Earlier this summer, Wisconsin technology company Three Square Market offered its employees free microchip implants that function like a card reader. With a wave of the hand, workers may gain access to locked rooms and pay for food and drinks in the break room.
About 50 of the company's 80 workers signed up and got their grain-sized implant on Aug. 1. Here & Now's Robin Young learns more about how the project is going from Three Square Market's CEO Todd Westby and director of international sales Tony Danna.
On the thinking behind microchipping employees
Todd Westby: "Well, being a technology company, when Tony first brought the idea up to me it really wasn't that far-fetched. We initially looked at this as, 'This would be fun and neat internally,' because we develop stuff. It's since then turned into a heck of a lot more. It's all the attention it's gathered. You just can't believe some of the people that have contacted us, as far as wanting it: the military, foreign countries, our embassies. We brought this subject basically to the forefront by doing it, but we never had intentions of doing that."
On how the technology works
TW: "Any door card reader, any credit card reader, any convenience store reader, you just basically set your hand within a couple inches of it and it'll accept the form of payment, or whatever you're requesting it to do."
On initial reactions to using the microchip at work
Tony Danna: "It was a blast. From the time you get chipped, to when you sit down with our software developers and they write the code for you that allows you access into the doors, and then next thing you know you get your computer, now you're logging into your computer using your hand. And then we've got our break room market, now I'm finalizing my purchases in the break room market. So it's all those things that you never thought that were inconvenient, and that's now just a part of you and it makes your life more convenient."
"We initially looked at this as, 'This would be fun and neat internally,' because we develop stuff. It's since then turned into a heck of a lot more."Todd Westby
On whether the company can use the chip to track employees' movements
TW: "Really [it] has nothing to do at all with this particular chip, however there are GPS chips available, like what the military uses. But this chip is just for basically opening doors, playing music, unlocking your phone. It's really narrowly defined, and you have to have system keys to basically access the power of the chip."
On health concerns surrounding the chip
TD: "It's a biocompatible glass, so all of the [radio-frequency identification] technology within that glass is completely protected. When I was over in Sweden, one of the guys that I was talking to had actually got into a car accident going 80 mph, and he had the implant in his hand, and it had only moved one inch within his hand. So it wasn't like it busted open or anything like that. One centimeter's probably more like it."
On concerns about the chip being hacked
TD: "One thing that's really nice about our company is we are a technology company, so working directly with the software team, and when they're putting together their plan on how we're developing our applications, it's layer upon layer upon layer, which makes it much, much harder to be hacked. I mean, you cannot say anything out there cannot be hacked, but the way that they're doing it in a very responsible manner is making sure that our applications are protected."
TW: "Keep in mind one thing regarding the chip is the chip only has about 100 characters of memory on it, meaning what's used on the chip mainly is the serial number which ties you to the ability to open a door or log in a computer, so there's really not information on the chip, and the chip itself is encrypted with 256-bit encryption. So if you were to read it, you wouldn't be able to do anything with it."
This article was originally published on August 25, 2017.
This segment aired on August 25, 2017.