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   Technology StocksRFID, NFC and QR code Technologies

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From: Glenn Petersen5/6/2017 10:43:03 PM
   of 1712
Another good quarter for Impinj:

RFID maker Impinj tops earnings expectations for 4th quarter in a row

by Nat Levy
on May 4, 2017 at 2:58 pm May 6, 2017 at 1:02 pm

Impinj’s Monza chip.


This story has been updated to include more details on stock price.

Impinj has exceeded Wall Street expectations in each of its four quarters as a public company, after posting another strong quarter to start 2017.

The Seattle-based maker of radio frequency identification tags posted non-GAAP earnings of one cent per share on $31.7 million in revenue, an increase of 47 percent over this time last year.

Analysts surveyed in advance by
Yahoo Finance expected Impinj to post losses of a penny per share on $30.7 in revenue.

Impinj CEO Chris Diorio


“We delivered a solid first quarter, with revenue growing 47% over last year driven by the team’s strong execution and continued market adoption of our platform,” said Chris Diorio, Impinj co-founder and CEO. “We are pleased with the steady progress toward our vision of digital life for everyday items, and we will continue investing in this massive market opportunity to further enhance our leading market position.”

Impinj stock dropped in after-hours trading following the earnings report, but rallied and hit an all time high point of close to $44 per share Friday afternoon.

After raising $69.2 million in its IPO in July, Impinj raised another $39 million in a follow-on public offering this past December, which sent shares up 25 percent.

Impinj was an early player in RFID technology, which uses radio frequencies to track tagged items. The RFID market took longer than the company expected to come to fruition, but the company has been able to capitalize on growing use of the technology in recent years. Its RFID tags and technologies are now used across industries such as healthcare, retail and manufacturing, with Boeing using it to tag parts in aircraft assembly and Macy’s using it to track inventories at retail stores.

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From: Glenn Petersen5/27/2017 11:26:49 AM
   of 1712
Is The 'RFID Retail Revolution' Finally Here? A Macy's Case Study

Barbara Thau
May 15, 2017 @ 08:45 AM

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

I remember back in 2000, my headline was something like, “Get Ready For The RFID Retail Revolution,” or, “Wal-Mart Kicks Off The RFID Revolution.”

Turns out the revolution never materialized. But it might this time around; at least that’s what retailers are hoping.

After nearly 20 years of aborted takeoffs— including a much-watched failed push by Wal-Mart —radio frequency identification technology finally seems poised for widespread retail adoption, if the renewed industry buzz on the inventory-tracking tech is any indication.

RFID automates the tracking of merchandise throughout the retail supply chain — from the warehouse to the store floor — replacing the process of employees scanning products manually.

And retailers are betting on RFID to take inventory-management accuracy, crucial to a solvent retail operation, to new heights.

Inventory management is that unsexy-yet-critical retail discipline that has gained infinitely more importance since my RFID story went to print 17 years ago.

Today, $427 billion in e-commerce sales are now flowing through the supplier-to-store/direct-to-consumer pipelines, exponentially complicating retail supply chains.

As the cost of RFID has fallen dramatically — a RFID tag was priced at about $1 in 2003, and is roughly 10 cents today —retailers are starting to upgrade to the technology to access an item-level view of their in-store and online inventory.

Macy’s And RFID: ‘It’s How We Do Business’

For Macy’s, RFID “is not a project, it’s very much integrated into how we do business,” Bill Connell, senior vice president of transportation, store operations and process improvement for the department store, said in an email message.

Macy’s set plans last year to expand its use of RFID to track every item across its fleet of stores and fulfillment centers by the end of 2018. “We are already halfway to this goal of tagging 100% of products,” he said.

So far, Macy’s has noticed “a big impact” on sales and profitability across several product categories from RFID, Connell said, but will not disclose actual figures until a full year has passed since its implementation.

But according to a presentation by Melanie Nuce, vice president of apparel and general merchandise for standards organization GS1 US1 at the Internet of Retail conference last fall, after Macy’s expanded RFID to its fashion departments, the retailer’s sales volume surged more than 200%, she said then.

Connell did say Macy’s has reaped both financial and operating gains from RFID. “With an increase in the inventory accuracy, out-of-stocks are significantly reduced,” he said. “And by cutting the out-of-stocks, item availability is increased, which can lead to substantial and measurable sales increases.”

