First USA company to install rice-sized microchips in employees

Three Square Market

Published on Jul 24, 2017

Three Square Market, a vending machine business, says the microchip would be implanted in the skin between a person’s thumb and forefinger. The chips are roughly the same size as a single grain of rice.

Welcome to the future?

A Wisconsin technology company is offering its employees microchip implants that can be used to scan into the building and purchase food at work. Whether or not to get a chip is up to the employee to decide. This is the first US company to offer this service to their employees.

Three Square Market, a company that provides technology for break-room or micro markets, has over 50 employees who plan to have the devices implanted. The tiny chip, which uses RFID technology or Radio-Frequency Identification, can be implanted between the thumb and forefinger “within seconds,” according to a statement from the company.

The Circle movie posterIt sounds like something from the movie, The Circle starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson . Being part machine does not hurt much, Tony Danna, vice president of international development at the company assured us.

“It stings you when it goes in. It takes about two seconds to go in,” Danna said. You may think it is weird, but according to Danna, it’s not weird, it’s “advanced.”

Bio-hackers have been inserting radio-frequency identification chips into their hands for a few years now, but this is the first time a company has offered it as a perk to employees. The $300 chips are inserted, and importantly, if an employee wants, removed, for free at the Wisconsin-based high tech vending machine company. Just like any credit card or ID card chip, the implant allows employees to pay for their lunch or open the door to their office. The only difference is that they can now do it with a wave of their hand. Out of 85 employees at the company, 50 have agreed to have the chip implanted, including, of course, Danna. Three Square Market has a particular interest in RFID technology because its vending machines can be operated using it.

“I don’t want to carry a wallet with me anymore. Actually, I forgot my wallet today. I didn’t even bring it to work. It’d be nice to be able to get some lunch. But you got your wallet, you got your key, your company badge. Now forget about all of that. That’s all in that implant in your hand,” Danna said.

Another perk of the RFID chip? No need to remember your computer passwords.

“Forget about all the passwords that you try and remember. Now your RFID chips are going to be able to do that work for you,” Danna said.

In case you are worried that companies will start to use the RFID chips to track the whereabouts of employees, the chip used by Three Square Market has no GPS component. Instead, it is a progression from the credit card chips and iPhone pay functions we already use, simply carried under your skin instead of in your wallet or pocket.

But that does not mean that future versions of RFID chips at companies can’t have a tracking component. Speaking with NBC News, Duke computer science professor Vincent Conitzer took a more cautious approach to the technology and its future utilization.

“If most employees agree, it may become a workplace expectation. Then, the next iteration of the technology allows some additional tracking functionality. And so it goes until employees are expected to implant something that allows them to be constantly monitored, even outside of work,” Conitzer said. “And unlike with a card, phone or ring, the employee cannot easily and selectively remove the device. Now is the right time to have a robust societal conversation about what we would like to see happen, rather than just seeing where things go and then realizing we can’t go back.”

How those societal conversations play out remains to be seen. But if having a RFID chip inserted under your skin still brings to mind paranoid science fiction or your dog’s microchip, you may have to get over your fears soon. According to Danna, “The amount of phone calls we’ve received from companies that are interested in also offering it to their employees has been, it’s been overwhelming, it’s been really cool.”

The company, which is based in River Falls, Wisc., envisions the rice-sized micro chip allowing employees to easily pay for items, access the building and their computers all with a scan of their hand.

“We foresee the use of RFID technology to drive everything from making purchases in our office break room market, opening doors, use of copy machines, logging into our office computers, unlocking phones, sharing business cards, storing medical/health information, and used as payment at other RFID terminals,” CEO Todd Westby said in a company statement. “Eventually, this technology will become standardized allowing you to use this as your passport, public transit, all purchasing opportunities, etc.”

And while microchipping employees may sound like something out of a horror film, the company is partnering with Swedish company BioHax International, which already has many “chipped” employees.

Employees are not required to get the microchips, and Westby told the station there is no GPS tracking.

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