Human microchipping: Is RFID the future or a step too far?

“Do you mind if use your contactless?”

This question is asked daily, but makes no sense. Of course I do, or do you expect me to type in my pin number like an absolute peasant?

The evolution of payment methods

Paying for things for things has become so easy these days. It’s almost like you’re not spending money at all. No longer must we endure that awkward sixty second wait for the credit card machine to spit out a receipt. When you reach into your wallet, there is always that fear that after filling a trolley with groceries, you’ll have forgotten your card. There’s a solution for that.

Thanks to the revolutionary Apple Pay, Samsung pay and Google pay, we can now pay with our phones. Currently this is only available in limited locations, with European banks and payment solution providers such as Visa a little wary of such a new technology. It’s unlikely they will stay wary for long, meaning it is only a matter of time until payment cards face a genuine challenge from smartphones. Paying can be as quick as a penalty in rugby, tap and go.

Of course, it’s not unheard of that you forget both your wallet and phone. My own mother is notorious for leaving her phone at home, and her wallet could easily be in another bag. If you have a smart watch handy though, you’re in business. Once it has the required NFC technology, you can pay with your smart watch just like you would your phone.

RFID as payment method

RFIDLeft your smart watch at home too? You’re having an awful day, but even for people like you, another solution is in sight. For nearly five years now, since being approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in America, people have been having chips, about the size of a grain of rice, inserted into their wrists. It’s a very simple procedure, requiring a small injection and a chip. The chip itself can last up to 10 years and withstand strenuous physical abuse. It can store information such as your name, date of birth, medical history, and of course, your bank details.

Of course there are very practical uses for such technology. Epicentre, a Swedish hi-tech office block, offers employees the option of being chipped, allowing them access to rooms, printers and to pay for items in the canteen with a wave of the wrist. Some couldn’t wait to be chipped, while others said there would be no chance they would take part.

In 2007, NBC predicted that by 2017, Americans will begin being micro-chipped. The chip could contain medical data, personal information and location data.

Could such chips ultimately give authorities the power to track people down and possibly neutralise them too? Such technology could provide un-paralleled convenience, but also herald be the end of privacy as we know it.

I can already see myself holding my wrist out in front of a scanner as a Siri-esque voice greets me with “Good morning Dean, here’s today’s agenda”. It’s important we break this down further. How secure or safe can this be?

How secure is RFID

The chips in questions here are Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). RFID readers have a surprisingly long range within which they can retreive data, measuring between 10 to 40 feet. Someone could get your contact, medical, personal and financial information without even knowing what you look like, and without you even knowing they were trying. However, there are also RFID chips which are limited to a six inch limit. And if the information were to be stolen, it is stored in a secure online database, but of course where there is a will, there is a way. How secure can these databases be? Should they be government owned and given the Edward Snowden leaks, would anyone trust them?

Then there are the physical risks, such as the unknown long term effects of a foreign object in your body. Fans of Dan Brown’s Angel and Demons will be familiar with the removal of an eyeball to gain access to a biometric scanner. What would stop someone, desperate to access a building, cutting off an arm? Might be better to simply hand over a key, no pun intended.

Tell us what you think.

Has technology gone too far, or is it simply following the route that we find most convenient and progressive. Let us know below.

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One half of The Goosed Podcast, Dean is passionate about football and fantasy football, but just isn't that good at it. Fortunately, technology trends both past and future are just his cup of tea. Goosed Tower Limerick needs its dose of Dean to keep us all firmly on the ground. Read more by Dean

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