The concept of voluntarily microchipping ourselves with the same kind of technology as the owners of dogs and cats have been doing for years may initially strike as some kind of dystopian Big Brother future. But that is exactly what over 3000 Swedes have done, by choosing to have a small microchip implanted under their skin. And while the greatest number of individuals carrying a chip might be in Sweden, there are hundreds more around the world.
But why? The reason is simple convenience. Rather than carrying around wallets full of cards and cash and bunches of keys, the microchip takes one step further than the latest technology in the world of smartphone apps. In Sweden, a growing number of commercial enterprises, from public transport operators to smart locks companies, are now compatible with the kind of chips growing numbers of chips are implanting themselves with.
The chips are based on near-field communication (NFC) technology. The chips send data to a reader but only at micro ranges of up to 4cm. But Swedes are using them to make contactless payments like a debit or credit card, unlock doors to buildings or even cars and sign into the gym. As rates of adoption increase more and more services and technology are building in NFC compatibility.
The technology itself is not completely new and is similar to those used to carry passport information, medical records and GPS tracking for family pets. But it is only since around 2015 that chipped humans have been taking advantage of the convenience of going key and wallet free.
However, as with most new technology that holds reams of our personal data and is potentially able to track our movement, there are security concerns. And unlike smart assistants or appliances at home, once you take the decision to have a microchip implant you can’t just decide to switch it off when you choose. Implanted NFC chips don’t have the same kind of anti-hacking security system as smartphones that combine biometric information like fingerprints or facial recognition to unlock them.
So while chip implants may have the advantage of offering convenience, like much of the latest technology in the world that convenience does with a trade-off. Presumably, as the technology progresses, additional layers of security will be added to protect the personal information of chip wearers. But in the meanwhile, I think it is one technology development I’ll personally be holding off on for a little while yet.