Report: Microchip the size of rice grain may be future for unlocking doors

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Researchers in Australia have developed a prototype for an insertable microchip, designed to be implanted into one’s skin around their pointer finger and thumb and used to electronically unlock doors.

More and more cutting-edge companies are having employees use insertable microchips in lieu of a swipeable card to gain access to work, and scientists at the Australian Centre envision numerous applications for the technology.

It feels, says insertable technology expert Kayla Heffernan, like getting a drip.

Once the needle is removed the incision heals in a few days and the microchip remains, allowing the wearer to open doors with the brush of a hand – provided they only wish to access one particular place.

Commercially available insertable microchips are only large enough to hold one access code and a small amount of other information, so the days of replacing an entire wallet and keychain with a tiny computer under the skin are not yet upon us.

Heffernan has had one microchip between her thumb and forefinger for almost 18 months, which she uses to unlock her front door. She got another on the outer edge of her other hand last November to access her office at Melbourne University.

“Some people use it to unlock their phones or their computers. Some people have modified their cars and one person even their motorbike, so it’s not only access to their house but it’s access to their vehicle and to turn it on. Obviously that requires quite a bit of microelectronics and physical mechanical work, and that’s not accessible for everyone.”

She also says not to worry, as there are no “tracking” abilities installed in the chips as of yet. Employees had voiced concern that employers could track their every movement. But Heffernan noted that people can already be tracked via their cell phones.

Heffernan says that’s more a reflection of science fiction-obsessed news reporters than any actual privacy risk. She says it is possible the chip could be used to track bathroom breaks but that would only be if employees required people to swipe to get into the bathroom, a function that could also be tracked via a standard swipe card.

“The chip has no tracking capabilities,” Heffernan says. “They don’t have any battery and they don’t have any GPS sensors … If someone was going to track you, they’d use your cell phone.”

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