First published in Metro.

It’s a pretty invasive scenario – but would you microchip your child?

Let’s imagine that you could implant a tracker like a grain of rice under the skin to follow where they were, even in the worst case scenario like an abduction.

We asked some experts if they thought this would be a good idea, or even a workable one.

As it turns out, there are some serious issues.

Dino Burbidge, Director of Technology and Innovation with ad agency WCRS, says that practically speaking it’s just not something we have the capacity to do yet.

Although some companies already ‘microchip’ humans, the implants only work over a very short distance, and are used for things like swiping into an office, using the printer or paying for canteen food.

Using chips as a GPS tracker would require them to have a lot more power.

‘To truly track a person, you need something pumping out a decent signal (using power) or you need a vast array of high power detectors everywhere,’ Dino told Metro.co.uk.

‘The chips we see today are to be used at close-ranges, like supermarkets or security swipes – often 2cm or less.

‘I’m not sure I should panic if my kids move outside that 2cm safety zone.’

He said a chip would also need to be unobstructed to work properly, such as being on someone’s forehead (not a great look), and it might not work indoors.

‘So as long as you stay outside, with good wifi and access to satellites, you’re totally trackable – a somewhat impractical request to your kidnapper though,’ Dino said.

Even if the tech did work, it could lead to unforeseen consequences, he warned.

‘If you really wanted to ‘untrack’ someone, you just do what any self-respecting, tech-aware thief of the future does – scan for a chip and remove or disable it,’ he said.

In the worst case the chip could be forcibly cut out, but it could also just be disabled.

‘A decent magnet should do the trick,’ Dino said. ‘If everyone has them, this will be the norm, so [deactivating them] would be the high tech equivalent of spray painting over a security camera.

‘Bad people will always be one step ahead. The ones we catch are either unlucky, inexperienced or stupid.’

Talking about a microchip may be missing the point anyway, he said, given most people already carry a ‘hugely powerful, GPS enabled, wifi triangulating, beacon-aware tracking device’ – that would be your phone.

‘It won’t be a case of “Will we have a tracking chip?” It will be that my ‘phone’ now has the ability to communicate to my brain directly, share images with my optical cortex and be powered by my body’s own energy system,’ he said.

Looking into the future, there are several other ways this could go, he said.‘It won’t have a screen or a battery, that’s old tech. A ‘chip’ in this context seems like waving a paper Ordinance Survey map at someone using Google Maps on their phone. Just not necessary.’

Firstly, long-range electrical charging could power up a chip without contact being necessary.

Secondly, ‘smart dust’ is on the distant horizon, Dino says.

This is essentially a bunch of microscopic robots or sensors so small, they can be injected or scattered around the environment undetected.

‘At that point, they may be able to activate en-mass as a location beacon ‘when we need medical help or when we stray outside our local park’, he said.They could be used to fix genes or attack chemicals, and there may come a point when we are ‘so infused with so many ‘chips’ that they become an indispensable part of us.

‘If we need a big boost of power to do this, no problem, power will be in the air anyway.

‘But a clunky NFC chip out of an Oyster card jabbed into our wrist – jog on.’

Michael Brown, senior systems engineer with F5 Networks, was also unconvinced that parents will be looking up microchips along with the latest pram model.

He said there wouldn’t be widespread adoption of wearable technology unless it gave people ‘super-human-like abilities’ – such as a contact lens that helped people see in the dark – or unless we end up living in some kind of Orwellian world where Big Brother forces us to have them.

‘Until these things happen, in my opinion, it will be a novelty,’ he told Metro.co.uk.

Michael Brown, senior systems engineer with F5 Networks, was also unconvinced that parents will be looking up microchips along with the latest pram model.

He said there wouldn’t be widespread adoption of wearable technology unless it gave people ‘super-human-like abilities’ – such as a contact lens that helped people see in the dark – or unless we end up living in some kind of Orwellian world where Big Brother forces us to have them.

‘Until these things happen, in my opinion, it will be a novelty,’ he told Metro.co.uk.

Dino Burbidge

About Dino Burbidge

I know enough about most things to be dangerous. Currently Director of Innovation and Technology at WCRS.

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