Indeed, inventory accuracy and the resulting benefits are hailed as RFID’s biggest payoff. The technology raises inventory accuracy from an average of 63% to 95%, and reduces retail out-of-stocks by up to 50%, according to the RFID Lab at Auburn University.

As retailers are increasingly “selling inventory from their stores online” amid the growth of buy online, pickup in-store programs, an inaccurate read of where an item is at any given moment only compounds the potential for profit–draining markdowns, said Michael Kingston, a director in the digital practice of management consulting firm AlixPartners.

For example, a seasonal item like sundresses that belongs on the sales floor might be mistakenly sitting in a retailer’s backroom due to an inventory tracking error. And just as that error could lead to a missed opportunity to sell the dresses at full price, retailers now also run the risk of promoting the dresses online when they’re incorrectly stocked at the store.

RFID theoretically insures that, when fulfilling an online order from a store, “I actually do have that inventory that I committed to the customer,” McKinsey said.

Show Me The ROI

Macy’s asked outerwear vendor Herman Kay to RFID-tag all of its product with the goal of 100% unit accuracy and full “source-to-store” product visibility.

Herman Kay, which designs and manufacturers coats under its own label as well as licenses such as Michael Kors, Ann Klein and London Fog, worked with GS1 US to implement the necessary standards requirements to do so.

For Macy’s, the upgrade to RFID hangtags on Herman Kay outwear automated product verification and order picking processes that were previously manual, which “virtually eliminated” human error and enabled “unprecedented inventory visibility,” Connell said.

“What suppliers like Herman Kay gain is the same as what we as a retailer gain,” he said. “We can all have confidence that was is picked, packed and transported is exactly what was ordered.”

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From: Glenn Petersen5/30/2017 6:41:56 AM
1 Recommendation   of 1712
Slightly OT:

The rise of the QR code and how it has forever changed China’s social habits

It’s being used to encourage tipping at restaurants, receive cash gifts at weddings...even beggars are using it to collect handouts. The little barcode is driving China’s rapid shift towards a cashless society

Stephen Chen
South China Morning Post
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 May, 2017, 11:02am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 May, 2017, 12:03pm

A little girl plays in a special QR code tunnel in a shopping mall in Nanjing. Consisting of 400 QR codes for brand products and creative games, the tunnel in this April file photo points to how the technology’s acceptance has changed China. Photo: Xinhua

On one of the hottest May days on record, Wang Jiarui walked out of school to see his grandfather, who had come to pick him up, standing in a sweat-soaked shirt.

The seven-year-old Beijing primary school pupil pointed at a nearby convenience store, proposing that his grandfather cool off with an ice-cold Coke. But the old man had forgotten his wallet.

No matter. Jiarui then took his grandfather’s smartphone and summoned to the screen a payment app with a QR code.

“He told me those black and white dots were money,” Jiarui’s grandfather, Wang Meng, recalled later, after that revelatory day in the heat.

“So I tried it [myself] and bought a pack [of cigarettes].”

With his mother’s permission, Jiarui helped his grandparents set up an account to let them buy things on the internet with a mobile phone using QR code scanning. He then showed them the technology could also work at a store counter just by presenting a QR code on the mobile phone to the cashier and letting them scan it to effect payment.

Placards on a seafood stall show various non-cash ways to pay, including QR codes of WeChat and AliPay, at a market in Beijing, in 2016. Photo: EPA

A QR code is a two-dimensional barcode with a random pattern of tiny black squares against a white background, capable of holding 300 times more data than a traditional one-dimensional code. According to internet consulting firm iResearch, payments made via mobile devices by Chinese consumers last year reached 38 trillion yuan (US$5.5 trillion, HK$43 trillion), more than half the nation’s GDP.

QR code scams rise in China, putting e-payment security in spotlight

Thanks to QR code’s rapidly increasing usage at off-line shops, the amount of mobile payments on the mainland is now 50 times greater than that of the US. Mobile payments in the US totalled US$112 billion in 2016, according to Forrester Research.

To consumer behaviour researcher Chen Yiwen, we are witnessing the dawn of “codeconomy”.

“China has started the transition to a cash-free economy faster than anyone could have imagined, largely because of the viral spread of two-dimensional barcode,” said Chen, a professor and researcher with the Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. “It creates a new economy based on scannable codes.”

