- Kathryn Latham
- BBC economics editor
Patrick Baumann usually creates a lot of ado when he pays for his purchases or drinks at the café.
The reason for this is that the 37-year-old does not need credit or bank cards, nor his mobile phone to pay, but is sufficient for him to use his arm.
Baumann, a Dutch security man, only has to put his hand near the automatic payment machine, to complete the payment, and says: “The looks of surprise I see, are worth a lot, more than any money.”
Baumann was able to push that way, because he implanted a microchip under the skin in 2019. “The microchip injection hurts a little bit, as much as someone pinch you,” he adds.
The history of the first implantation of a chip under the skin of a human being dates back to 1998, but this technology did not become commercially available until the past decade, only.
With regard to the technology of growing banking chips, the British-Polish company Waltmore says that it became, last year, the first company to offer it for sale.
“The chip can be used to pay for your drink, at the beach, in Rio, or your coffee in New York, or even your haircut, in Paris, or your purchases at the local store near your house,” says Witek Paprota, the company’s founder and CEO.
“The chip can be used anywhere you can use your usual bank cards,” he adds.
The Waltmore chip, weighing less than one gram, and the size of a grain of rice, includes an integrated electronic chip, and an antenna, inside a capsule of biopolymer, a natural material similar to plastic.
Pabrota confirms that it is completely safe, has obtained official and health approvals, and works directly after its cultivation, and it remains stable in its location, and does not need a battery or a power source, and that his company has sold more than 500 slides.
The company uses a technology, compatible with the “Contactless Payment” technology, which is used in many mobile phones, and works across a frequency circuit in the radio broadcast space, to determine the identity of the person.
For many of us, the idea of implanting a chip in our body sounds like an attractive idea, but a 2021 poll of 4,000 people across the UK and EU revealed that 51 percent would consider it.
However, without referring to a specific percentage, the study said that “the fear of something strange in the body, and security concerns, were the main sources of concern” for the respondents.
“The chip uses the same technology that people use on a daily basis, from house keys, to transportation, and bank cards,” says Baumank.
He adds: “The chip’s reading distance is small, and it is determined by the antenna, and the chip needs to be within the electromagnetic space compatible with its technology, in order to work, and only when there is a compatibility between the transmitter and antenna fields, does the chip become readable.”
He asserts that he is not worried about the possibility of using the chip to track him personally, noting that “this technology is used in pet identification chips, when they are lost, but it does not allow them to be located.”
The greatest fear of these segments is focused on what they could turn into, in the future, to include a lot of personal information about a person, and thus it becomes a duty to think about how to protect this personal information, and to prevent tracking a person using it.
Theodora Lau, fintech expert and co-author of Beyond the Machine How Technology is Revolutionizing Trade says that cultured payment chips are just an application of the Internet of Things, meaning they are another way to communicate and exchange information.
And yet, while you say a lot of people are thinking about it, because it will make payment faster, and easier, the benefits have to be weighed against the potential risks, especially when these chips contain more of our personal information.
“Exactly how much do we want to pay for our comfort? And where do we draw the line between our comfort, our privacy and our security? And who is going to protect the information infrastructure and the data of those involved?”
Nada Qaqabad, Professor of Governance Policies and Ethics, at the University of Reading, England, is wary of the future of using cultured slices.
“There is an unknown aspect of this technology that can lead to exploitation, and for those who don’t like personal liberties, it opens up a new realm of control, control and oppression,” she says.
“And who will own the data? Who will be able to process it? Is it ethical to transplant the chips into humans as we do for animals?”
And the results you warn of, may be: “Removing power from the majority to give it to the few.”
Stephen Northam, a lecturer in creativity and entrepreneurship at the University of Winchester, says the risks are not guaranteed. In addition to his university work, he has been working for the company “Biotech”, which works in the field of slide implants, since 2017.
The company aims to implant chips for people with disabilities, to help them with some things, such as opening doors from a distance.
“We have daily inquiries, and we have implanted 500 chips in Britain, but the Corona epidemic has slowed things down,” Northam says.
“I’ve used this technique in animals, for years, and they’re small, harmless slices that don’t pose any danger,” he says.
Back in Holland, where Baumann describes himself as a “bio hacker”, someone who implants small pieces of technology into his body, to get better, has 32 implants for parts inside his body, including slides to open doors and magnets.
“Technology keeps advancing, so I keep adding cultures, because they help improve my body, and I don’t like to live without them,” he says.
“There will always be people who don’t like changing their bodies, and we have to respect that as well as they have to respect biohackers,” he says.