In a move that could be lifted straight from science fiction, workers at a Belgian marketing firm are being offered the chance to have microchips implanted in their bodies.
The chips contain personal information and provide access to the company’s IT systems and headquarters, replacing existing ID cards.
The controversial devices raise questions about personal security and safety, including whether they may allow the movements of people with implants to be tracked.
NewFusion, a marketing firm in Belgium, is offering the chip to its employees.
The radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips are about the same size as a grain of rice and store personal security information which can be transmitted over short distances to special receivers.
RFID chips can already be found in contactless cards, including banks cards and the Oyster system which is used by more than 10 million people to pay for public transport in London.
They are also similar to the chips implanted in pets.
The ones used at NewFusion cost around €100 each (£85 or $106) and are inserted between the thumb and index finger.
A growing number of people and businesses are choosing to adopt the practice, known as biohacking.
Implant kits can be bought online, and include a sterile injector with a pre-loaded chip and gauze for wound care.
The chips can be used for a range of applications, from allowing access to properties to logging into computers or even starting motor vehicles.
It is believed there are 10,000 people across the world using the microchip technology inside their bodies.
NewFusion is not the first company to offer RFID implants to its staff.
In 2015, a Swedish company implanted microchips in its staff which allowed them to use the photocopier, open security doors and even pay for their lunch.
Hannes Sjoblad, the chief disruption officer at the Swedish bio-hacking group BioNyfiken, which implanted the chips into the Epicenter workers, told The Times: ‘We already interact with with technology all the time.
‘Today it’s a bit messy – we need pin codes and passwords – wouldn’t it be easy to just touch with your hand?
‘We want to be able to understand this technology before big corporates and big government come to us and say everyone should get chipped – the tax authority chip, the Google or Facebook chip.’
The future of interactive? How chips are implanted into the hand https://t.co/SRymrHeEeq
— Nerti U. Qatja (@nertiqatja) February 10, 2017
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects. The tags contain electronically stored information. Passive tags collect energy from a nearby RFID reader’s interrogating radio waves.
Active tags have a local power source such as a battery and may operate at hundreds of meters from the RFID reader. Unlike a barcode, the tag need not be within the line of sight of the reader, so it may be embedded in the tracked object. RFID is one method for Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC).
RFID tags are used in many industries, for example, an RFID tag attached to an automobile during production can be used to track its progress through the assembly line; RFID-tagged pharmaceuticals can be tracked through warehouses; and implanting RFID microchips in livestock and pets allows positive identification of animals.
Since RFID tags can be attached to cash, clothing, and possessions, or implanted in animals and people, the possibility of reading personally-linked information without consent has raised serious privacy concerns. These concerns resulted in standard specifications development addressing privacy and security issues. ISO/IEC 18000 and ISO/IEC 29167 use on-chip cryptography methods for untraceability, tag and reader authentication, and over-the-air privacy. ISO/IEC 20248 specifies a digital signature data structure for RFID and barcodes providing data, source and read method authenticity. This work is done within ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 31 Automatic identification and data capture techniques.
In 2014, the world RFID market is worth US$8.89 billion, up from US$7.77 billion in 2013 and US$6.96 billion in 2012. This includes tags, readers, and software/services for RFID cards, labels, fobs, and all other form factors. The market value is expected to rise to US$18.68 billion by 2026.