Publication Details

Michael, K. & Michael, M. G. (2010). The diffusion of RFID implants for access control and epayments: a case study on Baja Beach Club in Barcelona. In K. Michael (Eds.), IEEE Symposium on Technology and Society (pp. 242-252). Singapore: IEEE.


RFID implants for humans have been used in a variety of contexts since their commercial inception in 2003. The VeriChip product which typically carries a 16 digit number was first marketed as an identification device in the ehealth space (e.g. for emergency response), then as an access control mechanism (e.g. security), and finally as an epayment solution (e.g. the purchase of drinks at clubs). This paper investigates the story behind RFID implants for club patronage access control and epayment. The study uses a two-fold qualitative approach in the collection of data for the single case study of the Baja Beach Club in Barcelona, Spain. A single semi-structured interview was conducted with the IT Manager who created the application at the club that utilised the human chipping product. The full length interview was conducted in Spanish, translated into English, and analysed using content analysis. The interview was supported by an exhaustive search online for documents that met the criteria "Baja Beach Club + implants". The documents returned by this search included academic articles, government policy documents, publicly accessible blogs and media commentary. Search engine results online uncovered one other dominant document type- that of popular religious literature linking implantable microchips in humans to end-time prophecy in the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. The findings indicate that despite the successful application of RFID implants for club patrons, the complexity of the technology during trialability led to its stilted diffusion. The paper draws on Roger's (1995) diffusion of innovation (DOI) theory to describe the poor uptake of the technology for access control worldwide but points to the possibility that this is only a short-term trend. The paper also ponders on whether the slow rate of adoption of humancentric implantables will continue and what factors might need to be overcome before widespread diffusion can occur.

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