Imagine a world where all you need to start your car, login to a Web site, pay for groceries, or travel on the Gautrain, is a computer chip embedded underneath your skin. And while this might sound like the stuff of science fiction, these near field communication (NFC) chips are already available and used by people throughout the world.
But before you rush out to get the pitchforks and torches, consider the current security landscape.
On the one hand, our wallets and mobile devices are prone to being stolen. And anybody who has had to go through the ordeal of cancelling their bank cards and get new ones just know the administrative nightmare this is. Then you have that super-powerful smartphone and tablet you carry with you. Part of its convenience is being logged in to your social networks (do you really remember all your passwords?), online retail sites (ditto with those pesky credit card details), and corporate network (accessing sensitive documents while out in the field). Hands up how many of you have encrypted your mobile device or have security software installed to safeguard the information when the phone or tablet is lost or gets stolen?
Now think how you surf the Web and login to <insert site of your preference here>. Unless you are security conscious already, chances are you are using your Facebook or Google account details to log in to most sites. Convenience, it is often said, trumps security any day of the week. Sure, it makes it extremely easy to stay logged in and maintain your ‘universal’ internet profile, but have you considered what the likes of Facebook and Google can do with all that personal information?
This is more so the case given how frequently sites change their privacy policies. And if you have not read through one when signing up to a social site, chances are you will not even notice when guidelines change or think about the impact it has on your personal data.
Hardware manufacturers have cottoned on to this problem and have embedded NFC chips in new bank cards and smartphones. In terms of efficiency, this has been a boon for many consumers. Simply tap your credit card or smartphone on a pad next to the till and the purchase is made. But while this is great, you are still prone to theft. Now instead of criminals accessing all your details they suddenly have a way to go on a crazy spending spree benefitting from the same technology that was designed to help you.
So, do you really think embedded an NFC chip in your finger or is such a bad idea? While some might baulk at the idea of these ‘connected humans’ (dare we say cyborgs?), the success of these chips is already showing that the proof is in the, er, touching.
In addition to the usual paying of things and even starting your car (the ultimate keyless system), there are other benefits to be had as well. Think of the possibilities for healthcare. Instead of spending ages at the doctor for a medical exam, the chip can monitor for any irregularities and notify your physician or hospital if the worst should happen.
Yes, embedded technology underneath one’s skin might not be for everybody but the same could have been said about contact lenses and pacemakers not too long ago. One thing is certain it is that our children will in all likelihood embrace this in ways we never thought would be possible.
Okay, where do I plugin?