In our long country of Sweden, most payments are made without cash involved. Most of us Suede’s use our credit cards with a chip. But what if you could make payments with your chip implant instead. Then you wouldn’t have to search your wallet in the queues at the supermarket. DigitasLBi tested this during the company’s Christmas party in 2015 with a good result. We who are ”chipped” were hoping for more opportunities to add more services/participants to our chips. Maybe this would interest more to think about the positive aspects with a chip implant. We asked the question to Patric Lanhed at DigitasLBi who’s looking at the development in a positive way.
Your trial with chip payments during last year was a success…
Our Christmas party with payment solutions was interesting from several points. If you compare to the Øredev Developer Conference where you had you implant, there were a lot of people there, there were 1,300 sold tickets. Maybe all of them weren’t there on day one whilst we were upgrading 63 of them with a chip implant. On the other hand it was probably about 700 visitors on site. 63 out of 700 isn’t a large number, but at the event in Gothenburg we were 150 and 23 of them chosed to upgrade. Just over 15%. Which are high numbers.
How was the division between men and women?
Of the 23 there were 13 women. Three of the women were over the age of 50. This show that we have gone passed the basement activity. It shows that it is more and more social acceptable and people are seeing the benefits. This is why I believe that thanks to the internet of things will explode and this is like a little tail from this. No one thought that we would reach this level so quickly.
I suppose you were involved in the Bio Pay project?
I was one of the creators. We need to point out that Bio Pay is nothing more than a proof of that the technique is working. It is not a product or a business. We are a group of developers who wanted to develop a fun concept and challenge the traditional. So we chosed to look at how to solve payments with a chip. We understood that this concerns many, but didn’t realise it would receive that attention it did. It’s amazingly fun.
What will the continuation be?
From the start it was just about succeeding with something no one else had done before. All journalists that we spoke with were interested in the story. Sweden is a country who’s quite a long way ahead when it comes to a cash free community. Or at least gravitate towards that. The rest of the world is aware of this and are watching carefully what Sweden is doing at the moment. We have gone from handling cash to pay with wireless technique (NFC). More and more payment methods end up in your mobile phone. This is where we are today. Then we have the icing of the cake f this story and that is that we in Sweden have successfully made payments with our chip implants.
Are there similar thoughts in other countries?
I have been in contact with companies in Norway who’s in charge of the banks and their techniques. We discussed this technique and the payments of the future. This is super interesting for them. They have had their plastic cards for so many years now and nothing more has happened. It’s the same technique they had for about 25 - 30 years. Now they have received NFC chip in their credit cards. (similar to what ICA supermarket have in their cards). In other countries in Europe it’s very common to pay smaller amounts by holding your cards towards a reader; you don’t even have to enter your pin code. This can be done up to five, six times a day. This means there’s no security if you loose your card. That verses how many of you haven’t forgotten your credit card at home or lent it to your wife? The physical security is not very good with these kinds of payment methods today. Which give an interesting twist on the discussion of how you can use the chip implant in your hand to make payments. You just can’t forget your hand at home and you can not lend it to your wife. It’s the same digital security and you can add a pin code. I believe that it is not Sweden who’s deciding if you must have a pin code but the card issuer. I can pay the bus fair with my MasterCard without entering a pin code. So here already we have the lack of security but I am sure there will be a lot done to raise the security. The banks are very interested in this, if a new and revolutionary technique such as making payments with your hand, and then things are very interesting. Our discussions are a lot more interesting today compared to just a few months ago.
The chip implants that we have in our hands today have very little storage compared to the chips on credit cards. How much information from different actors would be possible to have on a chip?
I don’t know how to solve the in practice, there are two different ways. One is to store the information to the chip because you can, the other way is through some central system who decide if your chip is okay for making payments with or not. If so, there’s no need for storing capacity at all. The problems regarding payments with the chip today is more about; how do we know that the chip is in your hand? We can’t guarantee that it is so. It needs to be built up around this for us to be able to use the technique in a secure way. Otherwise you would be able to register a chip that you have on a key chain and all of a sudden you’ve lost the effect of having the chip implant to be used as an identification, which we can’t if it is on a bracelet or on a key chain. So it’s really there the problem is, we must find a way to verify that you are who you say you are and that the chip is in your body.
Because the chip is removable…
Sure. At the same time I think, which might be a little naive, that if you have payment services connected to your chip implant and then take it out, you don’t want anyone else to go around and making payments with it. It’s about self-preservation. But at the moment there’s nothing to stop that from happening, it’s like loosing your Visa card and not report it, then there’s nothing to prevent someone to use it. The problems aren’t new, but it’s about how we improve the security.
