24 August 1998 was the day that Kevin Warwick, a British professor of cybernetics, had a chip implanted under his skin. At the time it allowed Kevin to open doors and switch on lights with a brush of his hand and gave him his 15 minutes of fame but we all moved on with our lives thinking it was a quirky little experiment.

Fast forward twenty-four years and microchipping of domestic cats and dogs is now compulsory across most States in Australia and, although not yet compulsory, microchipping of humans is happening across the world.

When I use the term ‘microchipping’, what am I actually referring to? Typically the small chip – about the size of a large grain of rice – is a radio frequency identification (RFID) device. The RFID tag holds a very small amount of data, about two kilobytes as a maximum. That is the equivalent of 2,000 characters or 350 words. When the tag is held close to an RFID reader, electromagnetic energy from the reader activates the chip and radio waves are sent back to the reader with the information stored on the chip. Just like your contactless credit card, the chip inserted under your skin has no requirement for a battery. It does require power to transmit its data though but it receives that power in the form of the electromagnetic energy from the RFID reader. The RFID device sitting under your skin is effectively turned off until it is brought in to very close proximity with a reader. RFID tags have been used as far back as the seventies to track railway carriages or manage stock but Charles Walton officially patented RFID in 1983.

With commercial sales now available for human microchipping, tens of thousands of people are choosing to be tagged with RFID chips. Why? It is all part of the aim of increased convenience in our daily lives. On the way home from work, you might drop in to the corner store for some milk. Whoops – you left your wallet in the car. No worries. Just swipe your hand over the EFTPOS machine. Having trouble carrying all the groceries in from the car and then fumbling with keys? Just swipe your hand over the lock. Either right now or in the near future, it is feasible for you to use your chip to replace traditional keys; credit cards; workplace ID cards; public transport passes; government ID and even proof of vaccination. The chip can be updated with more information externally or a relatively simple process can be undertaken to physically remove the chip and insert a new, updated, chip.

In a survey at the height of the pandemic, 28 per cent of American adults believed that Bill Gates was using COVID-19 vaccines to microchip people to allow them to be tracked because, you know, when you have US$133 billion in your bank account the main thing you want to do is track where people are. If some people were worried about a vaccine being used to insert a microchip, what would those same people think about an actual microchip being inserted under your skin?

I know it won’t convince some, but the only way an RFID chip can work is by being very close to the reader. Using satellites to read data on a chip under your skin is not possible with current technology but if you see someone walking through a crowd and bumping an EFTPOS machine against your hand, then you should be concerned.

Tell me if you would be prepared to have a chip inserted under your skin at ask@techtalk.digital

Mathew Dickerson

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