A Polish-British startup claims to have created the world’s first microchip implant that can be inserted under the skin and used to make contactless payments at any card terminal.
Walletmor’s device consists of a microprocessor for storing encrypted payment data as well as a proximity antenna to connect to nearby terminals. Both are sealed in a capsule made from biocompatible materials.
“I believe that one day implants will be as popular as payment cards,” Wojciech Paprota, who is the founder of London-based Walletmor but hails from the Polish city of Lublin. He argues that the speed of global take-up of other technologies that are “safe, convenient and aggregate more data” is encouraging.
“Our payment implant cannot be forgotten or lost. This means that, unlike a standard payment card, it cannot end up in the wrong hands. It will not fall out of our wallet, and no one will take it from there. The implant cannot be scanned, photographed or hacked.
Walletmor’s implant is half a millimetre long and weighs less than one gram. It comes at a cost of €199, but must also be sewn into the body, usually the hand. This can be done by specialists at “every medical aesthetics clinic”, says the firm. The implant is passive, meaning that it does not require a power source.
The company says that it already has almost 200 users following its recent launch. Of these, 34 are in Poland, where the company led one of the first marketing drives.
Walletmor’s research shows that where people are more “conscious” about wearable technology, such as in Scandinavia, the UK and Switzerland, up to 15% of adults are willing to use implants. “There are few qualms here about whether the device spies or monitors its user.
By contrast, in Poland that figure is only 5%. “Conspiracy theories related to the coronavirus do not help, because some suggest that vaccines contain microchips that serve to control people.
More than 4,000 people in Sweden had had chips sewn under their skin by 2018, reported NPR. They are used for making payments, as keycards, and to monitor health. However, they have so far operated in specific, closed environments such as individual workplaces, notes Walletmor. By contrast, its implant is for general use.
For now, the implant connects to a mobile application, operated by Bulgarian fintech company iCard, which is used for topping it up with funds for contactless payments.
However, the company’s long-term goal is to develop new functionalities – such as providing identification and keycards – which will be integrated into a single proprietary mobile application.
To back up its claim of being “impossible to hack”, Walletmor says that its implant cannot be scanned or copied, and lacks a CVV number. Moreover, it does not transmit radio waves or have GPS, which would allow for location tracking.
The product uses near-field communication (NFC) technology to allow for short-range contactless payments. As a standard payment wearable, it should work with every terminal processing contactless payments worldwide.