A restaurant in China has pinned barcode tags to the chests of its waiters and waitresses to encourage tipping. Photo: Handout

From big cities to remote villages, the codeconomy is already changing Chinese social behaviour, according to Chen.

Some restaurants have pinned barcode tags to the chests of waiters, waitresses and even chefs. Customers can scan the code to leave a tip if they are satisfied with service.

Umbrellas the latest trend in China’s sharing economy

Though the measure initially caused controversy after it was introduced last year as many people on the mainland tend not to be in the habit of tipping, customers are noticing a significant improvement in service and some servers are earning an extra 3,000 yuan in tips per month, thanks to the incentive the QR code seems to provide, the Beijing Morning Post reported this month.

Last month, a bridesmaid wore the code tag to collect gift money from guests at a wedding ceremony in Beijing, triggering a verbal fight between the bride and her red-faced, soon-to-be mother-in-law, China Youth Daily and other Chinese media outlets reported.

The bridesmaid with a QR code tag around her neck at a wedding ceremony in Beijing last month. Photo: Handout

A beggar in China has come up with an innovative way to collect his handouts. Photo: Handout

A beggar in Jinan, Shandong province, last month wore a QR code tag around his neck. He was mentally ill, according to mainland media reports, but the code allowed passers-by to give him money through a quick scan. Many other beggars on the street followed suit, according to reports.

The QR code has also helped expand the emerging sharing economy. To rent a bike, for instance, a customer needs only to phone-scan a barcode on the item and the bicycle will unlock itself automatically. Umbrellas and battery packs can be rented similarly, among other items.

Cars to batteries: is China’s sharing economy in bubble territory?

But the QR code stoked farmers’ concern in remote villages when it was reported that county governments were exploring a plan to use the technology to tighten control and governance. By sticking QR codes on farmers’ houses, government inspectors could use a code scanner to find out family names and other information and whether the building they occupied was violating any laws.

A giant QR code is seen near a housing construction site owned by Chinese developer Vanke in Hefei in Anhui province in this 2013 file photo. The 6,400-square-metre QR code, formed from marbles and lawn, can be scanned by mobile phone to enable the phone to play audio and video content of nature, attracting home buyers. Photo: AP

Chen said what seems like disruptive technology today eventually will be diffused into society and become an element of normal life tomorrow.

“The younger generation in China will grow up in a world full of two-dimensional barcodes,” he said. “They may develop a new understanding of money.”

“Maybe, in their eyes, money [will be seen as] not just a means to purchase commodities and services, but also socialise.”

China’s internet giants throw weight behind sharing economy after endorsement by Beijing

Mobile payments began to grow in China as people increasingly used social media platforms such as WeChat to distribute the red money envelopes known as hongbao in Mandarin, or lai see in Cantonese, to friends and relatives in the traditional Spring Festival. Last year, the average WeChat user sent out 28 packets of hongbao every month, according to the platform. Much of the money was used to compliment a well-taken photo or well-written post.

Such behavioural changes are poised to profoundly affect the Chinese economy, according to Chen.

“When the credit card emerged, consumers were found to spend more than when they used cash. The QR code is even more convenient than the credit card, so we have good reason to expect it will increase consumption,” he said.

A two-dimensional quick response QR code is affixed to a tombstone in this 2013 file photo to offer smartphone users extended information about the person buried beneath in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province. Photo: ChinaFotoPress

The QR code was invented in Japan in the 1990s, initially to track automotive industry-related goods. Efforts had been made in other countries, such as South Korea and Japan, to use it in consumer payment, but none has produced the level of success seen in mainland China.

In Western nations, as well, credit cards continue to be preferred over mobile payment, though people increasingly are using Apple Pay in the US.

How QR codes are adding a load more memory to loved ones' memorials

Xue Chengqi, a researcher specialising in human-computer interface at Southeast University in Nanjing, said the QR code’s China success is partly due to efforts by large Chinese internet companies such as Tencent and Alibaba to bring mobile-payment capability to every vendor.

“From supermarkets to street pedlars, the QR code has been accepted and is used by every merchant,” he said. “The technology is simple and easy to use. A transaction can be completed almost instantly in any place with mobile phone signal coverage.

“It is hard to resist. In other countries, there is no such user-friendly environment,” he said.

