A routine examination in a corporate doctor’s office. A nice physician gives you a container with a tasty liquid which has an undetectable micro-sensor hidden in it. After you swallow the preparation, it starts working and the monitor shows numerous charts, diagrams and figures describing nearly all aspects of your health condition. Heartbeat? Hydration? Blood analysis? There you go! In the recent film by James Ponsoldt titled The Circle, this is the vision of the healthcare system in the biggest corporation in the world. A bit scary, isn’t it?
Micro-sensors that examine our health or chips implanted under the skin are not just some crazy ideas of Hollywood screenwriters. Epicenter, a Swedish start-up, and Newfusion, a company based in Belgium, have already suggested using chips on their employees. Although the great functionality of this solution is undoubtedly an advantage, there is a good reason to ask the question about the borderline between life comfort improvement and total surveillance. There are many people keen to use the benefits of new technologies and it is only the very beginning of changes that will come along with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
In the trap of benefits
Thanks to the microchip implant we can get access to the rooms on the company premises and we will start a printer or log into the company computer with just one gesture. Though such activities do not require any special skills, this new technology will win over everyone who is fed up with numerous passwords and access codes by allowing to forget all of them thanks to a convenient and automatic under-skin implant. Benefits to the employer include full monitoring of the employees’ working time and each operation they perform with the use of the micro-device. But that’s not all.
Employees with implants can pay for their dinner with a simple movement of the hand. This is just a beginning, since the technology will surely develop and the changes will be broader and bolder. Is the futurist vision of a society where each person is subject to a complete control by the state still just a good idea for a science-fiction storyline? That is doubtful, since those who will queue up for the new technology will be not only large corporations, but also governments. Information collected by internal sensors can become a virtually irresistible temptation.
Keep calm and find the balance
Are companies that stand against advanced biometrics condemned to digital exclusion? This question inspired us to seek a technology that would be compliant with the employee personal data protection. That is how we created TIMATE, an answer to the immediate needs of the contemporary world of business.
This device solves several problems related to the record-keeping of time and attendance. First of all, it ensures a control that is, importantly, mutual. What does it mean? On the one hand, the working time data are collected by an intelligent card and transferred via the cloud system to the employer; on the other hand, the ePaper display in the card allows the employees to access the data as well. Secondly, TIMATE gives you the freedom to switch off the control at any time. This is different from the under-skin microchips which are difficult to remove and cause problems when you start a new job. With TIMATE all you have to do is take off the identifier and put it away.
Our main drive was to find a compromise between the necessity to record time and attendance (TNA), the priority of the employee safety and the effective use of new technologies allowing for the automated control. It took us several years to design such a system. Fortunately, it was worth it, since our R&D efforts resulted in a product that completely redefines the concept of TNA systems and is radically different than the microchip implant solution.
It could be said that our invention is a practical alternative to the roller coaster of total control and we have designed to for the benefit of the society, not against it. It functions by analysing the human motion, but it’s not the motion of one individual. It detects the similarities of the card motion in the system to the cards of other users as well as the motion intensity over time. How is this done? Thanks to the built-in sensor. The key advantage is that the motion data collected by the card cannot be directly used to identify the card’s owner. As a result, no sensitive information is gathered and the personal data protection regulations are not violated, which is not the case with biometric systems.
Each of us would like to become a hero in a science-fiction thriller for a while, but living in such a world is a completely different matter. Benefits resulting from the implanted microchip quickly lose their value if we set them against the threats of such an advanced surveillance. What do you think? Can the ethical TNA system stand a chance against the ethically and legally dubious biometrics?