If you haven’t heard of the name Patrick Paumen, you’re going to be spoiled (or shocked!). Paumen is known to cause a stir when he walks into a restaurant or store and pays for food or service.
Indeed, her man does not need a bank card, cash, or even his mobile phone to pay his due amount. Instead, he simply places his left hand near a contactless car reader and payment is made.
He is able to do this because in 2019, a contactless payment chip was injected under his skin. Paumen says the procedure is painless, making it look like someone just pinched your skin. A microchip was first implanted in a human in 1998. However, it has only been in the last decade that the technology has been commercialized.
We have seen technology advance in payments for many years now. From cash to credit cards, we have moved to contactless payments, return transfers and electronic payments which are used in various industries, such as point-of-sale purchases, online travel ticket booking, l buying drugs through web portals, playing the best UK online slot machines at online casinos, and more. Implantable payment chips seem to be the next big thing.
The Anglo-Polish company Walletmor has become the first company to offer these implantable payment chips for sale. Founder and CEO Wojtek Paprota says, “The implant can be used to pay for a drink on the beach in Rio, a coffee in New York, a haircut in Paris – or at your local grocery store. It can be used anywhere contactless payments are accepted.
Walletmor’s chip weighs less than a gram and is slightly larger than a grain of rice. It is made up of a tiny microchip and an antenna encased in biopolymer, a naturally occurring material similar to plastic. Paprota claims that it is completely safe, has regulatory approval, and works instantly after being implanted and will stay firmly in place. It does not need a battery or any other power source. The company has now successfully sold 500 chips.
The technology used by Walletmor is NFC, near field communication which is used for contactless payment system in smartphones. Other payment implants are based on radio frequency identification, a technology similar to that used for contactless physical debit and credit cards.
While a number of people view this chip as invasive and raise safety concerns, a 2021 survey of over 4,000 people in the UK and EU found that 51% would consider using this chip as a source of payment.
Paumen says he is not at all concerned about security issues. “Chip implants contain the same type of technology that people use on a daily basis,” he claims, “key fobs to unlock doors, public transport cards like the London Oyster card or bank cards with contactless payment function”. The reading distance is limited by the small antenna coil inside the implant. The implant must be within the electromagnetic field of a compatible RFID [or NFC] reader. Only when there is a magnetic coupling between the reader and the transponder can the implant be read.
“RFID chips are used in pets to identify them when they are lost,” he says. “But it is not possible to locate them using an RFID chip implant – the missing animal must be physically found. Then the whole body is scanned until the RFID chip implant is found and read.
However, the problem also lies in the fact that these chips, in the future, could become more advanced and filled with a person’s private data, which would result in the tracking of a person. Expert Theodora Lau, co-author of the book Beyond Good: How Technology is Driving a Business-Driven Revolution claims that the implanted payment chips are “an extension of the Internet of Things”, that is to say another way of connecting and exchanging data. However, she also asserts that the benefits of these technological advances must be weighed against the risks.
Professor of politics, governance and ethics at Henley Business School at the University of Reading, Nada Kakabadse warns of an advanced future. “There is a dark side to technology that has the potential for abuse,” she says. “For those who dislike individual freedom, this opens up alluring new vistas for control, manipulation and oppression. And who owns the data? Who has access to the data? And is it ethical to chip the data? people like we do for pets?”
However, Paumen remains adamant that the pros outweigh the cons. “Technology keeps evolving, so I keep collecting more,” he says. ‘My implants augment my body. I wouldn’t want to live without them. There will always be people who don’t want to modify their bodies. We have to respect that – and they have to respect us as biohackers.