By Sahid Fawaz
Most people would be revolted at the idea of having a microchip embedded in them. And rightly so. But workers at a Wisconsin business appear to have no problem with the idea.
“When Patrick McMullan wants a Diet Dr Pepper while he’s at work, he pays for it with a wave of his hand. McMullan has a microchip implanted between his thumb and forefinger, and the vending machine immediately deducts money from his account. At his office, he’s one of dozens of employees who have been doing likewise for a year now.
McMullan is the president of Three Square Market, a technology company that provides self-service mini-markets to hospitals, hotels, and company break rooms. Last August, he became one of roughly 50 employees at its headquarters in River Falls, Wisconsin, who volunteered to have a chip injected into their hand.
The idea came about in early 2017, he says, when he was on a business trip to Sweden—a country where some people are getting subcutaneous microchips to do things like enter secure buildings or book train tickets. It’s one of very few places where chip implants, which have been around for quite a while, have taken off in some fashion.
The chips he and his employees got are about the size of a very large grain of rice. They’re intended to make it a little easier to do things like get into the office, log on to computers, and buy food and drinks in the company cafeteria. Like many RFID chips, they are passive—they don’t have batteries, and instead get their power from an RFID reader when it requests data from the chip (McMullan’s chip includes identifying information to grant him access to the building, as well as some basic medical information, for instance).
A year into their experiment, McMullan and a few employees say they are still using the chips regularly at work for all the activities they started out with last summer. Since then, an additional 30 employees have gotten the chips, which means that roughly 80 of the company’s now 250 employees, or nearly a third, are walking, talking cyborgs.
‘You get used to it; it’s easy,’ McMullan says. As far as he knows, just two Three Square Market employees have had their chips removed—and that was when they left the company.”
For the rest of the story, visit the MIT Technology Review here.