The International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) has completed successful trials on an implanted Smart PAL Chip which it expects will help reduce fraudulent machine use, the fraudulent use of a PAL Card and improve convenience for certified operators.
The federation believes that it is one of the very first training certification schemes to offer this ground breaking technology, which piggy backs on the successful implementation of its smart card system which became standard on all PAL Cards issued since January 2014. There are already around 210,000 valid Smart PAL Cards in circulation.
A microchip, similar in technology terms, to that used in the PAL Smart Card, is inserted under the loose skin of the forearm, just above the wrist, or in the fleshy area between the thumb and index finger. The tiny chip - roughly the size of a grain of rice - is injected- or rather ‘implanted’ under the skin in a process that takes a minute or two from start to finish, and can be carried out by any IPAF trainer who has received the relevant training.
The sanitized chips are delivered pre-loaded in a disposable injector, ensuring that the entire process is both clean and easy to administer. The preliminary tests have been carried out in Switzerland, where over 130 operators are now equipped with them. The first one was implanted nine months ago in the wrist of IPAF research & development manager Rupert Douglas-Jones, who has been testing it ever since. “Embedding the chip was painless and is one of several ideas that we are have on test. It is very convenient and certainly beats all of the other ideas that we are working on in this area” he said.
An operator equipped with an internal chip simply waves his hand/arm past the standard reader installed on a machine in order to activate it. Alternatively job sites can install PAL Card readers at the entrance, or use a compact hand held device - allowing those equipped with the chips to be approved to operate the relevant equipment as they arrive on site. The process is quick and avoids the need to remove a card from a wallet or pocket.
The installed chips have also been tested through all airport security systems and are so small that they do not set off any scanners, or even cause issues with the latest full body scanners. Operators who have the chip installed claim that it has been incredibly liberating, eliminating any chance of losing the card, leaving it behind when going to work or damaging it. It also means that when working on sites where they have concerns about personal security they do not need to take their wallets out. Conversely some high security sites, where visitors or employees are not permitted to take any personal effects in, are expected to be particularly welcoming of this new technology.
The chips will have the same five year life as the regular PAL card, but can be reactivated externally, when the relevant refresher training course has been passed. This makes renewal simple and easy. Should an operator wish to have the chip removed, the process can be carried out by those certified to insert them and takes roughly five to 10 minutes.
IPAF chief executive Tim Whiteman said: “When we added the microchip to the PAL Card to create the Smart card, our supplier mentioned that this new technology was on the way, and asked if we would like to be one of the pioneer companies in its test programme. It just seemed like a perfect opportunity for us to move forward and demonstrate the innovative nature of our industry. The basic technology is not new, it has been used to tag dogs, horses and other mammals for many years, to the point where some countries are now making it a mandatory requirement for dogs”.
“The programme will be rolled out initially in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, our biggest challenge is to train and certify sufficient installers to implant the chips. Initially it will be offered as an option alongside the Smart card, but we expect that within three years the uptake will exceed 50 percent”.
While we understand the thinking behind this new initiative and applaud IPAF’s forward looking and innovative thinking on this, it does slightly smack of Big Brother and a dystopian future. We like the idea that the industry is leading the world on this, but think that it might be a little too far ahead of its time?
We look forward to seeing how the take up goes, but feel that IPAF’s aim to reach a 50 percent penetration rate by 2019 might just be a tad optimistic. Perhaps April the first 2020 would be a more realistic date?