It starts innocuously enough.
An implanted chip to buy snacks.
No GPS capability, the company assures us.
No big deal.
Nonetheless, employees around the world are walking around with implanted microchips, offered to them by their employers.
The latest is Three Square Market (32M) based in River Falls, Wisconsin. 32M claims to be the first company in the U.S. to implant employees with an RFID chip. They’ve done this so they can shop at the company’s micro market during break without having to use cash or credit cards. The implants will also allow employees to open doors, login to computers and use the copy machine without the need for passwords.
The company provides self-service “micro markets” – a sophisticated version of a vending machine where employees can buy food and beverages during their break – to businesses around the world.
RFID technology or Radio-Frequency Identification uses electromagnetic fields to identify electronically stored information – it’s also used to track packages in transit. The chip implant uses near-field communications (NFC), the same technology that allows you to pay with your phone by holding it up to a device.
A chip, about the size of a grain of rice, is implanted between the thumb and forefinger underneath the skin at the company’s cost.
Todd Westby, 32M CEO, noted in a press release that the technology will eventually become standardized allowing it to be used in place of a passport, for public transit and shopping.
“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,” Westby noted.
32M is partnering with BioHax International and Jowan Osterland, CEO, based out of Sweden. The company decided to chip their employees when they saw the concept in operation in Sweden.
32M is not the only company to tag employees.
In April this year LA Times reported that the Swedish startup hub Epicenter offered to implant workers and start-up members with microchips that function as swipe cards to open doors, operate printer or buy snacks. Mail Online reported in February that the Belgium digital marketing and tech firm NewFusion, was going to implant identity chips in employees. The chips contain personal information and provide access to the company’s IT systems and headquarters, replacing existing ID cards.
So, being tagged is on the cards so to speak. In the case or 32M the company gives the insurance that employees won’t be tracked, but what about the future, and this practice becomes so common that we don’t even question it anymore? What say will people have on what those innocuous chips are imbedded with?
For now the procedure is quick and free and convenient if it’s too much trouble to remember to take a key, a credit card or a smartphone with you.