back to article US vending machine firm plans employee chip implant scheme

An American company is offering its hapless employees microchip implants as a substitute employee ID card. Three Square Market of Wisconsin, USA, which makes vending machines (for some reason the firm impenetrably describes the crisps ‘n’ drinks dispensers as “micro markets”), says it will offer implantable RFID tags to its …

  1. JimmyPage
    Stop

    So they're going to make people into cyborgs ?

    By the Kevin Warwick (aka "Captain Cyborg" ®) definition ?

    1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      FAIL

      So are they going to pay for the operation to have the chip removed?

      So are they going to pay for the operation to have the chip removed, say, when you leave the firm? Having these things removed after you leave the firm involves surgery. They have to numb your arm, make an incision, and grab the thing. If it has migrated (they are known to sometimes move quite a bit in chipped pets.), that can involve a large incision to fish it out. Might also involve x-rays if it has migrated.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So are they going to pay for the operation to have the chip removed?

        It wouldn't HAVE to be removed, they could just invalidate it in the company's systems, and presumably it wouldn't be hurting anything left in your hand. Or wherever it migrates to.

        If one was going to get an RFID implant (I'm not) you wouldn't want it to be 'installed' by a particular company. If they become popular for banking, starting your car, entering your house, unlocking your phone, identifying yourself at customs etc. are you supposed to stick a dozen of them in there? If a company has a problem and their DB of RFIDs is compromised they need you to add a 13th??

        There would need to be some sort of standard so you could have one that can be programmed to install multiple certificates and remove compromised ones - there'd need to be an app for that, I guess!

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: So are they going to pay for the operation to have the chip removed?

          Why remove it?

          I can see an advantage to having them -- when one is found stumbling around after closing time, a simple reading of the chip will show where to drop the inebriated customer off.

          1. the Jim bloke Silver badge

            And does it also unlock the front door ?

            So while your're incompetent, it tells some random stranger where you live and bypasses your security..

            .. kind of like having your address on your drivers license and carrying your house keys...

      2. Triggerfish

        Re: So are they going to pay for the operation to have the chip removed?

        Once they have gone through the soylent green process, it's easy to extract via magnet from the sludge.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: So they're going to make people into cyborgs ?

      Kevin, sticking electrical devices up your bottom doesn't make you a cyborg - now stop it.

  2. fobobob
    Facepalm

    I don't normally wish harm upon people for this sort of thing, but failing people's sensibilities and sanity, I hope there are enough technical/medical issues with these schemes to prevent their widespread uptake.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fuckwits!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "That, Terry, is the RFID chip you were supposed to implant into Mr Jefferies' hand, and THAT is a hamster. What do you have to say for yourself?"

      1. Solarflare

        "Honestly, I thought Mr. Whizzles would like to be able to choose whatever he wanted from the vending machine at his leisure."

  4. DagD

    Signal the end times...

    They've taken the mark of the Beast!

    Damn those snackages....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Signal the end times...

      I thought barcodes were going to be the MOTB...

      1. Agamemnon
        Devil

        Re: Signal the end times...

        Right? That's the way I always heard it. But that's just a wee sub-dermal. Let's get the damn thing IN THERE. Pop it in a lung and let's get to lunch.

  5. David Harper 1

    As an optional bonus

    The local veterinary practice has offered to combine it with spay/neuter in a two-for-one promotional package.

    1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: As an optional bonus

      A brilliant solution for the dimwits who have agreed.

  6. whoseyourdaddy

    We've been doing this to our pets for close to two decades.

    You do remember that these are encapsulated in high-grade plastic?

    There was an article on ElReg about doing this for hospital patients many years back to reduce hospital mistakes. The comments section: "They'll be monitoring us from dark vans driving past our houses!"

    That would be every pet owner's wet dream except the size of the device antenna makes it physically impossible. No more lost pet flyers just hasn't happened.

    1. fidodogbreath Silver badge

      We've been doing this to our pets for close to two decades.

      We also make our dog go out in the back yard to take a crap. He doesn't seem to mind, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea for me.

      1. whoseyourdaddy

        "We also make our dog go out in the back yard to take a crap. He doesn't seem to mind, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea for me."

        Did your dog take up smoking?

        Analogy failure.

      2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        We also make our dog go out in the back yard to take a crap. He doesn't seem to mind, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea for me.

        You're doing it wrong.

    2. handleoclast
      Stop

      Re: We've been doing this to our pets for close to two decades.

      @whoseyourdaddy

      You do remember that these are encapsulated in high-grade plastic?