A photo illustration of a WeChat user scanning a QR code to retrieve a digital red envelope on the WeChat app on a mobile phone during the Chinese New Year period in Beijing. Photo: EPA

Compared to other cashless payment methods, such as the near field communication technology used by ApplePay, the QR code was not seen as safe. Scanning a malicious code could lead the user into a trap set by criminals. For instance, the code could take one to a website used for ill purposes such as stealing bank accounts or other sensitive information.

According to a March report in the Southern Metropolis Daily, about 90 million yuan had been stolen via QR code scams in Guangdong province alone. A suspect in the case replaced the legitimate codes of merchants with fake ones embedded with a virus programmed to steal consumers’ personal information.

Two-thirds of smartphone users now paying by mobile

Speaking at the National People’s Congress in Beijing earlier this year, Liu Qingfeng, deputy chairman of voice-recognition cloud-service provider iFlytek, told mainland media that “over 23 per cent of Trojans and viruses are transmitted via QR codes. The [difficulty] threshold to make QR codes is so low that fraudsters could implant Trojans and viruses into a QR code very easily.”

Some cybersecurity experts have estimated that a quarter of malware found on smartphones is transmitted through QR codes. But Xue said China can no longer turn back.

“Consumers have already developed the habit, and can use (the QR code) almost anywhere. These are the biggest attractions,” he said.

“The technology itself and security issue may be the last thing people considered.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as:
scanning the horizon of the cashless society

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From: Glenn Petersen6/6/2017 11:35:41 AM
   of 1712
Impinj and Everspin Memory Chips Could Be the Next Big Thing

Memory chips are gaining importance over venerable microprocessors. Two ways to play the trend.

By Tiernan Ray Biography
Updated May 20, 2017 1:23 a.m. ET


In the world of computer chips, all glory goes to the microprocessor, and especially to the kind that Intel sells, which serves as the brains of your personal computer.

But there are many other kinds of chips in the universe of semiconductors, some increasingly more important.

This magazine argued in a 2015 cover story that memory chips may represent the most important kind of chip in years to come (“ Watch Out Intel, Here Comes Facebook,” Oct. 31, 2015). That’s because tasks that are taking center stage, such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things, continue to place greater and greater emphasis on retaining and analyzing vast amounts of data.

We recommended Micron Technology (ticker: MU) in that article. The shares are up more than 70% since then, which probably doesn’t leave a lot of upside at this point. The good news is that there are two other companies worth taking a look at that are incredibly promising, Impinj (PI) and Everspin Technologies MRAM 1.2561274509803921% Everspin Technologies Inc. (MRAM). They are both small companies that recently came public, and a bet on their stocks is not without substantial risk.

But they offer genuine innovations that have been years in the making, real breakthroughs. That could position them at the forefront of the kinds of developments we highlighted in the 2015 story.

The memory chip is, as it sounds, the repository of data. It stores the ones and zeros so the microprocessor can do something with them. For years, the microchip industry has tried to find the perfect balance between DRAM, which is fast but doesn’t retain data, and flash, which is slower and more prone to failure, but which holds data when the power goes out.

So-called nonvolatile memory chips, an in-between solution, are one of the industry’s holy grails. “Nonvolatile memory is a big deal in almost everything you do,” says Carver Mead, the Gordon and Betty Moore professor of engineering and applied science, emeritus, at the California Institute of Technology. “You have to have it,” he tells Barron’s.

Mead was the CEO of Impinj when it was founded 17 years ago and is now an advisor to the CEO, Chris Diorio, a former University of Washington professor for whom Mead served as a mentor.

What they developed is a chip that can operate on fractions of a watt of power. It is built into “tags” that can be attached to any number of objects, such as your luggage when you go on a Delta Air Lines flight. The tag can then be scanned by a wireless reader situated tens of feet away, which retrieves the identifying data on the tag. On a Delta flight, you can use an app to actually see if your stuff is on the plane. No more lost bags, at least in theory.

THE KEY IS THAT THIS PARTICULAR nonvolatile memory doesn’t need its own power source. Instead, it is activated when the wireless signal from the reader strikes the receiving antenna. That means it can be added to a vast amount of objects for pennies per piece—retail items in a warehouse, clothes on a rack, driver’s licenses, and on and on.

Impinj is interesting because it is not a chip company per se, but a systems business. It sells the nonvolatile chips, the radio-frequency circuitry, the technology for the wireless reader, and the software that makes it all work.

