In 1998, British scientist Professor Kevin Warwick became the first human to have a microchip embedded in his body. In 2004, the Baja Beach Club in Barcelona offered its customers a VIP package with a microchip implant to skip queues and pay for drinks. And a year later, Amal Graafstra made use of a microchip implant to open his office door without needing a physical key.

The curious practice of implanting microchips under human skin has existed for over two decades. But with science fiction and Hollywood’s portrayal of the insertion of foreign items into the human body feeding into surveillance and exploitation fears, it is worth demystifying the trend.

Microchips permeate our daily lives. Everything from computer processors to children’s toys and satellites use them. Radiofrequency identification (RFID) is also used for inventory organisation in warehouses and on price tags to prevent theft in the retail sector, on passports, smartphones, transport cards, and to identify pets and livestock.