Companies Want Biochip Implants To Control And Monitor Employee Performance
By Steve Bevan; Sunday Times
10th May 1999
BIG BROTHER could soon be watching from the 'inside.' Several international
companies are consulting scientists on ways of developing microchip
implants for their workers to measure their timekeeping and whereabouts.
The technology, which has been proven on pets and human volunteers,
would enable firms to track staff all around a building or complex.
The data could enable them to draw up estimates of workers' efficiency
Professor Kevin Warwick of Reading University, a leading cybernetics
expert, has been approached by several firms including a leading software
company with a British subsidiary and Blackbaud Inc, the American software
giant. Warwick hit the headlines last summer when he had a silicon chip
transponder surgically implanted in his forearm. He was subsequently
able to show how a computer could monitor every move he made using detectors
that were scattered around the building in which he worked.
In his experiment, Warwick showed how the system could also benefit
workers by programming it to switch on lights, computers and heating
systems as he entered a room - and turning them off when he left. The
technology is likely to have a strong appeal to companies with high
labour costs, for which small increases in staff productivity can have
a big impact on profits. It is also relatively cheap - just a few pounds
for each person, according to Warwick. "For a business the potential
is obvious," he said. "You can tell when people clock into work and
when they leave the building. You would know at all times exactly where
they were and who they were with."
Warwick admits that people will be "shocked" by the idea of companies
asking their employees to have such implants. He said: "It is pushing
at the limits of what society will accept but it is not such a big deal.
Many employees already carry swipe-cards. I think this is just a step
on from that."
His research follows earlier experiments by companies such as the telecommunications
firm AT&T that showed how smart-cards carried by staff could be programmed
to relay a worker's position back to a central computer. AT&T Laboratories
in Cambridge has been working on its "smart badges" for two years. They
use ultrasound to tell the main computer exactly where the wearer is,
allowing their desktop computers and phone calls to "follow" them around
the building. The company has, however, stopped short of suggesting
staff should have devices inserted into their bodies. The first practical
application of such technology is, however, not in humans but in pets.
Under the government's new "passports for pets" scheme, which replaces
the quarantine system from 2001, dogs will have a microchip implanted
beneath their skin to identify who they belong to.
Representatives from police forces in Britain and the United States
have also expressed interest in the implant technology, according to
Warwick. He believes that submitting to an implant could be made a condition,
for example, of being granted a gun license.
Mysteries, UFOs, etc.
Informer News ...