The term “biohacking” was until recently associated with a fringe group of tech enthusiasts engaged in “do-it-yourself” body modification experiments. Yet in some countries the movement is becoming mainstream.
In the past three years, more than 4000 Swedes have had a tiny ID microchip embedded in their thumb, allowing them to buy food, enter secure buildings, and perform a range of other social activities merely by holding up their hand against a reader.
The microchip was developed by Swedish company Biohax International. The implants were first used in 2015, but have becoming increasingly popular in recent months.
Several companies in Sweden already offer the service to their employees -- often for free -- to help them quickly enter the building or pay for cafeteria food.
The creators of the device say the chips help to reduce plastic waste, and users say the chips are a convenient way to perform tasks that would otherwise require an ID card.
Szilvia Varszegi, a 28-year-old businesswomen, said the chip “basically solves my problems”:
“I see no problem for [it] becoming mainstream. I think it's something that can seriously make people's lives better”.
The small implants use Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, the same as in contactless credit cards or mobile payments. When activated by a reader a few centimetres (inches) away, a small amount of data flows between the two devices via electromagnetic waves. The implants are “passive”, meaning they contain information that other devices can read, but cannot read information themselves.
Critics, however, are concerned that information on the devices could easily be accessed by third parties. When the device was launched last year on Sweden’s SJ trains, one flaw in the system meant that rail staff would sometimes be shown a passenger's LinkedIn profile instead of their ticket information.
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