Office Implants Introduce Biohacking to the Mainstream

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Office Implants Introduce Biohacking to the Mainstream

One business is now outfitting its (voluntary) employees with implants to save them time. See how tech like NFC and RFC are becoming a part of us.

· IoT Zone ·
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I was excited to read recently that Three Square Market (32M) is offering implanted chip technology to all of their employees on August 1st, 2017. Employees who want to will be implanted with a RFID chip, allowing them to make purchases in their break room micro market, open doors, log into computers, use the copy machine, etc. It's optional for all employees of the company, who is partnering with Sweden's BioHax International.

RFID technology (Radio-Frequency Identification) uses electromagnetic fields to identify electronically stored information. Passive RFID systems are short range, magnetically coupled devices where a reader and tag use induction coils to exchange both power and data. The reader creates a magnetic field and the tag inducts power from this field to power itself, and this magnetic field is modulated to pass data between reader and tag. The chip implant uses near-field communications (NFC); the same technology used in contactless credit cards and mobile payments. A chip is implanted between the thumb and forefinger underneath the skin within seconds.

Three Square Market uses micro markets, a mini convenience store located right in the employee break room using a self-checkout kiosk, similar to what is found at many major retailers. 

According to CEO CEO, Todd Westby:

"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. Eventually, this technology will become standardized allowing you to use this as your passport, public transit, all purchasing opportunities, etc." 

32M is envisioning this technology to help it grow its other self-checkout businesses. "We see this as another payment and identification option that not only can be used in our markets but our other self-checkout/self-service applications that we are now deploying which include convenience stores and fitness centers," added Mr. McMullan.

Scandinavia Is the Place to Be for Biohacking Innovation 

It's worth noting that Scandinavia is particularly renowned in biohacking circles, including hosting the bi-annual Biohacker's Summit. When you consider that Sweden is moving rapidly towards a paperless society (many banks don't handle cash, some shops, and museums now only accept plastic; and even Stockholm’s homeless have started accepting cards as payment for their magazine), then the idea of an implant as an alternative to wallets and keys seems more likely. 

It is, however, worth stressing, that at present, there is no implanted device that can be used as an alternative to a key card or cash. One person working to get closer to this is Amal Graafsta, founder of Dangerous Things with his latest venture, VivoKey, a Java card NFC platform planted in the body that will allow users to carry cryptographic keys with them as opposed to on external Internet-connected devices, merging a person's physical and digital identity.

Better yet, it allows developers to create applications for the platform including secure payment and encryption. Graafstra told Motherboard in an interview:

"The killer app will be payments in transit, the ability to get rid of your keys and your wallet. Now you're talking about something that the average person will get behind."

Common Questions About Implants 

It's funny how many people are horrified by the notion of wearable implants, yet see no problem with cochlear ear implants, contraceptive implants, or tattoos and piercings for that matter. Without fail, these are the most common questions I get about my own implants:

Can the implant be used for surveillance?

No, the chip in the implant cannot be detected. Since it is a transmission technology for a short radio distance of a few centimeters, it is not technically possible to locate it.

Does the chip or implant have a GPS function?

No, the chip has no GPS function. It is a purely passive chip for short radio links. You are not being tracked or followed. 

Can you travel through a metal detector at an airport?

Yep. The amount of metal in the tag is about the same as a tooth filling, so it is not enough to set off these types of security devices.

Interestingly, just last year, Andreas Sjöström, vice president of tech consulting company Sogeti uploaded his Scandinavian Airlines flight booking to his implant and used it to board a plane out of Stockholm Arlanda Airport to Paris. He used the implant to check into an airport lounge and go through the security checks. He was able to do this because the Swedish Airport has installed NFC readers that can scan data from a chip, meaning it reacts as if you have the ordinary NFC sticker from the airline, so you're eligible to pass through, and it recognizes who you are. Scandinavian Airlines has provided NFC tags to EuroBonus Gold members for a long time. The tag contains only the EuroBonus ID in an encrypted format. 

It's likely that it may take another generation or so for people to be completely comfortable with the idea of non-medical connected implants. Let's face it, an NFC-embedded phone can achieve pretty much all of the functions discussed in this article. It's also worth stressing that for this to happen, they need to always be voluntary, and their functionality needs to get much better to include payments (not something banks endorse right now). It's a movement that will come in small waves instead of a rush. 

biohacking, implants, iot, nfc, rfid, wearable tech

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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