Mesterton, the chief executive of Epicentre said the biggest benefit is convenience. “It basically replaces a lot of things you have, other communication devices, whether it be credit cards or keys.”
An American company in Wisconsin, Three Square Mile (32M) has become the first in the US to roll out microchip implants for all its employees, and says it’s expecting over 50 of its staff members to be voluntarily ‘chipped’.
“We foresee the use of RFID technology to drive everything from making purchases in our office break room market, opening doors, use of copy machines, logging into our office computers, unlocking phones, sharing business cards, storing medical/health information, and used as payment at other RFID terminals,” says 32M CEO, Todd Westby.
So, what is it and how does it work?
A human microchip implant is typically an identifying integrated circuit device or Radio-frequency identification technology implant (RFID) transponder contained in a silicate glass and implanted subdermally in the human body.
This device holds an identifier about the person corresponding to an external database such as personal identification, medical history and police databank.
The device uses a Near Field Communication protocol that enables two electronic devices, one of which is usually a portable device such as a smartphone, to establish communication by bringing them near each other.
The type of protocol used in contactless credit/debit card technology for payment without inserting your card.
According to Mark Gasson, the first man credited to be infected with a computer virus, the separation between man and computer can become theoretical because the human body may perceive the technology as being part of it.
Other than Mark Gasson, several other individuals have implanted chips to serve various functions
Amal Graafstra has a double implant in his hands, which he uses to access his home, open car doors and log on to his computer. He also launched world first implantable NFC (Near Field Communication) transponder in 2014 funded through crowdfunding.
One of Bitcoin marketing managers inserted RFID chips into his hands to store his Bitcoin private keys and business card.
Hannes Sjoblad credited for producing the chips used by Epicenter, the Swedish Start-up firm has implant between his forefinger and thumb which he uses to unlock doors, make payments, and unlock his phone.
Shanti Korporaal, an Australian woman has a double implant under her skin that enables her to get to work and her car without carrying a car key. She also has a distribution company that sells the product for as little as $140, she claimed it can be self-implanted or be done by a doctor.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the marketing of microchip in 2004 designed by VeryChip Corporation, later known as PositiveID Corporation.
PositiveID Corporation stopped the marketing when it was revealed that similar device may have caused cancer in hundreds of laboratories animal, although the link between the development of tumour and the implant has been refuted in human.
The reasons these companies are deploying RFID seems trivial, the task been fulfilled by the device at the moment takes little effort to accomplished anyway, however, the device could be used for medical purpose in emergency situation, to provide information to doctors for a non-responding patient, it can carry allergies information as well as other medical histories, it may even be able to store “legal will”.
In theory, Chips enabled with GPS may become capable of making human tracking possible.
This could include and not limited to latitude, longitude, altitude, speed, and direction of movement.
GPS enabled chip could conceivably allow authorities to locate missing persons and/or fugitives and those who fled from a crime scene.
Is it all positive?
The excitement about the human chip is not without oppositions which range from scientific, logical and spiritual reasons.
One of the main oppositions to human microchipping is on religious ground.
Some religious group thinks the idea is straight from the pit of hell, “the mark of the beast” as predicted in the Bible Revelation 13 16-18 which says “Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name”.
Other oppositions are from pressure groups that are worried about governments getting hold of the technology and forcefully deploying it on citizens.
Critics contend government could deploy human tracking capabilities of the device in a way that is against human right, such as the Indonesia West Papua discussion to legislate a law to deployed human Microchipping to monitor the activities of a person infected with HIV, aimed at reducing their chances of infecting others.
The possibility of widespread use of this device is already envisaged by Hannes Sjoblad who made the chip used by Epicenter, he says “the Swedish Biohacking Group have another objective – preparing us all for the day when others want to chip us. “We want to be able to understand this technology before big corporates and big government come to us and say everyone should get chipped”
Other concerns are solely on security and crime prevention, for examples, there are concerns criminals could use it to their benefits, and can encourage crimes like stalking and harassment, slaveholders could use them to prevent captives from escaping and paedophiles could use the technology to locate and abduct children.
Despite the medical application advantages highlighted earlier, there are also concerns over potential hazards that are of medical concerns;
Implantable microchipping could potentially pose Electrical hazards.
An individual with this device may be incompatible with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine, thus making it difficult or impossible to have a potentially critical scan.
There is a potential for adverse tissue reaction or the device migrating to other parts of the body.
No longer are human-robot a thing of imagination or Sci-Fi, it is here right now.
Like everything else, there will be yay or naysayer, no idea will ever have 100% human approval.
Disregarding the religious reasons for the opposition of the technology, as I do not subscribe to it, but taking into considerations its potential applications, it’s pretty scary.
For the enthusiastic staffs of Three Square Market and Epicenter, it sounds really cool to be and feel like a cyborg, however, the potential of being tracked by your employer is of little importance but the danger of being hacked and followed is enough to discourage one from chipping.
Reliance on the security provided by the system may not be enough, if big government organisations like the CIA and FBI can be hacked, it is very likely that a chip in your hand can be hacked, it is even possible to be cloned and nefarious activity carried out in your name.
For me, it is exciting and scary in equal measures, but as it currently stands, the argument against the device outweighs the benefit, however, as most technological advancement does, this will develop and will or may become widely applicable over a range of important functions, by which time I may be convinced.
At the moment, I can comfortably open my car door, operate the printer, log in to my computer and pay for my espresso with relative ease.