The future of payment may be in your hand — literally


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The future of the way you pay for things could be right in your hand — literally.

A miniaturized piece of technology that uses radio waves is at the heart of this pay revolution. It’s called an embeddable RFID chip and some folks are now having them placed under their skin.

A lot of us are familiar with radio frequency (RFID) technology. Here’s one example: Millions of us have an RFID card we use which unlocks a door that gets us into our offices.

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But what if that technology were implanted in you? It’s not that far-fetched and it may begin with the snacks you buy at the vending machine.

The Apex-based Capital Coffee Company has set up elaborate break rooms in places like The Frontier in Durham. Capital Coffee’s mini-markets are like a convenience store in the office, where hundreds of items can be taken off a shelf or refrigerated case to be purchased.

Capital Coffee’s pay system is a state-of-the-art kiosk which allows you to access your account with just a fingerprint if you prefer.

“They don’t have to have credit cards. They don’t have to have money,” explained Capital Coffee’s Charles Brunson.

DIG DEEPER: This article offers more on the pros and cons of the RFID Chip designed for human use.

The company’s kiosk’s currently accept credit cards or biometric identification through a fingerprint, but soon they will be modified to accept wireless pay-by-phone through Google or Apple pay. That’s RFID technology.

The maker of the kiosk is Three Square Market. The Wisconsin-based company is already into the next step, making the kiosk work with an implanted RFID chip you can use to pay for your purchase.

“Basically it’s a serial number assigned to a credit card,” says Three Square Market CEO Todd Westby.

Fifty employees of Three Square Market have had already the chip implanted in their hand. The chip is about the size of a grain of rice.

It not only allows those employees to access their break room vending machine, but allows them to log on to their computer or access the office with a swipe of their hand.

The FDA approved RFID implant technology for humans in 2004, but some critics worry about it.

“Do you want someone knowing every time you enter or leave a room or use a copy machine?,” asks Dan Ackerman who is a senior editor at CNET. “There’s a degree of autonomy that’s lost with this…one to one tracking. You can never leave it behind. You can’t really turn it off.”

The RFID chips implanted in Three Square Market employees are not GPS enabled and can’t track anyone.

Chelsea Konowski used her fingerprint to access the mini-mart vending machine in Durham, but says that’s about as far as she’d go and would not have a chip implanted in her hand.

“I don’t think I would,” she said. “I think it’s too extreme for me.”

And it’s apparently too extreme for a lot of CBS North Carolina viewers too.

Consumer reporter Steve Sbraccia did a week-long Twitter poll and found a more than 80 percent of those responding were absolutely against chipping. Less that 7 percent said they’d do it.

Right now, Capital Coffee says the verdict is out on using the RFID chip to pay at its mini-marts.

“We’re not embracing the chip yet,” said Brunson. “We’re watching. We’re not there yet.”

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