Fortune

BIOCHIPPING: SCI-FI NO MORE

INJECTING CHIPS INTO HUMANS IS NOT ONLY POSSIBLE, IT’S ALSO INCREASINGLY LOOKING LIKE A PRACTICAL BUSINESS APPLICATION THAT MEANS NEVER LOSING YOUR KEYS OR FORGETTING YOUR PASSWORDS AGAIN.
Biohax microchips are injected at a piercing parlor—making chip-enabled locker rental a seamless task.

DOWN A NARROW SIDE STREET in the Swedish city of Gothenburg sits the Barbarella piercing parlor, a regular haunt for locals who decorate their bodies with piercings and tattoos, and which claims to offer the area’s finest collection of ear discs and nose rings. But on a frigid evening in November, the shop is the setting for a very different kind of body enhancement: biochips. As darkness falls on the port town of nearly 600,000 people, Jowan Österlund wanders in, wearing a baseball cap and T-shirt, to meet two new clients for his small startup, Biohax International. From his backpack, he pulls plastic-wrapped syringes, each containing a tiny, dark microchip that is barely visible from the outside. Inside the unassuming package is Österlund’s prized product, a window into what today is a fringe tech obsession but which, he believes, will one day be a giant industry. “You are creating an entirely new type of behavior and entirely new types of data that will be massively more valuable than what we have now,” Österlund says. “It is kind of a moonshot. But in the long run, this is what is going to happen.”

Perched on a stool in one of the piercing rooms, Österlund jams the needle into Claes Radojewski and pulls it out again, leaving a one-kilobyte microchip inside him, in the fleshy part between his left thumb and index finger. In a matter of seconds, Radojewski has become a trailblazing biohacker, much to his own surprise. “I have never even been inside a tattoo parlor,” says the program manager for MobilityXLab, an innovation center in Gothenburg for the auto industry, run in partnership with Ericsson, Volvo, and others. “My girlfriend asked if it was some kind of crisis because I was turning 30 soon.” In fact, Radojewski says he has wanted a biochip since he learned of the technology a few years ago: “In Sweden, we like to use new tech in our daily lives.”

Österlund, the needle-wielding entrepreneur, is convinced that there are millions more around the world who will soon want chips implanted into their bodies. As proof, he points to his Facebook messaging app, which is jammed with unbidden requests every day from people as far away as Australia and Mexico. He also receives emails, he says, from curious investors “on every continent except Antarctica.”

The enthusiasm of the

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