Three Square Market specializes in ‘micro markets’ – mini convenience stores located in staff break rooms – but it’s also developing an interesting sideline in employee implants.
What’s more, the River Falls, Wisconsin-based technology company, which engineers the software and hardware for micro markets, has offered its employees the opportunity to have their own RFID chip implanted.
The chip sits between forefinger and thumb, just below the skin. Once in place, it will allow employees to make purchases in the company’s break room market, open doors, log into computers, use photocopiers and more.
The chip works in a similar way to chips in the proximity cards that so many office workers wear on lanyards, for example, and the keycards that hotel guests use to access their rooms. A unique number is associated with each chip. By placing the chip near a reader, the number and software interact, and the required transaction takes place.
This isn’t the first time that workers have been implanted with microchips by their employer. Three Square Market partner Biohax has been working with Swedish companies to implant RFID chips into workers since 2015. It is still a rarity, though. Many workers understandably have health or privacy concerns. There are clearly huge issues here around consent and data protection.
There are also technology challenges. James Moar, senior analyst at Juniper Research, told Internet of Business: “The key for any of these [implants] to actually take off is a universal set of protocols that can be loaded onto the chip and then used. That makes any application scalable and more convenient for the end user.”
“However, this means that whoever owns the authentication and ID part of the process stands to gain the most from a business perspective. This will make the partnerships that are needed to enable universal APIs inherently contentious.”
A solution for the squeamish
Those who would rather not have the implant but would like to take advantage of the benefits the RFID chip offers can take the alternative, non-invasive option of wearing either an RFID wristband or RFID/NFC (near-field communication) smart ring.
While offering these options, Three Square Market points out that the implantable chip has been approved by the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) since 2004, that data on the chip is encrypted and so protected from theft, and that removal is straightforward – they imply that removal is akin to taking out a splinter.
On the offer of an alternative to an implant, James Moar commented: “The advantages of implants over cards is their permanence. They are unlikely to be lost, and are non-transferrable. Businesses do not need to worry about theft of access details to the same degree, because to do so would involve mutilation and be much more obvious. From a business perspective, it also allows more precise tracking of employees due to the in-body nature of an implant over a card.”