RFID stands for radio frequency identification. Many of us have never heard of RFID though most people this technology daily. It can be found inside library books, keys of vehicles, passports and, even in credit cards. RFID chips can store and relay information, enabling it to identify commercial products. Recently, due to interest from the masses, this technology was adapted into distinct areas of the market. Several individuals, for example, see the benefits of tagging their household pets so they can be tracked.
In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration approved human “tagging” to help retrieve medical records, but not many people signed up. The line between technology and reality blurred a little more when companies like Three Square Market allowed their employees to choose if they want a chip injected between their index finger and thumb. The chip, using RFID technology, enables the employees to enter the office building, use copy machines, share business cards and pay for food all with the swipe of a hand. Fifty employees in River Falls, Wisconsin have already agreed to have the chip implanted.
“We see this as another payment and identification option that not only can be used in our markets but our other self-checkout/self-service applications,” said Three Square Market COO Patrick McMullan.
It is clear that the RFID chips do not keep data regarding where you are or were, but the employee’s smartphone can – any iPhone could quickly provide data to nosey supervisors. Right now, this program is only voluntary though there is nothing stopping companies like Three Square Market from urging employees into getting these chips.
Some people take this technology a step forward. Artist Neil Harbisson was born with achromatopsia, which means he can only see black and white. Harbisson has implemented a specialized electronic eye which executes colours as sounds on a musical scale. Essentially, he is able to “hear” colour through his device. “When I started to dream in colour, I felt [that] the software and my brain had united,” said Harbisson. He was excited about the technology and so, decided to establish the Cyborg Foundation, an organization whose aim is to assist humans in becoming cyborgs.
The most important thing to do is to set standards on the RFID chips. These should outline specific ownership and control over all implants, including educating the public with widespread literacy on how the chips work and what they are programmed to do.
To read more stories on technology, innovation and science, check out the science and technology section.