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Brett King - Moven

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Innovation in Financial Services

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UK Olympics to trial RFID biochips under athletes skin

01 April 2011  |  7797 views  |  3

In the latest attempt to capitalize on the NFC and RFID hype, the rumor mill has exploded with news that the IOC and the team behind the London Olympics is trialing new RFID bio-chips. The micro RFID chips that will be injected under the skin of the shoulder of professional athletes, will be used for everything from entry to secure venues, payment for meals and beverages in the Olympic village, and even linked to personal bank accounts for payments.

This is not new technology. As far back as 2004 it was reported that the Baha Beach Club in Barcelona was injecting VIP patrons with RFID chips to replace credit cards and membership ID cards. Athletes will have the option of either the traditional contactless NFC card, or opting in for the RFID chip. However, officials from the London Organising Committee Of The Olympic Games were quick to explain the benefits of the embedded technology including the fact that athletes themselves would not have to carry a physical card to gain access to secure venues, accommodation or to pay for meals, services and souvenirs.

Mary Coleman-Brace, the spokesperson for the LOCOG said of the technology:

"While some may consider this invasive, it is a tried and tested technology and we hope to incentivize athletes by offering them discounts on a range of Olympic village services, also offering spot prizes for those that participate in the program. We believe that this sets the tone for future Olympic village constructs by defining a truly innovative security and payments device that the athlete can carry with them at all times. It also enables us to track the athletes and we're looking at trialing the integration of the RFID technology in respect to performance measurement for elements like track-and-field race timings also."

Visa is said to be considering a rival technology where an embedded chip is not required, but a temporary athletes tattoo placed on the skin would be used in a similar manner to the RFID chip. The tattoo design, incorporating a hybrid of the Visa and London Olympics logo, would incorporate a micro-NFC device that was low irritant and could survive contact on the skin.

While this is the first time that technology under the skin is being considered for an Olympic event, there has been the use of RFID technology already in many sporting events. In January, 2010 at the Cebu marathon, athletes wore RFID tags that measured their performance and times over the 42k race. LOCOG officials pointed out that in recent years there has been rapid improvement in the miniaturization of the technology, allowing it to be less invasive.

So what do you think? If you were an athlete would you be up for the RFID technology? Or would you realize that stories like this on April the 1st carry some risk?

RFID chips in use at the Cebu Marathon in 2010 TagsSecurityPayments

Comments: (3)

Paul Penrose - Finextra - London | 01 April, 2011, 10:19

I remember working on a monthly banking magazine (remember them?) twenty years ago and getting a letter from a reader who was looking for information on implanting bank chip cards in the brain. That was filed under N for...guess what?

Anyway, now we have Larry Page, co-founder of Google burbling to Cnet about having Google brain implants: "On the more exciting front, you can imagine your brain being augmented by Google. For example you think about something and your cell phone could whisper the answer into your ear."

And that was back in March.

Jan-Olof Brunila - Swedbank - Stockholm | 04 April, 2011, 14:22

Being published on April Fools Day this news may not have the highest credibility. Anyway, in the European Union farming subsidies are an important part of the operational model including livestock subsidies. Therefore cows in the EU have the yellow plastic tag in the ear with the EU livestock ID number. The EU likes to keep control of the cows they support! It can be imagined that card schemes may want to keep track of the athletes they sponsor even though the badge is not 5x10 cm sturdy yellow plastic.

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