Monday , May 17 2021

How microchips are installed that are embedded below the skin and allow you to pay without cash or card

Sweden is the first country in the world where you can pay for your train ticket without metallic or virtual money: it is done through a chip embedded in your hand. We tell you how this technology works and why it causes controversy.

The small fate of the back of Dave Williams's hand is the size of a grain of rice and is between his thumb and forefinger. It is barely noticeable, but when it opens the door of its house with it, it becomes a center of attention.

This British software engineer, working for Mozilla, has a microchip built into his hand, an electronic circuit in the form of a pill that works with wireless technology.

"I have a very bad memory," he told the BBC. That is why he decided to install that small device that allows him to not panic if he forgot the house keys.

It is the same type of chips that are becoming fashionable in Sweden and other Western countries, such as Germany, Australia and New Zealand, where several initiatives have been undertaken to promote this futuristic technology.

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But Sweden's case draws particular attention. Thousands of people in the Nordic nation – about 3,000, according to the AFP report in May this year – already have built-in microchips. Although the figure is probably even greater.

"More and more people in Sweden implant RFID chips in their own hands and use them to unlock doors," carry train tickets and even make payments, "says Mundo Ben Lieberberton, a doctor of microbiology working in a laboratory . MAX IV from Lund, in southern Sweden.


Microchips are the size of a grain of rice.

"Convenient" system

RFID, unlike a barcode, provides remote access to the information it contains. It is used in theft tags, in ski centers and in "Identification chips" for pets.

They are implemented in most smartphones and contactless cards, as well as in electronic passports.

But in recent years, its use in humans has gained special relevance. Sweden is leading this trend.

The issue began to make the headlines in 2015, when the Epicenter, a high-tech company based in Stockholm, caused some controversy by announcing that it would implant chips for its workers.

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With a twist of the wrist, employees can access the building, use a photocopier or pay for coffee.

"The biggest benefit is convenience," co-founder and director Patrick Masterton said in 2017. "It allows for the replacement of many things, such as a credit card or keys".

employed in the Epicenter

Chips can be used to activate the photocopier.

Pay by hand

Chips allow you to make payments contactless (without contact), especially promoted in Sweden, where barely 1% of the value of all transactions made in 2016 is made with money.

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Some of those transactions are made on trains.

The national rail company SJ – the country's largest – is the world's first to accept this type of payment.

When the reviewer passes, some passengers put their hand near their application smartphone. A train ticket seems like a thing of the past.

contactless payment with a microchip on a train from Sweden

You can pay for this train with your hand.

Every person who has a microchip, such as those in his hand, must first register with the company to get a number and be able to pay.

Stephen Ray, director of communications at SJ, knows the system very well because he himself has a microchip built under the skin of his hand.

In this way, the screen of the reviewer's mobile phone shows that the passenger has paid for the ticket and shows his number and name.

microchip built-in hand

The microchip is placed under the skin, between the index finger and the thumb.


"The only information SJ reads from microchip tickets is SJ's loyalty program membership," Ray told BBC Mundo.

"This number is not considered trusted and customer privacy is guaranteed by our point of view," he adds.

At present, this technology is used only in your company for regional travel. But the plan is that it involves much more.

However, Ray clarifies that "it will never be compulsory" for their clients to implement these chips and that "they are considered only as an optional service that we still consider a test project."

Stephen Ray

Steven Ray, from the SJ training company, has a built-in chip in his hand.

Stefan says the idea is to extend this initiative to other areas (and other payments) of everyday life, such as a credit card.

However, not all are in favor of microchips or have such an optimistic vision.

"This technology reduces the number of cards and devices they need, it's" miniaturized "enormously, making it impossible to lose them," says Liberton for BBC Mundo.

But the microbiologist warns that he is concerned about how chips can violate the privacy and security of those who use them.

"Since these chips are integrated into multiple digital services, they will discover more data if they are compromised – it's a weak point when it comes to security," he explains.

"Imagine if you use it to unlock your house or access your bank account, I'm afraid your convenience will make it easy for you to filter out important data."

And the question remains in the air: "The risks will be even greater when they begin to incorporate biological data on the chips, if the company knows more about you about your health, what are the ethical implications and who decides on the rules?" , concludes.

A microchip to a wooden sword

Their size is small, but may contain a large number of data.

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