To technology logicians, implanting microchips beneath the skin might seem to be the natural extension of the development of wearable technology. But that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t raised significant privacy – let alone ethical – questions among others.
Workers at a Swedish tech business incubator, Epicenter, have had RFID chips the size of a grain of rice and that contain personal information embedded in their hands. With the wave of a hand, the company says, they will be able to open doors and operate office technology such as photocopiers.
An over-engineered solution to a banal problem (if it is indeed a problem) you might think, but the implications are far wider and in fairness to Epicenter it is introducing the technology as a trial. To advocates the benefits are clear – in a future, transaction-less world it will be possible to make payments using chips – dispensing of the need for hand-held cards, PINs and passwords.
Equally, people will tap in data (such as from the gym or their workout) to their implants much the same as they currently do with their mobile phones – the Internet of Things means that the chips will be able to communicate with multiple devices inside and outside the home, thereby leading to a greater interaction with the world around us. And it isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine a time when personal health and financial data is stored on the chips – the benefits to the state (and to corporations) are clear. But what does it mean for the consumer?
Of course, wearable tech has been storing health and well-being data for a while now but only a few devices have been able to interpret and analyse this data in order to identify, and therefore suggest remedies, to health problems. It’s all very well a device telling you that you’ve only had fours sleep when you already know that’s what you’ve had – actionable changes to improve this are required. If chips are able to provide single-source data that can interpreted as such then the need for multiple pieces of wearable tech or apps that aren’t designed to talk to each other may become obsolete.
But this assumes that people will be willing to have a sub-cutaneous chip inserted in the first place and for that – health companies and insurance firms, which are likely to benefit the most from the data provided, might have to offer some pretty hefty incentives.
For more information about the future of chipping and which companies have started offering the under the skin tech, read the article on the BBC here.