Diorio envisions expanding uses as semiconductor technology continues to make circuits smaller and more efficient. “We can put more and more smarts into them,” says Diorio, so that every object will be able to express all kinds of information about its nature, its capabilities, and its contents.

Impinj went public on July 21 of last year. Since that time, it is up 128%. The company is growing fast, with sales expected to rise 30% this year, and it is already profitable. Like most startups, its stock, at $40.96, is pricey, trading for 78 times next year’s projected 53 cents per share in net income. If confidence rises and the multiple gets attached to projected 2019 earnings of 82 cents, you could be looking at a $63 stock.

THE OTHER OUTFIT, EVERSPIN, is not actually that young, even though it went public last year, on Oct. 7. The technology came out of what had been the chip division of Motorola, which was folded into Freescale Semiconductor and later spun out before Freescale was sold to NXP (NXPI).

Everspin’s chip’s speed is close to DRAM, but it keeps files when power is off, like flash, though it is more reliable; flash tends to break down over time.

Today, the company sells a part that is used in industrial equipment requiring small amounts of memory. Newer parts with greater capacity are being designed into data storage systems coming to market later this year or early next. Traditionally, such computers pass memory from DRAM to flash, but there is a risk that data will be lost in between. Extra circuitry and batteries are added to the storage systems to keep the data alive, driving up cost. By replacing DRAM with Everspin’s chips, system makers can save on all that extra stuff.

“For every $10 worth of DRAM it replaces, it also gets rid of $70 of batteries and other stuff,” says Richard Shannon, who follows the company for Craig-Hallum.

As a result, “this is not a commodity chip,” says Rajvindra Gill, with Needham & Co. “This is an application-specific part that is saving companies money on their total system cost.”

“Where it gets really exciting,” says Shannon, is when Everspin can replace the combination of DRAM and flash in mission-critical computing systems such as a database. Those machines have an appetite for far greater amounts of data, which means more-expensive parts from Everspin, boosting both revenue and, presumably, margins.

The company is expected to have only $43 million in revenue this year, and it is losing money. Matthew Ramsay of Canaccord Genuity says the stock is currently worth 14 times projected earnings of 85 cents per share in 2018, or $12, above a recent $9.90. But it could have a multiple of four or five times sales if its newer markets take off, he says, which would put the stock price well above $12.

The whole history of memory-chip technologies is laced with agony and ecstasy, so this is not for the faint of heart. But then, companies with true breakthroughs can be worth the risk.

TIERNAN RAY can be reached at:,

Follow @barronstechblog
Like Barron’s on Facebook
Follow Barron’s on Twitter

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From: Glenn Petersen6/17/2017 6:07:34 PM
   of 1712
Ripple effects from the Amazon/Whole Foods deal:

Impinj: Amazon Just One More Reason Not To Short It, Says RBC

By Tiernan Ray
June 16, 2017 4:48 p.m. ET

Mitch Steves of RBC Capital surmises Impinj's radio-frequency tags and related technology could get a big lift from Amazon's deal to buy Whole Foods, just one more reason he thinks you shouldn't short Impinj shares despite a 58% run-up this year.

Shares of Impinj ( PI) today closed up $8.94, or over 19%, at $55.71, bolstered by speculation that its technology for radio-frequency identification, or R.F.I.D., tag systems may get a lift from Amazon’s ( AMZN) announced deal to acquire Whole Foods Market ( WFM).

As I mentioned in my prior story, RBC Capital’s Mitch Steves, who has an Outperform rating on shares of Impinj, thinks there may well be a direct connection between Impinj and Amazon, having speculated back in December that Impinj’s technology was being used for Amazon’s “Go” concept stores.

Steves this afternoon followed up with a fresh research note, raising his price target to $59 from $50, and declaring that Impinj is on the “Do not short list,” even though Impinj stock is up 58% this year.

The Whole Food deal could take RFID systems to “scale” deployment, he thinks:

With the acquisition of Whole Foods there is potential for RFID technology to be rolled out at scale. Importantly, we think there are too many catalysts that could send the stock higher including 1) Kaiser; 2) new airlines; and 3) another major grocery store acquisition from Amazon. Net/net: while we do not anticipate a major announcement on July 18-20, we think investors should avoid shorting Impinj stock. Overall, Amazon and Impinj are not incentivized to announce a potential partnership given a pending $13.7B transaction (AMZN/WFM). We are increasing our price target due to higher conviction in step function changes to revenue numbers – new customers.

