We chip our cats and dogs, but what about ourselves? We discuss if it could ever be a good idea to let your employer microchip you.
We’re used to the concept of microchipping our pets: a tiny chip not much bigger than a grain of rice is injected under their skin, usually under the scruff of the animal’s neck – but what about microchipping humans?
Last week’s story that a Swedish company, Biohax, was apparently ‘in talks with a number of UK legal and financial firms’ to microchip employees of the un-named organisations looks like it was designed to get people talking about them with the aim, presumably, of boosting sales.
Apparently it’s chipped around 4,000 people since it launched five years ago.
Chips with everything
I suspect we’re a long way from a dystopian future in which new employees are subjected to being chipped. The Telegraph, which was the first publication to report Biohax’s press release, itself fell foul of angry workers who objected strongly to being tracked by sensors installed at their desks.
Telegraph bosses had to back down and withdraw the sensors after protests.
The technology in such chips is straightforward and useful: you can write a small chunk of information to it which can then be read by a scanner. The use case for pets of course is to record their owner’s details, helping ensure lost or injured pets can be returned home.
The chips, which use passive RFID technology, can also be used to identify the animal to let them in through a catflap: my cat uses one of these catflaps, which keeps her nemesis, a huge ginger moggy, out of my flat.
The chips are also used to track farm animals, helping farmers manage and keep track of their stock.
Keeping track of humans
But is it really such a bad idea? Rather than issue an employee with an access card they could lose, a chip under their skin can perform the same function, allowing access to workplaces, as well as containing the details you might otherwise have on a business card.
The BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones had a microchip implanted under the skin of his hand three years ago, and it’s still there.
‘I have to search a bit for it,’ he told me when I asked him about it the other day, ‘but I can still feel it. Did it hurt? Yes, it did hurt a bit,’ he said.
But what would happen after you leave a company? Are the chips any use or would you have to get it cut out? You can write to the chips yourself, although that’s not entirely straightforward. Cellan-Jones says that he added his contact details to his chip so that it can act as a kind of high-tech business card.
Although I am often an early adopter of tech, I’m not in a hurry to have myself chipped, and I’ll be among the first to the barricades if in some bleak dystopian future an employer or government wants to compel ordinary humans to be chipped.
But given the potential usefulness of the technology, what do you think? Would you be comfortable with being chipped? Would you ask your employees to submit to being chipped? Is this part of a future we should all get used to?