      Presumably plastic of a high enough grade not to cause problems in the typical 20-year-lifetime of an indoor cat (indoor dogs and outdoor cats can have shorter lives. Call it 25 years, since some cats manage to live that long.

      So, good enough for 80 years in a human? Implant at 20, live until 100. No carcinogens, no toxic breakdown products, no allergic reactions, or anything like that. Right? Because we've proved it's safe in animals that typically live no longer than 20 years. Oh, and we tend not to do detailed autopsies on them to find out if their implant caused their demise.

      Safe enough. Right?

      Or maybe not. We need some test subjects. You can volunteer. By the time the experiment has concluded in 80 years, I'll be dead. And probably so will you. But your children will know if it was safe or not.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: We've been doing this to our pets for close to two decades.

        Call it 25 years, since some cats manage to live that long

        Two of ours when I was young lived to 22 and 24. Our longest (so far) is 18..

        Oh, and we tend not to do detailed autopsies on them to find out if their implant caused their demise.

        Even in pets, there are cases of cysts or tumours that form around the implanted RFID tag.

    3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      That would be every pet owner's wet dream except the size of the device antenna makes it physically impossible.

      Indeed. All the pets[1] at chez COCM are chipped. We ask the vets to check them when they have their regular MOT and it's quite often difficult for the vets to locate them with the hand scanners that they use. I suppose you could have bigger scanners with a significantly higher signal but I suspect you'd then run a higher risk of the EMF heating causing the pet problems.

      [1] Apart from the fish (and me, obviously).I'd like to see a vet trying to get an RFID tag through the armoured skin of a pleco..

  7. LDS Silver badge

    Just like Futurama career chips?

    No thank you.

    Business people should watch some sci-fi, sometimes, instead of just porn.

    Don't want to know what being fired means, also....

    1. Infernoz Bronze badge
      Terminator

      Re: Just like Futurama career chips?

      They could stick your hand in an EMP cavity, possibly a Microwave, to zap the chip, and won't care if your hand or more is cooked too, because extraction surgery could be a lot more expensive for them, especially with or without a 360 Degree X-Ray of the hand... Another approach could be to put magnet attractive metal in the chip and use a powerful electromagnet to find it, and hope they never get sued for damages after a medical EMR (super-conducting electromagnet) scan over the hand! Who knows, an medical EMR scan may even zap the chip.

      Anyhow, it's a really risky/dumb idea, because it could cause hand irritation and injury, and be a prevalent security risk, because it may not be feasible to fully RFi screen the chip outside work!

  8. Your alien overlord - fear me

    How many blokes will opt to put it in their knob - pay in a shop, just pull it out and wave it at the shop assistant."But your honour, I was paying for it!!"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I would, I can see it now "Dick Tick accepted here".

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      A whole new level of "pay by bonk". Especially if the "recipient" had a chip reader implanted somewhere similarly convenient.

      1. Alistair
        Windows

        @Phil O:

        If the expression is taken to logical conclusion, an appropriate professional could change from a flat rate to by the stroke.

      2. Robert Moore
        Coat

        A whole new level of "pay by bonk". Especially if the "recipient" had a chip reader implanted somewhere similarly convenient.

        Useful for prostitution in a cashless society. <BR>

        Pay per thrust?

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. DNTP

      on the Knob

      Mine's a bar code on the side of the knobshaft that gives me a discount on reproductive health products. But it never scans correctly at first- always registering as "baguette, small"- until they run it over the scanner a few more times, upon which it's changed to...

      (not my joke, retold from one of the funniest things Simon the BOFH ever wrote)

    4. silks

      I'm ready to make a large deposit...

  9. iron Silver badge

    Vending machines?

    Looking on their website I don't see any vending machines, what I do see are fridges and shelves with a standard POS till next to them. Oh and a lot of fat bastards that need to put down the food and go for a slow walk (anything faster would probably kill them).

    1. trsanford

      Re: Vending machines?

      They aren't vending machines, although many operators of vending machines offer micromarkets to their larger clients. A micromarket works pretty much like the self-checkout line in a supermarket customers pick their items from those shelves and coolers, then scan them and pay at a "kiosk." I'm not sure how many patrons will want to have an NFC chip implanted in order to streamline the payment process, but then, I can't understand why so many people use Twitter, either.

      1. aregross
        Thumb Up

        Re: Vending machines?

        What you're describing was called an Automat back in the 50s and early 60s, 'cept there was a poodle-skirted bubblegum-chewin gal at the end that took your money.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automat

        1. HPCJohn

          Re: Vending machines?

