An x-ray showing a Walletmor RFID chip injected into a person’s hand after a local anesthetic. The company’s literature on its website says: “Forget about the cash, card, and SmartPay solutions. Since now you can pay directly with your hand. Get your Walletmor payment implant now and make a step into the future.” Image courtesy of Walletmor.

Microchips in humans: consumer-friendly app, or new frontier in surveillance?

By Ahmed Banafa, September 8, 2022

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An x-ray showing a Walletmor RFID chip injected into a person’s hand after a local anesthetic. The company’s literature on its website says: “Forget about the cash, card, and SmartPay solutions. Since now you can pay directly with your hand. Get your Walletmor payment implant now and make a step into the future.” Image courtesy of Walletmor.

In 2021, a British/Polish firm known as Walletmor announced that it had become the first company to sell implantable payment microchips to everyday consumers. While the first microchip was implanted into a human way back in 1998, says the BBC News—so long ago it might as well be the Dark Ages in the world of computing—it is only recently that the technology has become commercially available (Latham 2022). People are voluntarily having these chips—technically known as “radio frequency identification chips” (RFIDs)—injected under their skin, because these microscopic chips of silicon allow them to pay for purchases at a brick and mortar store just by hovering their hand over a scanner at a checkout counter, entirely skipping the use of any kind of a credit card, debit card, or cell phone app. (See Figure 1 at top of page.)

While many people may initially recoil from the idea of having a microchip inserted into their body, a 2021 survey of more than 4,000 people in Europe found that more than 51 percent of respondents said that they would consider this latest form of contactless payment for everything from buying a subway Metro card to using it in place of the key fob to unlock a car door. (Marqeta/Consult Hyperion 2021).

References

Ajami, S., and Rajabzadeh, A. 2013. “Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology and patient safety.” Journal of Research in Medical Sciences. September.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3872592/.

Banafa, A. 2021. “Technology Under Your Skin: 3 Challenges of Microchip Implants.”  Post to personal website Technology Waves by Prof. Ahmed Banafa: Analysis of Blockchain, Internet of Things, AI, and Cybersecurity. March 7. https://www.profbanafa.com/2021/03/technology-under-your-skin.html.

myAyan. No Date. “Advantages and Disadvantages of Microchips in Humans.” myAyan website. https://www.myayan.com/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-microchips-in-humans.

Fowler, G. 2021. “Apple’s AirTag trackers made it frighteningly easy to ‘stalk’ me in a test:.” The Washington Post. May 5. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/05/05/apple-airtags-stalking/.

Latham, K. 2022. “The microchip implants that let you pay with your hand.” BBC News, Business Section. April 11. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-61008730.

Marqeta/Consult Hyperion. 2021. “The European Payments Landscape in 2030: Implants, embedded ethics and a ‘post-payments’ world – can technology help create a more equitable future for all?” https://resources.marqeta.com/c/report-european-payments-landscape?x=hj28Ub&submissionGuid=95961be5-2b0b-4858-9459-d312087827a0.

Schumaker, E. 2020. “Elon Musk unveils brain chip implant: ‘It’s like a Fitbit in your skull.’ ” ABC News. August 29. https://abcnews.go.com/Health/elon-musk-unveils-brain-chip-implant-fitbit-skull/story?id=72703840.

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