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Cashing in your chips

In the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation starring Patrick Stewart as the fictional Jean-Luc Picard, captain of the USS Enterprise-D, 24th century technology advanced to embrace the use of isolinear optical chips as data storage devices. These chips enabled warp drive in Galaxy-class vessels and stored memory in Star fleet issue hand-held computer interfaces, called Personal Access Display Devices.

Back in the real world, 21st-century microchip technology has made a quantum leap forward as implants in a person’s hand, thus replacing cash transactions. The country that has embraced this is Sweden, where more than 4,000 citizens are implanted with microchips, allowing them to pay for food, travel and enter keyless offices with a wave of their hand. Buses, parking lots, pay toilets and restaurants are also operating via clicks rather than cash, reports The New York Times.

In concert with microchip technology is Sweden’s fast track towards becoming a cashless society. A fifth of Sweden’s population admits to eschewing technologies like automatic teller machines. The use of bills and coins now represents just one percent of the economy while only 10 percent of consumers paid cash for an item in 2018, states the Times. Meanwhile, only half of Sweden’s 1,400 bank branches accept cash deposits.

Microchip technology in Sweden has been around for several years, ever since the Swedish incubator Epicenter implanted employees in 2015 with grain-of-rice sized radio frequency identication (RFID) microchips, giving users the ability to open doors or operate machines like a printer by a waving a hand in front of a chip reader, Allure magazine reported. It is expected that functions such as starting a car, locking doors or turning on lights will also be conducted via microchip implants, Allure added.

Microchipping employees has also been tried in Wisconsin at Three Square Market (32M), which develops software for vending machines. RFID chips allow staff to log into their computers, pay for purchases and store medical information, USA Today reported in 2017. ◊