          Automats are still very popular in the Netherlands. My favourite is the 'bami' - a block of Indonesian noodles, wrapped in breadcrumbs and deep fried. Delicious and costs about 1 euro

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bamischijf

          Sadly no poodle-skirted girls in most automats though!

          Not really for hot food, but in Switzerland if you are stuck on a Sunday with no open shops there are huge robitoc vending machines at stations in big towns.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Vending machines?

      "Oh and a lot of fat bastards that need to put down the food and go for a slow walk (anything faster would probably kill them)."

      I resemble that remark!!!

  10. Daedalus Silver badge

    Chips will be the subject of...

    ...the next wave of phishing.

    1. Swarthy

      Re: Chips will be the subject of...

      phishin' chips? Say it ain't so!

      Although, while these may be harder to change than a password, if they get compromised, they should be easier to change than fingerprints.

  11. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Redundancy time?

    Here's a bin liner with all your stuff, now just stop off at the security guy with the chain saw to hand in your security pass

  12. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    This makes sense

    If you believe that linking your payment cards and employee info to a $300 non-updatable device sounds like a bright idea.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: This makes sense

      "If you believe that linking your payment cards and employee info to a $300 non-updatable device sounds like a bright idea."

      I'm wonder what's special about the one used by the company in the article that it costs $300. If it's basically a company ID "badge", then why does it cost 15-30 times more than having your dog chipped?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This makes sense

        >then why does it cost 15-30 times more than having your dog chipped?

        Becuz 'Murica.

  13. MysteryGuy

    Not a good plan?

    At first I thought this must be an April fools joke... After just a moment of thought, many questions come to mind on to why this might be a bad idea:

    *) So, what happens if you leave the company? If other companies do this, do they all share a single RFID chip, or do you end up with a bunch of chips?

    *) How hard is this to remove?

    *) Doesn't this make your location trackable? (Unless you wrap aluminium foil over your arm (or wherever), I guess).

    *) Can't someone clone your RFID and pretend to be you? (Maybe getting free snacks :-) )

    1. Daedalus Silver badge

      Re: Not a good plan?

      RFID tech has been pretty much spoof-proofed after years of use in entry cards, subway cards etc. Of course, that's really just a matter of making the expense of spoofing exceed the rewards of spoofing. A typical RFID thingy has an 8-byte hard-wired ID and some programmable memory for local stuff. Between the two you could create something that's more or less spoof-proof as defined above. Note they don't use RFID for access to bank safes (yet).

      1. Robin Bradshaw

        About that Hard wired ID

        I had a mooch at the Biohax Sweeden site (aparently they are assisting with the implants) and they seem to use the NTAG216 chip.

        Another quick mooch on t'internet and it seems chinese magic writable UID Ntag cards are a thing now.

        http://www.rfxsecure.com/product/ntag-magic/

      2. DCFusor Silver badge

        Re: Not a good plan?

        @Daedalus

        Ask Kevin Mitnick...You're so wrong it's not funny. He's not even a real techie, mainly a social engineer, and RFID ID cards are so trivial he does it on stage for fun to sell his services. And can do it from a distance if necessary with nothing bigger than a backpack.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtzZBTjKngw

    2. Number6

      Re: Not a good plan?

      For a limited value thing it's probably safe, but what about when it's worth the thieves mugging a person and chopping off the RFID-equipped hand to go get something worth a lot more? I remember El Reg doing an article on a Mercedes owner who lost a finger so the thieves could activate the scanner on his expensive Merc.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Not a good plan?

      "*) Doesn't this make your location trackable? (Unless you wrap aluminium foil over your arm (or wherever), I guess)."

      No more so that your standard swipe card or RFID card many people in many companies already carry.

      Rather than worry about tracking around the business, I'd want to know what the cost/benefits are for a $300 implanted RFID chip compared to an ID card costing pennies. As per the article, is this tech for the sake of "cool tech" or does the employer already have some feature creep in mind?

    4. the Jim bloke Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Not a good plan?

      I see an emerging market for jackets/hoodies with "RFID Proof" pockets, along the lines of the wallets currently being flogged to mugs.

      icon..

    5. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Not a good plan?

      Doesn't this make your location trackable?

      Only at very short range. There are HiD tags that can be used for inventory tracking round a store but they tend to be a good bit larger than the rice-sized RFID tags mentioned here (for one thing, you need a much larger antenna to pick up the voltage needed to return the signal)

  14. silverfern Bronze badge

    I think I read in an article (might even have been in this organ) that a Swedish company is doing something similar. Sorry, no link/ref.

