Epicenter, Swedish startup hub, has offered its workers to implant microchips that function as swipe cards. These small implants that are about of a size of rice grains use the same technology as contactless credit cards.
When the implanted chips feel the presence of a reader, they allow a small amount of data to flow in between via electromagnetic waves. Thus, employees can open the doors and buy smoothies just by waving their hand. The idea of such microchips is not new as pet owners often insert them in collar plates for their pets. What is new is that this time the company uses the technology to tag its employees. As Patrick Mesterton, co-founder and CEO of Epicenter says:
“The biggest benefit I think is convenience. It basically replaces a lot of things you have, other communication devices, whether it be credit cards or keys”.
Some researchers, however, are not so optimistic about the idea and believe that the new technology rises some privacy issues. The reason for it is that the microchips generate very personal information, concerning employees’ personal habits. As the device collects very personal information, it poses the question of what happens with this information after, and who might use it. As Ben Libberton, a microbiologist at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute suggests:
“The data that you could possibly get from a chip that is embedded in your body is a lot different from the data that you can get from a smartphone. Conceptually you could get data about your health, your whereabouts, how often you’re working, how long you’re working, if you’re taking toilet breaks and things like that.”
Epicenter, which employs about 2,000 workers, began implanting microchips in 2015. Since then about 150 workers have already inserted the implants. Within the company, the idea became so popular that employees organize parties for newly ‘chipped’ colleagues.
“People ask me; ‘Are you chipped?’ and I say; ‘Yes, why not.’ And they all start talking about privacy issues and what that means and so forth. And for me it’s just a matter of I like to try new things and just see it as more of an enabler and what that would bring into the future.” said Fredric Kaijser, the 47-year-old chief experience officer at Epicenter.