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Microchips get under the skin of technophile Swedes

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By Agence France-Presse

It’s the size of a grain of rice but could hold the key to many aspects of your life.

Around 3,000 Swedes have had microchips inserted into their hands that can hold entry codes, buy train tickets and access certain vending machines or printers. (AFP photo)

Around 3,000 Swedes have had microchips inserted into their hands that can hold entry codes, buy train tickets and access certain vending machines or printers. (AFP photo)

A tiny microchip inserted under the skin can replace the need to carry keys, credit cards and train tickets.

That might sound like an Orwellian nightmare to some but in Sweden it is a welcome reality for a growing number who favours convenience over concerns of potential personal data violations.

The small implants were first used in 2015 in Sweden — initially confidentially — and several other countries.

Swedes have gone on to be very active in microchipping, with scant debate about issues surrounding its use, in a country keen on new technology and where the sharing of personal information is held up as a sign of a transparent society.

Twenty-eight year-old Ulrika Celsing is one of 3,000 Swedes to have injected a microchip into her hand to try out a new way of life.

To enter her workplace, the media agency Mindshare, she simply waves her hand on a small box and types in a code before the doors open.

“It was fun to try something new and to see what one could use it for to make life easier in the future,” she told AFP.

In the past year, the chip has turned into a kind of electronic handbag and has even replaced her gym card, she said.

If she wanted to, she could also use it to book train tickets.

Sweden’s SJ national railway company has won over some 130 users to its microchip reservation service in a year.

Conductors scan passengers’ hands after they book tickets online and register them on their chip.

Information sharing

Sweden has a track record on the sharing of personal information, which may have helped ease the microchip’s acceptance among the Nordic country’s 10 million-strong population.

Citizens have long accepted the sharing of their personal details, registered by the social security system, with other administrative bodies, while people can find out each others’ salaries through a quick phone call to the tax authority.

The implants use Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, also used in credit cards, and are “passive”, which means they hold data that can be read by other devices but cannot read information themselves.

Although still small, they have the capacity to hold train tickets, entry pass codes as well as access certain vending machines and printers, promoters say.

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