Steves thinks you don’t want to sell into this rally in Impinj:

With Impinj now up +13% on the news, we think the key takeaway is to avoid a short position. If Impinj announces any new catalyst another step function could occur. Key potential catalysts include: 1) Kaiser announces partnership with Impinj at RAIN Alliance; 2) Amazon and Impinj announce an official partnership; 3) a new airline announces a partnership similar to the Delta announcement - United for example; and 4) bank shots where if Amazon acquires another large grocery store we think it is clear there will be a price reaction from Impinj.

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From: Glenn Petersen6/23/2017 8:21:33 PM
1 Recommendation   of 1712
h/t Bill Hammond

IMO, a well-balanced Impinj backgrounder with quality links

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From: Glenn Petersen7/23/2017 10:28:39 PM
   of 1712
What once was unthinkable:

Wisconsin Company To Implant Microchips In Employees

Josh Rosenthal
ABC News
July 22, 2017 07:24 AM

A Wisconsin company is about to become the first in the U.S. to offer microchip implants to its employees.

Yes, you read that right. Microchip implants.

"It's the next thing that's inevitably going to happen, and we want to be a part of it," Three Square Market Chief Executive Officer Todd Westby said.

The company designs software for break room markets that are commonly found in office complexes.

Just as people are able to purchase items at the market using phones, Westby wants to do the sam thing using a microchip implanted inside a person's hand.

"We'll come up, scan the item," he explained, while showing how the process will work at an actual break room market kiosk. "We'll hit pay with a credit card, and it's asking to swipe my proximity payment now. I'll hold my hand up, just like my cell phone, and it'll pay for my product."

More than 50 Three Square Market employees are having the devices implanted starting next week. Each chip is about the size of a single grain of rice.

Along with purchasing market kiosk items, employees will be albe to use the chip to get into the front door and log onto their computers.

Each chip costs $300 and the company is picking up the tab. They're implanted between a person's thumb and forefinger. Westby added the data is both encrypted and secure.

"There's no GPS tracking at all," he said.

No one who works at Three Square Market is required to get the chip implant.

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From: Glenn Petersen8/4/2017 9:36:02 AM
   of 1712
Dawn of the bionic age: Body hackers let chips get under their skin

By Tim Johnson
McClatchy Newspapers
August 03, 2017 6:16 PM

LAS VEGAS — If you’re prone to forgetting your card key for the office or your computer password, here’s a solution: Get a microchip implanted in your hand.

That’s what Brian McEvoyhas done multiple times. He’s got five implants, mostly for functional reasons but one just for fun.

“There’s a glow-in-the-dark implant on the back of my right hand,” said McEvoy, a 36-year-old electrical engineer from St. Paul, Minnesota.

For years, owners have implanted microchips in their pets to recover them if they go astray. Farmers use them in cattle. Now, humans are experimenting with subdermal microchips, which are the size of a large grain of rice, to make modern life easier.

Ever so slowly, a trend that began in the hacker community is moving toward the mainstream. A Wisconsin firm that specializes in designing company break rooms, Three Square Market, announced last monththat it was offering implanted chips to all its employees.

The chips will allow employees to “make purchases in the company’s break room market, open doors, log in to computers, use copy machines, among other things,” it said in a statement.

It can emulate every card in your wallet, so you can chuck your wallet away.

Many hackers gathered here for a recent global hacker conference, DefCon 2017, view implants as a way to interact seamlessly with a technological world and to enhance human senses. They await the day when microchips give humans the ability for echolocation, and to see infrared and ultraviolet light, enhance the capacity to smell, sense direction, even feel vibrations that reveal movement in the stock market.

It is a sharp departure from the use of implants, like pacemakers and insulin pumps, to restore function lost through impairment or ill health.

Tim Cannon, a software engineer who co-founded a company that sells implantable chips, Grindhouse Wetware, said some critics believe tinkering with the body’s capabilities is improper, even unethical.

“It tends to be viewed as something like hubris,” Cannon said.

But he doesn’t care. The coming years will be “about breaking through that barrier and saying it’s okay to want to be more than what biology offered you,” he said

Dozens of hackers lined up on a recent night at the DefCon conference to have microchips installed in the fleshy web between thumb and index finger of their hands.

