US Company Offers Microchips for its Employees

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A US snack machine manufacturer Three Square Market (or 32Market) will soon launch an initiative whereby its employees will be encouraged to become engrafted with a sub-dermal Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) microchip, which can be used to open doors, use copiers, make purchases in the break room, log into computers and more.

The chip, contained within a glass capsule and approved by the FDA as far back as 2004, is surgically inserted under the skin between the thumb and the index finger.

While the potential for hacking such devices is currently unknown, the data transfer protocol used in the chip (called Near-Field Communication or NFC, which is commonly used in contactless credit cards and for mobile payments) does not allow for GPS tracking. As an added layer of security, all transferred data will be encrypted.

A chip the size of a grain of rice will be implanted subdermally, giving volunteers easier access to office equipment and other functions. Image credit: Wikimedia.org, CC BY-SA 2.0.

The chip itself, manufactured by a Swedish company Biohax, will function in a similar fashion to a proximity card – a specialised reader will use a wirelessly generated electromagnetic field (which also means the chip will not require any batteries) to read the serial number assigned to a specific chip, which, in turn, will trigger the desired outcome.

Several European companies, such as the start-up workspace Epicenter, already offer “chipping” to their employees, and a Swedish rail company allows people to use implants as a substitute for fare cards.

“The international market place is wide-open and we believe that the future trajectory of total market share is going to be driven by who captures this arena first,” said COO of 32Market Patrick McMullan in a press release. “Europe is far more advanced in mobile chip technology usage than the US and we are thrilled with the growth opportunity this enhancement will bring to us.”

Employees of 32Market will not be required to adopt the new technology if they do not want to. Those who are interested in how it functions, but would prefer to avoid the surgical procedure, will have the option of wearing the chip in a wristband or an RFID Smart Ring.

Currently, around 50 employees are interested in the implant.

The campaign will be used mostly for advertising purposes, although Todd Westby, the CEO of 32Market, hopes the technology will eventually become standard, which could open a plethora of possibilities in addition to the ones mentioned above, such as using microchips to store health information and instead of passports and tickets.

The campaign will commence on 01 August.

Sources: press release, techrepublic.com, prodigitalweb.com, theverge.com.

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