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We’ve all met an employee with a chip on their shoulder, but a chip in their hand?

More than half the employees at US-based micro market technology company Three Square Market attended a ‘chip’ party in August at which they received a rice-grain size biochip implanted in their hands in the latest example of wearable technology. President and chief operating officer Patrick McMullen shows us what it does

OK, I admit it. I have a FitBit. I got it with all the right intentions – a long-hours, sedentary job in front of a computer, constantly juggling P&L Excel sheets with interviewing and writing – before I knew it the clock would show 8pm and I hadn’t had lunch again, let alone moved from my desk for 12 hours. I needed an incentive to get moving and monitoring my steps was to be it.

Fast-forward and here I am two years later, occasionally overly excited when my whole arm appears to vibrate on the rare occasion I hit 10,000 steps. For, on the whole, this popular example of wearable technology has had little impact on my behaviour. I wake up every morning with those same good intentions, but my average steps in the week would make a sloth look like Mo Farah. I just can’t break my work-before-anything attitude, even when it comes to health (I blame former UK prime minister Mrs Thatcher for instilling this ethos in me as a young girl).

But I may be the exception to the rule, for a study by eMarketer forecasts nearly 82 million people will be using some form of wearable technology next year and this number is expected to continue growing. The technology is most popular among 25-44 year olds. Companies that have added wearable technology to their wellbeing programmes report it has helped to change behaviours. For example, TransUnion moved its non-performing wellbeing programme to one based around FitBits, in the process creating healthy competition and connecting people who might not normally be connected.

But what if my company had offered to embed a microchip in my hand to give me that extra incentive to get off my backside? Would I then feel I had no choice in upping my fitness levels, which would ultimately be a good thing for both me and the organisation?

To me, this is a step too far for many, many reasons but 50 of the 80 employees at Wisconsin-based micro market technology company Three Square Market recently became the first in the US to willingly have RFID chips embedded in their hands, enabling them to make purchases in their micro market (a mini workplace convenience store using a self-checkout kiosk to you and me), open doors, log in to their computer and interface with the wellness programme.

The $300 chip is placed under the skin between their thumb and forefinger and, if Three Square Market president and chief operating officer Patrick McMullen is to be believed, the practice will become normal as smart offices and smart cities become more ubiquitous. Convenience, security and efficiency will make such chips appealing, in the same way that contactless credit cards and mobile payment systems currently are, he says.

It’s all very Big Brother, with McMullan telling HR Exchange Network that the company is testing an attendance function that enables a company to see if employees are where they are supposed to be and performing the task they should be. There are also conversations about adding GPS.

But Three Square Market is not the first company to offer this type of ultra wearable tech. Swedish start-up hub Epicenter has been offering its start-up companies’ employees the same BioHax International technology since 2015 and now 150 workers have embedded chips. It’s all about convenience, they say.

So, is this something that adds real value to the organisation and the employee? Watch Three Square Market’s Patrick McMullen take you around his company and you can make up your mind.



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