By Akshaiyaa VS
Citizens in Sweden are, at an increasing rate, opting to have a tiny microchip inserted under their skin to replace the inconvenience of carrying keys, credit cards, train tickets amongst others. These implants, first installed in 2015, have become very popular among Swedes despite wide-ranging debate surrounding privacy concerns about doing so.
These microchips remain inactive until put in direct contact with the magnetic field of the chip reader. Usually, about the size of a grain of rice, they make use of near field communication to operate.
Process of installation
Microchips are usually inserted between the thumb and forefingers of citizens with the help of a needle which is about the same size as one used for body piercings. After installation, some users are prone to experience swelling in the region, however, this is nothing to worry about. The incision heals in a few days after the chip encapsulates itself to the tissue around the area in which it was inserted. The chips cost about $300 and take less a few minutes to install.
Benefits of the microchip
Undoubtedly, such short-range radio frequency identification (RFID)chips will make life easier. Imagine all the cards you have to carry to take the public transport, to access your workplace, your gym. Microchips completely eliminate the need to carry around such plastic cards which are easy to setal. Easy user identification and authentication can be used to make numerous activities easier, including giving a printer access to print something, and many more.
Furthermore, you will never have to worry about losing your wallet or important documents. Just a sway or touch of your hand will give you access to all your important documents. Chips can also be used to allow medical professionals to gain access to your medical history and documents. This can be particularly helpful in cases of medical emergencies where a patient is unconscious and cannot tell officials about what medicines they are allergic to, what diseases they have, which often delay patient care.
Microchips currently do not have a GPS or tracking unit installed and it will be difficult to do so in the future as the chips do not have a power source of their own. However, over the next few years, there is a possibility of adding the tracking feature. If added, it can be used for tracking criminals who break out of prison and infants or patients who are bound to get lost easily.
On the flip side, when your company scans you for identification, it is easier for them to monitor you, such as your location within the premises and how long you take breaks between work. This is a huge disadvantage as employees then tend to be constantly under stress that they are being watched. Swedish company Epicenter is already using chips to monitor toilet breaks of employees and how long they spend working.
Whenever we use the chip, it leaves behind a digital footprint, compromising user privacy. Although it is almost impossible for hackers to gain access to your microchip and very expensive to do so, there is a possibility of hackers being able to do so in the future.
Though the microchip encapsulates itself within fibrous tissue near to the site of insertion, it has a possibility to migrate inside, making it slightly difficult to take out during medical emergencies. Other health risks of microchips include electrical hazards, tissue reactions and infections.
Microchips are currently used as a replacement for physical cards or important documents, making it clear that the advantages outweigh the costs of the same. The risks associated with microchips are mostly due to the possibility of misuse as they can be inserted with minimal disruption making users vulnerable. As long as the choice of implantation is left to the person it seems the risks of microchipping can be comparable to getting a tattoo or a body piercing.
Akshaiyaa VS is a writing analyst at Qrius.