You can add all sorts of security solutions for example a pin code, to verify you chip implant now and then to make payments with it.
When you add a service you have to verify it with your Bank Id in your mobile, like when you log on to your bank.
You were in an article in the news paper Dagens Industri and it mentioned a Api. It was said to help the owner of the chip implant to use many different applications at the same time.
It is an interesting discussion. It’s something we are hoping to be able to offer. Either it’s us or someone else. It is there I can see the strength within the user areas. I can go to my gym and say that I want to use my chip implant to enter. Then they put my chip Id in their system, it’s a bit problematic. I feel that I shouldn’t have to go to my gym to ask them to do anything, I don’t want to talk to someone who doesn’t understand and having to explain over and over again, it should be easy for the user. I think it could be by connection companies who are allowing a simple connection to their chip. For the users it could be an app. in the mobile. Very much like App. store/Play shop where you can say that you are going to work out at Sats and just download the app. Down loading the app. you want you chip Id to be connected with Sats. So when you go next time you hold your hand up instead of your card, that’s how simple it should be. And I believe it’s possible. Each match requires a unique solution and there’s a lot of work. This is why it’s not so simple but it’s what I believe is required to make this happen. It must be easy for people to connect services with their chip implant.
Are there more parties interested in this apart from the banks? I saw a coverage about a man travelling with SAS using the chip implant.
It is very good to be able to do these kinds of experiments, because it shows the good and open up to the possibilities to make these connections. SAS is one of them. Their view on the problem is that their cards just like the credit cards are encrypted. The data on the chips are not encrypted. Again it requires a system to handle the data and encrypt the things to be synced to the chip. This can not be done by four, five different actors, it must be handled central and who ever is doing this first will probably be the largest.
And you’re hoping it will be you at DigitasLBi?
It remains to be seen.
But it has to be a vision you have?
Yes absolutely. But there are several other initiatives which are far head in planning but with a totally different focus, especially this with encryption. It’s interesting because this is how it works today: you receive a new credit card, the data on it is encrypted which is done by a machine before it is sent to you. We could have done the same thing via a reader connected to the computer or a mobile. Just because the data normally isn’t encrypted on the chip, it doesn’t mean that you can’t encrypt the data on the chip, it totally possible. You can sync everything on the chip regardless if it’s encrypted or not, so the possibilities are there. It’s just a matter of getting the right actors on to the journey. I believe it’s a process we will see but it will take time. During this year we will see the same chip as you and I have but with one addition, there will be a module on them which encrypt the data that is synced to the chip. Which then give the extra security against someone taking your data from the chip to use. There is one actor in Sweden called Fidesmo who’s using this and which works as the central actor, the spider in the web and who connects services with in their case a plastic card. The plastic card could easily be replaced by the new chip which is launched this year. But it will probably not replace it but more exist parallel with the cards.
So it’s time to upgrade?
Yes if one wants to go that way, it’s a step forward in the development. Then you have to wait and see what the next step will be, I don’t know... The chip of the future might not look like the ones today. Next step might be to have them perform a number of tasks within your body. The bio sensor which reads your values in the body and so on. Then the data is sent for analysis to perhaps your mobile, but that would require processor power in the chip. And for this to work it takes battery or some form of power source. Here there are things that are interesting to talk about. There’s a lot going on in this area at the moment and it is in this direction we are moving. Next step from there is active chips. There is a team in Washington who developed and showed possibilities to receive power from wifi signals. In Malmö there’s a team of researchers who proved a thesis about with help from a small battery in contact lenses you can store the power that the contact lens receive from the glucose that is in the eye liquid, so there the body is the power source. In time the technique will require less power and the researchers will develop a better way to get power. We meet somewhere in the middle and then we will have a fully functioning product to ”run” inside the body. And there somewhere things are starting to happening and gets interesting, at the moment our chips are stupid, really dumb. They don’t do anything that can’t be done outside of the body. When we reach this point, which is just a matter of time, then you are welcome to ring me back.
How did your interest for chip implants begin?
I have always thought that technique is very interesting and how you can improve it to improve yourself as a human being. When I was younger I didn’t know of bio hacking, it’s quite new. Then when I think about the movies and TV shows I watched, they have inspired me such as Robocop or Johnny Mnemonic, and even the 70: s show Six Million Dollar Man. Hollywood was early with the concept of having data capacity in the body. The meeting between humans and machines has always been very interesting to me. So when I heard of this chip implant and the possibilities to start talking to computers, I was a go and no question about me doing this. Many are raising their eyebrows and say: are you stupid? But to me it’s natural.