What are we solving by microchipping our staff?

As enterprises prepare to microchip their workforces, are leaders creating more problems?
21 November 2018

Patrick Kramer of the company Digiwell uses the microchip implanted in his hand to open a door lock. Source: AFP

In a year dominated by tech buzzwords such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and blockchain, many believe that the future is already here.

An equal many, meanwhile, will advise extreme caution around the dangers of rushing into adopting new tech without thinking of the consequences.

Over the last ten years, we have accepted that placing a microchip implant under the skin of our pets was a great idea. The chips are around the size of a grain of rice, and with the use of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology, we should never lose our pets again.

I guess it was only a matter of time before someone looked at their dog and then their colleague before thinking, what if we applied this same tech to humans?

Are businesses microchipping their employees?

An increasing number of companies in Sweden, the US, UK and beyond are preparing to microchip their employees. But, what problem are we solving by installing a chip semi-permanently into our body tissue?

Sure, entering buildings and securing areas by waving your hand in the air like a Jedi sounds incredibly cool. But, I suspect that the novelty would wear off within a few hours. The bigger question is, what lengths will you go to in the name of convenience? And what are the real costs of adopting this technology?

While some increasingly warn that we are approaching an Orwellian dystopia, there is an argument that some are using the literacy masterpiece as a guide, rather than the warning it was intended to deliver.

There is an argument that almost every aspect of our lives is already being tracked. From the smartphone in our pockets, the CCTV cameras on the streets and even our continuing professional development (CPD). Companies might also argue that they already track employees through technology— they are just removing some of the hassle.

Are we creating more problems?

Many are beginning to question how much freedom we have unwittingly sacrificed in the name of security and convenience. But, the most alarming aspect of blindly rushing into the adoption of microchipping our workforce is that nobody appears to be thinking about the problems that it could cause in our immediate future.

There is already software that can monitor web activity and even monitor keystrokes on corporate machines. It’s not uncommon for call center workers to have a weekly report of their toilet breaks. What problems are we really solving by inserting a microchip under our skin, where a smartphone or tech wearable wouldn’t suffice?

It is often said that technology works best when it brings people together. With this in mind, instead of using tech to micromanage their staff, maybe we should be turning to tech to help solve real problems like engaging with employees. As the late Stan Lee taught me, with great power comes great responsibility and it’s this very human trait that we should protect before rushing into the unknown.

The reality, of course, is that putting a microchip under our skin is just a tiny part of the problem. The smartphone in our pocket contains our entire life along with tracking capabilities and a microphone. The only difference is that we can turn off the smartphone and go off the grid for a few hours.

But, it seems in the none too distant future, going offline won’t be an option, which begs the question; are we creating bigger problems than the ones we are allegedly solving?