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2022-05-06 09:31:54 Technology
Microchip implantation will make it possible to pay by hand

More than half of those surveyed by Marqueta are interested in having payment chips implanted. In Russia, implants are still in a grey area of the law: neither banned nor permitted.

Patrick Pahuman causes a stir whenever he pays for something in a shop or restaurant: the 37-year-old man doesn't need to use his bank card or mobile phone to pay, as he puts his left hand near a contactless card reader and the payment goes through. Powman can pay with his hand because a contactless payment microchip was implanted under his skin back in 2019.

"The implantation procedure is no more painful than a pinch," he says.

The microchip was first implanted in humans back in 1998, but it is only within the last decade that the technology has become commercially available. British-Polish firm Walletmor says it was the first company to bring implantable payment chips to market last year. "The implant can be used wherever contactless payments are accepted," says founder and chief executive Wojtek Paprota.

The Walletmor chip, which weighs less than a gram and is slightly larger than a grain of rice, consists of a tiny microchip and an antenna encased in a biopolymer - a natural material similar to plastic. Paprota adds that it is completely safe, has regulatory approval in Europe, works immediately after implantation and will be securely attached. The chip does not require a battery or other power source. The firm says it has already sold more than 500 chips.

Walletmor uses NFC, the same contactless payment system used in smartphones. Other payment implants are based on radio frequency identification (RFID), a similar technology commonly used in physical contactless debit and credit cards.

For many of us, the idea of having such a chip implanted in our bodies is terrifying, but a 2021 survey of more than 4,000 people across the UK and European Union found that 51% of respondents would consider such an option. Nevertheless, the authors of the report add that "invasion and security issues remain a major concern" for those surveyed.

Powman says he has no such concerns. "Chip implants contain the same technology that people use every day. The reading distance is limited to a small antenna coil inside the implant. The implant must be within the electromagnetic field of a compatible RFID (or NFC) reader. Only if there is a magnetic link between the reader and the transponder can the implant be read," he explains. Powman says he's not worried about its location being tracked.

The problem with such chips, however, is whether they will become even more advanced and filled with a person's personal data in the future. Is such information secure? Will a person really be trackable?

Financial technology, or fintech, expert Theodora Lau, who co-authored On the Other Side of Good: How Technology Is Leading to a Business-Driven Revolution, says implanted payment chips are just an "extension of the Internet of Things". By that, she means just another new way of connecting and sharing data.

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