What is the future of payment implant technology?

It may sound like a science-fiction movie, but people are tentatively warming to the prospect of implant technology to make seamless payments in day-to-day life. At least according to the Where the World’s Moving Global Report.

The cautious approval rating of 40% of respondents either agreeing or strongly agreeing with the idea of implanting chips under the skin (while 36% disagree or strongly disagree)* indicates there’s room for this payment method to become part of our societies. However, there are valid concerns about safety and protection of personal data that arise with the emergence of this technology. 

An interesting finding from the report also shows that there’s somewhat of a regional disparity when it comes to acceptance of the trend. Global citizens in China were more readily embracing the trend, with a 66% positive response, comparative to 51% negative in Australia (only 26% would currently consider a payment chip implant).

In saying this, it’s hard to ignore that despite the growth in interest for this trend, there’s a sense of fear and evasion towards it too. Further, the report highlights that creating easier ways to transact means that people may find it harder to rationalise or track their spending decisions.

Seamless everyday transactions

What does the market of implant technology look like today?

Three Square Market in the US recently offered their employees the ability to receive tiny radio frequency identification (RFID) implants in their hands for free as part of a ‘chip party’. This followed a Stockholm based start up who had previously offered similar incentives to their employees. The implants allow the employees to open doors, log into computers and even use the vending machines.

We’re entering a generation of ‘always on’ wallets, where chip implant technology means payments can be made seamlessly anytime, anywhere. The chips currently available on the market are predominantly RFID chips with near-field communications (NFC) technology. Similar to those used in credit cards, pet microchips and to track parcels in the mail.

New mobile payment technology

Both companies sourced this through BioHax International, a Swedish company that provides microchip technology in the form of RFID devices that use ‘passive’ NFC technology and are inserted by ‘certified biohackers’.  

There are ethical arguments around using this kind of technology in the workplace and whether the convenience it allows really outweighs the invasive nature of accessing it in the first place. 

The collection of personal data is often at the forefront of people’s concerns before  accepting any kind of new wearable or implantable technology. An interesting finding from the report indicates however that global citizens, particularly in China (62%), are beginning to embrace the sharing of information in exchange for a more personalised experience. So it’s possible that people will become more comfortable with using this technology in order to achieve seamlessness in their transactions and overall quality of life.

Global citizens in China were more readily embracing the trend, with a 66% positive response, comparative to 51% negative in Australia (only 26% would currently consider a payment chip implant).

Using cash no longer the norm

How can we know how much we’re really spending?

Richard Cooper, Professor of Cognitive Science at Birbeck University of London details in the report how the growth of new payment technology like chip implants can change the relationship we have with money and its tangibility. 

While the event of innovative technology that helps us move money around the world is great, it can present challenges too. In this sense, not using money that is tangible means we can actually lose track of how much, and how frequently we’re spending on everyday things. 

However, we’ve equally seen the rise of technology that helps us maintain control of how much money we’re moving and spending. Take the mobile apps Raiz or Digit for example. These apps provide you with the basic abilities of tracking spending and budgeting, and in the case of Raiz, it will automatically round up your spending to the nearest dollar and it accrues as an extra savings pool.

Smart technology

Beyond apps, Cooper suggests that new payment technology should be designed in a way that will help people better understand their spending patterns, and create a better transition to the cashless society we’re likely headed towards. Payment devices that monitor personal data in real time can help provide context to spending patterns in the absence of a physical transaction.

These kinds of apps and wearable technologies provide transparency that is very much needed in this new era of digital, contactless payments. The ability to be more financially aware and track where the money is actually going provides a great sense of it’s value, and in turn, can reduce a notion of normalised debt.

Whilst the reality of everyone walking around with a chip in their hand may be a while away yet, there is a growing interest in the area. For many, the convenience of never carrying their everyday possessions, such as keys and a wallet, is worth the procedure. 

Unsurprisingly, there are concerns regarding the consequences of blindly taking on this new technology. Regardless, if you’re moving towards payment implants or more ‘traditional cashless’ methods, payment monitoring tools and platforms will pave the way for transparency and greater financial awareness.

*834 respondents aged 25-65 years old, were surveyed from across Australia, China, UK and USA. Fieldwork was conducted by Kadence International, from 10th-19th August 2018.

Where The World’s Moving Global Report

The report explores what key trends are influencing today’s globally-minded people.

IMPORTANT: The contents of this blog do not constitute financial advice and are provided for general information purposes only without taking into account the investment objectives, financial situation and particular needs of any particular person. OzForex Limited (trading as OFX) and its affiliated entities make no recommendation as to the merits of any financial strategy or product referred to in the blog. OFX makes no warranty, express or implied, concerning the suitability, completeness, quality or exactness of the information and models provided in this blog.