  15. Natalie Gritpants

    In between the thumb and forefinger

    might be convenient for waving at RFID detectors but there isn't much in there that isn't useful, much better to put it somewhere a bit of tissue damage won't be too incovenient - like your buttocks. Unless of course, you're a compo lawyer, in which case it's a great idea.

    Plus I now know what bit of the CEOs anatomy to chop off when I want to break into the building i.e. both hands just in case they are left handed.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trains

    Perhaps Southwest Trains/TFL could put one in my forehead and then I could headbutt the turnstile each morning instead of a season ticket?

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Trains

      Isn't that what it feels like already?

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Southwest Trains

      Relief is at hand. SWT will be shown the exit door next month and First (as in First Great Western) will be taking over. Perfectly timed to coincide with the big remodelling at Waterloo. The DFT clowns were really on the ball with this one.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Belkin micro-RFID caddy for between thumb and forefinger

    See title. Then you could store the RFID chip in a little caddy and update it when necessary.

  18. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Someone doesn't understand his own tech

    "I'll hold my hand up, just like my cell phone, and it'll pay for my product"

    He'll hold his hand up, just like his cell phone, and money will disappear from his bank account. Come back when there is a chip that really does pay for anything I want.

  19. HausWolf

    How to remove it... easy, just watch the scene from Total Recall where Arnie has a towel wrapped around his head and the claw grabber thing shoved up his schnoz

    .

    1. My other car is an IAV Stryker Bronze badge

      Or "The Matrix"'s belly-button laparoscope/vacuum.

  20. My other car is an IAV Stryker Bronze badge
    Headmaster

    Missing the point, but...

    It is stated this company is in Wisconsin; specifically, it's the city of River Falls, on the western edge near Minnesota.

    KSTP is nicely situated straddling the border between Minneapolis and St. Paul (= STP: check the call sign). Yes, ON the border -- and not just of two cities: two counties.

    The station happens to be closer to that city than it is to my parents' house (in the exact opposite direction). I guess that makes it "local", compared to a further-away Wisconsin mass-media market such as Eau Claire.

    But still -- to a born/raised Minnesotan... it just feels so WRONG.

  21. Zebo-the-Fat

    How hard is it to wave a card over the reader??

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken
      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "Contactless payment has issues."

        Imagine the reaction if the warlock is so powerful he cast his payment spell without even the magic talisman!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ethics

    I'd question the ethics of any medical professional who would perform such a procedure.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Ethics

      Compared to tattoos, piercings, silicone (rather than silicon) implants ?

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Ethics

        silicone (rather than silicon) implants

        Have an upvote for knowing the difference!

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Ethics

          Well, *this* would be a silicon implant...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ethics

        "Compared to tattoos, piercings, silicone"

        If anyone is having those procedures at the behest of their employers, then yes I'd say they'd be pretty unethical too.

  23. NanoMeter
    Mushroom

    The end time...

    Oh no, end times, rapture and 666 number of the Beast and so on. Where's the ICON for that?

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: The end time...

      Here? =>

  24. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Tagging employees with chips

    Well, it's an inprovement over the old barcode tattoo on the back of the neck. I guess.

    1. earl grey
      Trollface

      Re: Tagging employees with chips

      Well, unless you look cool; like the guy in Hitman.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surprising so many in Wisconsin are accepting this

    I wonder what percentage of their total employees those 50 represent, and if the company offered them anything for doing it? Maybe half priced soda for a year?

    Wisconsin has a healthy number of evangelicals, who you would think would be against this sort of thing with the whole 'mark of the beast' business. I wonder if any of their employees with those views are getting this, or looking for another job worrying that they will soon make this mandatory? Or blaming Obama for it?

    One thing's for sure, this little Wisconsin company is getting worldwide attention - free advertising!

    1. Someone Else Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Surprising so many in Wisconsin are accepting this

      Just think about who's running the place, and it rather makes sense that it is Wisconsin. With a larger uptake of this idea, and all manner of jiggery-pokery is available to the fuckwits in charge...who needs gerrymandering, CrossCheck, and other such voter-suppression electorate management techniques when all they have to do is have the voting machine identify the voter and appropriately modify his/her vote as needed to insure the continuation of a minority government?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Surprising so many in Wisconsin are accepting this

        Even if everyone had this, why would the voting machine need to identify someone to cheat? Just randomly turn a small number of votes for candidate A to candidate B. Done. The identify of the voter whose vote was changed is irrelevant.

        Which is why I keep saying we need 1) a paper trail of every vote to allow for recounts and 2) mandatory recount of a few percent of precincts that are randomly chosen, with full statewide recount conducted if a difference larger than say 0.25% is found in any precinct.