The biohackers call themselves “grinders,” a term taken from a comic book by Warren Ellis. The technology they implant is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Most opted for a small radio frequency identification (RFID) or a Near Field Communication (NFC) chip suitable for subdermal use.

“This is my train ticket,” said an Australian hacker who goes by the name Meow-Ludo Meow-Meow, pointing to a spot on his hand where a chip containing a rechargeable rail token was implanted. He said he just swipes his hand, rather than a ticket, over a rail sensor.

Implantable chips will soon carry out the functions of credit cards and keys, he said.

“It can emulate every card in your wallet, so you can chuck your wallet away,” he said.

Some consumers fear that an implanted microchip will allow greater government surveillance, and only advances that “are spectacular can overcome that queasiness,” he said.

“If Johnny Depp puts one of these in his hand, they’ll be everywhere,” he added.

The public is certainly not there yet. A 2016 survey by the Pew Research Center found that seven in 10 Americans were “somewhat” or “very” worried about implanting a computer chip in the brain to improve concentration and the processing of information. The more religious the respondent, the less likely they were to favor such an implant, it found.

Cannon said the melding of technology and physiology can improve human experience.

“We need to stop pretending that we are perfect and the pinnacle of evolution,” he said.

Implanting a chip can cause discomfort.

“There will be some blood, some pain,” said Doug Copeland, who works with one of the handful of companies that offer implants, Dangerous Things, based in Seattle, as he implanted a chip in a client’s hand.

“A lot of people frown on this kind of thing but it’s really not anything much different than getting a body piercing or a tattoo,” said a California man, giving his name only as Keith.

Others asked if the implanted chips could allow government surveillance (they contain no GPS, so no), or cause problems if a patient undergoes an MRI test in a hospital (maybe not advisable).

Copeland said he’d been through airport checkpoints numerous times and never been flagged: “Unless you show it to them, they don’t know it’s there. And if you show it to them, they say, ‘What the hell?’”

Some high-profile proponents of implants include Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla cars and SpaceX, who said last year that humans must reach greater symbiosis with computers in order to stay relevant in a world of artificial intelligence.

But the trend toward implants carries risks, warned Walter Glannon, a Yale-trained bioethicist who teaches at the University of Calgary, Canada. Studies have not yet determined “whether implants are safe,” he said. Even if safe, a social minefield may lay ahead.

“They would raise ethical questions about fairness and unequal access to devices that could give some people a competitive advantage over others. Unlike the drugs used for cognitive enhancement, implants would not be so accessible over the internet and would not be cheap. Many people would not be able to afford them,” Glannon said.

“This could be an unfair advantage.”

The threat that microchips could be hacked, possibly monkeying with people’s cognition or perception, is also a latent threat, he added.

For now, though, experimenters like McEvoy see no harm in what they do. The shielded tiny tube with a phosphorescent layer that he had implanted on the back of his hand is just for fun. It works like the dial of a watch that glows in the dark.

“There is no battery or switch so it is continuously bright. It's possible to see in a dark room and I have shown it to people while at bonfire parties,” McEvoy said.

Manufacturers say implantable chips with greater memory and more “out of the box” functionality – such as starting a car, or measuring body functions such as blood sugar and oxygen levels – may be in the offing soon.

Eventually, said Meow-Meow, an implant could save lives.

“It can call an ambulance for you before you have a heart attack,” he said.

Tim Johnson: 202-383-6028, @timjohnson4

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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (1679)8/4/2017 9:51:00 AM
From: Savant
   of 1712
Hmm, prolly inevitable....however..saying they're .'encrypted & secure'?...until they aren't
...could give 'body hackers' new meaning, as they chop off your hand to get your money chip...
as for giving some people an 'unfair advantage'...who the H ever thought life is fair..
Trying to make life 'fair' for a fool's me a cynic.
Never was, & likely, never will be.

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To: Savant who wrote (1680)8/4/2017 10:06:56 AM
From: Glenn Petersen
   of 1712
The day that I started this board 14 years ago I posted five articles about privacy concerns, and those addressed the use of external chips. I have also posted a number of articles over the years about fundamentalists who felt that a chip implant was akin to the "Mark of the Devil." We have come a long way.

It won't be long before we are implanting chips on people with references to their medical history. Having cared for parents who were unable to effectively articulate their medical histories (Parkinson's and Alzheimer's), I would have been receptive to the idea of tagging.

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