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Big companies are considering microchipping employees to boost workplace security

Staff writers, November 13, 2018 7:00PM News Corp Australia Network

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Big companies are thinking about implanting microchips in workers. media_cameraBig companies are thinking about implanting microchips in workers.

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Workers could soon be microchipped* by their bosses to boost security.

Swedish technology firm Biohax said it was in talks with several big British businesses in the legal and financial industries as they consider inserting chips into their employees.

One potential client is a worldwide auditing firm* with hundreds of thousand of workers.

The £150 chips ($270 Australian) — which are around the size of a grain of rice — are similar to those used on pets.

It is unclear where on the human body they would be inserted.

Biohax founder Jowan Osterlund used his 15 years’ experience as a body piercer* to develop the method.

He told London’s Sunday Telegraph the chips would allow companies to restrict* access to things such as secure workplace areas and confidential* documents.

Microchips can be used to give employees access to work buildings. Picture: David Caird media_cameraMicrochips can be used to give employees access to work buildings. Picture: David Caird

“These companies have sensitive* documents they are dealing with. (The chips) would allow them to set restrictions* for whoever,” Mr Osterlund said.

“There’s no losing it, there’s no dropping it, there’s no forgetting it. There’s always going to be an ultimate* back-up.”

He said the chips could also be used like a security pass to enter buildings, use printers or buy food from the canteen.

They are based on “near field communication” — the same technology found in contactless bank cards. In Sweden, about 4000 citizens have chips inserted including 85 of the 500 employees at travel operator Tui.

Mr Osterlund said he expected some people would resist the technology at first, but predicted it would eventually catch on, especially for private businesses.

The technology is also being tested in Australia.

Melbourne researchers have trialled an injectable microchip between the thumb and forefinger for keyless entry.

Designers are even hopeful it could eventually be used as an alternative to Tap and Go payments.

A microchip is injected into a hand. Picture: David Caird media_cameraA microchip is injected into a hand. Picture: David Caird

Last year, 10 people had the $200 chips inserted into their hands at the launch of Melbourne’s tech and business event Pause Fest.

At that time, Melbourne University PHD candidate Kayla Heffernan, who has studied insertable ­devices for non-medical purposes, said the concept had huge potential.

“They can be used for acc­ess to homes and workplaces if you have a swipe system,” she said.

“Some people have gone as far as modifying* their cars or their motorbikes to unlock their vehicles.

“They can also be used for authentication* for phones or the computer and to store small amounts of information.”

Ms Heffernan said she didn’t believe there was anything to be afraid of with microchipping.

“People are fearful based on science fiction, they think chips can be used to track you and that the government is going to force us to get them, but that is just not possible, it’s not how they work,” Ms Heffernan said.

VIDEO: Listen to Australian IT expert Marcel Varallo explain why he trialled having a microchip inserted into his hand.

Last year, Steven Northam, 34, a businessman from Hampshire in the United Kingdom, became the first person in Britain to be fitted with a similar microchip.

It allows him access to his home and office — and even to start his BMW car.

Mr Northam had his chip implanted between his thumb and finger.

He thinks there’s nothing scary about a future where we’re all fitted with cyborg* implants.

“There are two demographics* of people. There are those who think it’s brilliant, and those who think it’s the government taking control.

“That tends to be older people. But I remember parents worrying about chip and pin and CCTV cameras*. Give it 10 or 20 years and this will also be commonplace*.”

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GLOSSARY

microchipped: place a microchip under the skin

boost: increase

auditing firm: company that reviews activities to identify inefficiencies and reduce costs

body piercer: person who pushes jewellery through the skin for decoration

restrict: limit

confidential: intended to be kept secret from others

sensitive: kept secret for security reasons

restrictions: limits

ultimate: the best

modifying: changing to be more modern

authentication: proving something to be true

cyborg: robot that looks human with mechanical body parts

demographics: data relating to the population and particular groups within it

CCTV cameras: closed circuit TV cameras used for security

commonplace: it is everywhere

LISTEN TO TODAY’S STORY

QUICK QUIZ

1. Name three types of firms considering microchipping in the UK.

2. Which tech company is working on the technology?

3. How much would a microchip cost?

4. Bank cards use the same sort of technology. What is it called?

5. Where is Mr Northam’s microchip inserted?

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES

1. What do you think?

Think about the concept of humans with microchips in their bodies. Write down at least 3 possible benefits of this and at least 3 potential negative aspects. When you weigh up the positives and negatives, what are your thoughts about the idea? Write a paragraph explaining your point of view.

2. Extension

Find a partner who has a different point of view to you. Read each other your responses. Does your partner put forward any points that you hadn’t thought of or that sway your point of view? Decide together on 2 rules that could be applied to the microchipping of humans that might overcome some potential negatives.

Time: Allow 25 minutes

Curriculum links: English, Ethical Understanding, Personal and Social Capability, Critical and Creative Thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY

After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many connectives as you can find in pink. Discuss if these are being used as conjunctions, or to join ideas and create flow.

HAVE YOUR SAY: When you start working, would you allow your boss to implant you with a microchip? Why or why not?

No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking.

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