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Epicenter, the Swedish start-up company sounds like something of a dystopian vision but injecting microchips into the hands of employees is routine.
Employees are offered the implant when starting at the company, and the Microchips are the size of a grain of rice. The implant works in much the same way as a swipe card, in that employees are able to open doors, buy a drink or operate a printer, merely by swiping their hand.
Companies Turning Employees Into Cyborgs
The chief executive and co-founder of Epicenter, Patrick Mesterton, said the microchips were convenient. Having had a microchip injected himself, he gave an example by waving his hand at a door that was locked and opened it. The microchip does away with the need for lots of other things, such as communication devices, keys, and credit cards.
Microchipping isn’t new as of course the technology is used in dogs, and some companies use them as a way of tracking their deliveries. However, the technology hasn’t been used on employees in a company on such a broad scale as that of Epicenter.
The microchips make use of near-field communication technology or NFC for short. The same technology is found in smartphones and contactless credit cards and debit card. The chip relies on a reader which activates the chip and data then flows in-between the two devices through electromagnetic waves.
As with any new technology the microchips raise issues with privacy and security. Biologically safe, the microchips do delve into the personal lives of the employees as they show what people buy and how often the employee goes to work. As the microchip is implanted in the hand of the employee, they carry it with them all the time and cannot discard it, such as they would if it had been implanted into a smartphone or swipe card.
A microbiologist from the Stockholm Karolinska Institute said that the data from the microchip embedded into a person is very different from that in the smartphone. He went on to explain that in concept you could get data about the health of a person, the whereabouts of a person, how long that person has been working and whether they are taking too many breaks. He said that if this information is being collected there is a concern about what happens to it and the purpose it is being used for.
Even Mesterton said that microchipping should not be taken lightly and he had doubts himself at first. The company doesn’t take putting an alien object into the body of an employee lightly. He then likened it to people having pacemakers and such installed. At the side of this, the small microchip seems nothing.
However, the employees at Epicenter don’t seem to be worried about how the company uses the information. One employee said that he liked to try out new things and technology and he was excited to find out what it brought in the future and thought of the microchip as nothing more than an enabler.
Employees are given a chance to have the microchip implanted at monthly events. The task is undertaken by Jowan Osterlund, from Biohax Sweden. Osterlund implants the microchips through pre-loaded syringes into the fleshy part of the hand close to the thumb. The process takes just seconds, and the electronics then move into the body.
Epicenter employee more than 2,000 workers in over 100 companies and they started implanting the microchips in workers in January 2015. Around 150 employees have been injected with the microchips so far.