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Employees at micro market firm Three Square Market (32M) will be getting an upgrade in the form of a microchip implanted in their hands. Once implanted, the chips will enable their hosts to make cashless purchases and gain access control when opening doors, logging into computers, using the copy machine and other tasks.

The chip, about the size of a grain of rice, is passive, with no power supply. Injected into the host’s hand below the thumb, it works in conjunction with a radio frequency identification (RFID) near-field communications (NFC) transceiver in the store, lock or control system. When the host’s hand is moved to within a few inches of the transceiver, the chip’s passive circuit encodes the host’s identity on a signal that is then reflected back to the transceiver to verify identity. NFC technology is widely used in contactless credit cards, transportation passes and mobile payment interfaces.

“We foresee the use of RFID technology to drive everything from making purchases in our office’s micro markets, 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,” said 32M chief executive Todd Westby. “Eventually, this technology will become standardized, allowing you to use this as your passport, public transit farecard, all purchasing opportunities, etc.”

32M, a major manufacturer of micro markets, has more than 2,000 kiosks operating in nearly 20 nations. It also runs more than 6,000 kiosks in Turnkey Corrections, its own corrections-segment service. The firm expects more than 50 staff members will volunteer to be chipped, which involves a syringe and takes only a few seconds. The Wisconsin based firm plans to implement the implants during a “chip party” at 32M headquarters on August 1st.

“We see this as another payment and identification option that not only can be used in our markets, but also at other self-checkout and self-service applications that we are now deploying at convenience stores and fitness centers,” McMullan said.

Three Square chief operating officer Patrick McMullan observed that the international marketplace for human microchip implants is wide open and the future trajectory of total market share is going to be driven by those companies who enter the arena first. Europe is currently more advanced in mobile and chip technology usage than the US, but he predicted that 32M will help drive the technology, including the use of implants, in the U.S. He said 32M envisions the technology growing its self-checkout businesses.

32M is partnering with the developer of the technology, Sweden’s BioHax International. BioHax chief executive Jowan Osterland will perform the injections. His company sees the concept as part of an evolution toward what he calls the “Internet of Us.”

Osterland is not alone in seeing human-machine integration as the next frontier. In fact, experts from around the world believe that this is the next “natural” progression. It is the best, perhaps the only way, to transcend our biological limitations, according to many. Others may resist on the grounds of “unnaturalness” or “dangerous and unprecedented change,” but is it really so different to modern society? Isn’t it just better human-machine interfacing?

“We’re already cyborgs: biological matrices augmented by wirelessly connected silicon arrays of various configurations,” says Kelsey Breseman, engineer at Technical Machine. “The problem is that we’re pretty clunky as cyborgs go. We rely on screens and mobile devices to extend our powers beyond the biological. That leads to everything from atrophying social skills as face-to-face interactions decline to fatal encounters with garbage trucks as we wander, texting and oblivious, into traffic.”

Breseman is concerned that the Internet of Things is seen only as a new and shiny buzz phrase. “We should be looking at it as a way to address our needs as human beings,” she says, “to connect people to the Internet more elegantly, not just as a source for more toys. Yes, we are now dependent on information technology. It has expanded our lives, and we don’t want to give it up. But we’re not applying it very well. We could do it so much better.”

Most would conclude that this is the inevitable next step for human and technological “evolution,” and the perfect proving ground for the next stage such technology is the smart building. Using implanted technology to interact within a defined environment will allow researchers and society to develop their understanding of how machines can become even more fundamental to the human experience. Making this a very exciting development for implanted technology, and for smart buildings.

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