  26. Herby

    Note to users...

    Be very sure that the escrow account for removal is updated and well funded for the "lifetime" of the insertable.

    When they start putting these in newborns, I'll be very afraid!

    Then again, chipping convicted felons might not be a bad idea.

    1. TimeMaster T

      Re: Note to users...

      "When they start putting these in newborns, I'll be very afraid!"

      I'll be afraid when the they start requiring them for anything, right now they just worry me.

      "Then again, chipping convicted felons might not be a bad idea."

      Once a person has completed their sentence they should not continue to be punished for their crime.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now we know how the Cybermen started out ...

  28. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    Just one word

    NO FUCKING WAY (when one word just doesn't do it)

  29. deathOfRats

    Sorry, wrong fingers

    \ /

    ElReg says: The post is required, and must contain letters.

    so, there

  30. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    For what it's worth

    a) we use the chips to decide whether to allow cats in/out of the house, or to feed

    b) they don't cost anything *like* $300, even retail

    c) they're strictly short range

    d) multiple chips in an animal screw up the detection something wicked

    e) what's wrong with implanting it in your watch-strap?

    f) we get free soft drinks at work...

  31. Chris King

    And you think "card clash" is bad enough...

    ...but what if you end up in a situation where you've got several of these things in your body ? Making sure they're all far enough apart could be interesting...

    "Let's see... Right hand for work access control, left hand for Oyster, right buttock for Tesco Clubcard"

    (Tesco are issuing contactless Clubcards now, so I really shouldn't be giving them any ideas)

  32. Chris King

    What REALLY worries me about this...

    ...is they found fifty willing volunteers.

    Fifty people WANTING to have a voluntary medical procedure, to make life easier for an "at-will" employer.

    What next, voluntary brainwashing parties ? "Hey, they're offering free drugs !"

    *facepalm*

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: What REALLY worries me about this...

      "What next, voluntary brainwashing parties ?"

      My guess is Black & Decker could introduce 'Cordless prefrontal lobotomies' for staff, after all they have the tools for the job.

      I bet there would be takers.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: What REALLY worries me about this...

        Cordless prefrontal lobotomies' for staff

        Otherwise known as "management training".

        With non-optional ethicsectomy (and that's not easy to thay)

  33. tiggity Silver badge

    Why implanted?

    Plenty of RFID bracelet / wristband things out there, a lot less intrusive, no surgery involved, e.g. Barclaycard pushing their bPay solution (as mentioned on el Reg in the past)

    The tags they add to animals leave quite a noticeable lump under the skin, so why bother (unless you like to cultivate knobbly extremities). Bear in mind your hand, wrist area is heavily supplied with nerves, blood vessels, not my top choice for implant site, as even though (you would hope), injecting the implant would not sever any of these, the compressive effects of the implant may not be great (human nerves are surprisingly susceptible to issues induced by low level pressure )

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Why implanted?

      The tags they add to animals leave quite a noticeable lump under the skin

      They shouldn't (none of my 7 have a lump where the pet-chip is). It's possible that the injector wasn't sufficiently sharp and has caused trauma at the site, leading to scar tissue forming.

      What does leave a noticable lump is having the pelvis held together by titanium rods.. As our second-youngest cat discovered when she decided to argue with an oncoming car.

  34. earl grey
    Paris Hilton

    I can't have it interfering with my right hand

    She knows.

  35. 0laf Silver badge
    Flame

    Standard response

    Get. Tae. Fuck

    For those not fluent in angry Jock - "No thank you".

  36. MJI Silver badge

    Employee indentitifaction.

    Rather than hand out cards, why not employ people who know who they are?

    What use is someone who has to carry a card on a string just to know who they are?

  37. Steve the Cynic

    "Micro markets" ==> vending machines: NOT news.

    In 2006 I took a weekend break in Amsterdam (not to look in ... um ... windows, as it happens), and went there and back by train. So Eurostar to Brussels Midi, then allegedly Thalys to Amsterdam. (Behind that "allegedly" lies a whole other story, for another time.) And similarly in reverse on the way home, except that it really was Thalys.

    Anyway, with a certain time to kill in Brussels Midi, I wandered around the station, and I found a "24 Hour Supermarket" that turned out to be a very large vending machine with a wide range of not-too-perishable products, of the sort you'd expect to find in a "convenience store" type operation.

    It's the only time I've bought a full-sized bottle of wine from a vending machine, and I mean a *glass* bottle, not a plastic one. (No, it wasn't by any measure a great wine, but I've had worse.)

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020