Compliments of Dana Gordon

Compliments of Dana Gordon via Flickr

According to RFID Journal, “The number of RFID deployments over the next ten years will dwarf the number we saw in the past ten years, and in the ten years after that RFID will likely become ubiquitous.”

We may in fact see one trillion internet connected devices by the year 2025. Predictions suggest that smart cards, smart homes (along with chip enabled devices within smart homes – e. g, doors, electrical outlets, thermostats, and electrical equipment) through NFC (near field communication) will communicate not only with a home’s central MPU and monitoring service, but with each other.

Cars of the future may sport as many as 200 unique sensors. Continuous monitoring, notification, and subsequent automatic adjustments may thus become routine. Even replenishments for things like printer cartridges and vacuum cleaner bags can be as easy as a SMART phone “click” telling you it’s both time to change, and directing you to an authorized online dealer. Similarly, appliances will be able to communicate with your SMART phone to automatically register warranties.

In What the Internet of Things Needs to Become a Reality, authors provide a tele-health scenario that enables continuous monitoring:

“. . . imagine an implantable sensing node that tracks biometrics and sends a signal regarding an abnormal readout for an elderly patient. If the patient doesn’t respond by taking a medication, the node could place an emergency call to a contact from a list, and, if there’s no answer, call a second contact, and finally, if no answer, contact a monitoring clinic or quickly provide other emergency assistance. Another example is continuous monitoring of chronic diseases to help doctors determine best treatments, with minimal human intervention.”


The following futuristic scenario (the second installment of a blog trilogy) is for a new employee in a fictional “chipped” company (e.g., “C*TEGYM”) who is one of the first workers to visit stores catering to embedded chip shoppers.

On my way out the door, the C*TEGYM turnstile displayed in blinking green neon the words “Good evening Blanche.” The benefits of chip implant were revolutionary. One of these included EWall*t, a feature incorporating medical/dental records, ID cards, driver’s license, passport, work history, and medical/personal insurance all secured in a single safe electronic compartment. Large big box retailers and the ChpCh*m consortium had partnered to offer special benefits to first adopter employees. These included store checkout in record time, and an overall personalized shopping experience. If all went according to plan payment by sub-dermal implant would become the industry standard (and common platform) across all U.S. retail stores.

I decided to try this stealth technology for myself. As I walked into the designated SuprBigB*x outlet I felt invincible – a little like the new millennium version of “Wonder Woman” I’d seen so many times on late night cable TV. Immediately, a personalized display of my favorite snack items scrolled across my cell phone: malted chocolate chip gelato for $4.49, rice cakes two for one, an array of feminine hygiene products, and of course – Orange Drizzle Dream pound cake on special that day. The floor mat interrogator had accessed my RFID chip, located my purchasing history through a cloud interface that instantaneously relayed specials to my SMART phone.

But when I grabbed the processed lunch meat I startled to see a flashing red over-sized “X” protrude onto my screen, accompanied by the same type sound that gave me the willies whenever I dialed a wrong number. During my last well woman visit Dr. A had warned me against too much sodium.

I could see how this secretive device could streamline shopping throughput, but on a more personal level I felt violated to know my monitoring was so instantaneous, so all-encompassing, and so invasive. The human equivalent of a cattle prod hidden deep within my flesh.

In the back of my mind I knew the C*TEGYM fairy tale might not have a happy ending. My shopping experience unhinged me, caused me to commit the blasphemy of questioning corporate benefactors. Truth be told, I had no idea exactly what type information had been (or was in the process) of being culled, was unclear as to its usage apart from the company’s obvious security concerns. If a criminal had a reader, could he/she steal my data? Could some firm other than C*TEGYM access my employment history? Was the data stored permanently, or could I review and delete it? In the initial tempest I hadn’t had time to think about whether annual performance reviews (and eligibility for rehire) would be visible to other people.

A new aisle labeled “Chip & Go” gleamed to the right of Self-Checkout lanes. It radiated newness, a different look and feel from any checkout I’d ever seen. There was no shelf on which to place groceries; simply a thin black lacquer counter jutting waist high from the floor. Just as in an airport screening I was instructed by a programmed female voice to place my feet in the rubber mat imprints and remain still. Before I had time to blink, the voice stated matter of factly: “Thank you for your business; we look forward to serving you soon. Please remember to claim your grocery receipt.” In a split second I had been both checked and charged.


Related post: The merging of man and machine

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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