Those who work in a secure office building know the drill. When you arrive at work, you swipe your keycard or similar device at the front-entrance security gate so you can enter. Those without the proper clearance aren't allowed in.
Now, imagine the same scenario, only instead of swiping a card, you simply wave your hand in front of a chip reader to gain entrance. That's exactly the situation with a number of employees at Epicenter, a Swedish tech startup.
The company has inserted microchips into the hands of roughly 150 employees, reports the Associated Press, allowing them to do things such as open doors, operate printers or buy items at the on-campus market. Here is a look at the implications of such technology for both employers and employees, good and bad.
How the technology works
Microchip technology isn't new, of course. It has actually been around for years, although it's typically a way to track pets rather than employees.
The devices are no larger than a grain of rice and are inserted painlessly. At Epicenter, chips are inserted into the fleshy area between the thumb and index finger so employees can activate them with the wave of a hand.
The microchips are passive, meaning other devices can read information from them, but the chips can't read info themselves.
How microchips benefit employers
As one might suspect, there are pros and cons to inserting microchips into human workers.
For employers, the benefits are numerous. The chips allow employers to track where employees are and whether they're working or not. They can track other things such as spending habits, the length of lunch breaks, work attendance, and movement patterns throughout the workday.
The implanted chips track data in the same way that credit cards or smartphones can. The obvious difference is that people can separate themselves from their credit cards or phones but not from the implanted chips.
How microchips benefit workers
There is one main benefit for workers who decide to let their employer stick them with microchips: Convenience. Think about it -- how nice would it be to bypass a security area with a simple wave of your hand?
You could do this for other daily tasks and activities as well, such as purchasing beverages at the onsite coffee shop, activating your department's copy machine, or even logging into a work terminal. It's like having a host of essentials such as your keys, passwords, company credit card, and key fobs all implanted in your hand.
Possible dangers of microchips
While the relatively new technology offers convenience, there are some potential drawbacks as well. The first is physical health. Though the chips are tiny and appear safe in the short term, the potential long-term health effects have not been tested. There's no way to tell if the chips will still be healthy 20 or 30 years down the road.
The other main concern is privacy. Do you really want your employer to be able to track where you are 24 hours a day? Further, just like hackers can compromise the data on your credit card or smartphone, the same can be said for the data stored on your implanted microchip.
In the end, the implanted employees at Epicenter in Sweden all had the chips inserted by choice, so it's not as if the company forces employees to take part.
While the company has gained attention as an early adopter of implanted microchips in humans, it will be interesting to watch how it plays out and helps shape the practice for other companies going forward.