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iStock

Wisconsin Software Company Will Microchip Its Employees

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iStock

Typically, pets—not people—are microchipped. But as NBC News reports, one Wisconsin-based company plans to become the first business in the country to offer the tiny implants to its employees.

Three Square Market (32M), a software design firm in River Falls, Wisconsin, will begin providing the chips starting August 1. The rice-sized implants—which cost around $300 each—will be implanted in the hands of staffers between the thumb and the forefinger, and will allow them to purchase vending-machine snacks, open secured doors, or log into their computers with the wave of a hand. The company says the chips are optional.

32M is partnering with Swedish-based BioHax International to install the chips, which were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2004. The chips utilize electromagnetic fields to identify electronically stored data, and near-field communications, a technology that's used in contactless credit cards.

Fifty company members—including CEO Todd Westby—are expected to volunteer to receive the implants, according to a company statement. The company will foot the bill for the implants.

32M's microchipping program may sound unconventional, but the company—which owns machines that can use microchips—says it's simply riding the wave of the future.

"We see chip technology as the next evolution in payment systems, much like micro markets have steadily replaced vending machines," 32M's Westby said in the statement. "As a leader in micro market technology, it is important that 32M continues leading the way with advancements such as chip implants."

As microchipping becomes more common, Westby added, people will use the technology to shop, travel, and ride public transit.

The company says the chips are easily removable and can't be hacked or used to track recipients. However, some experts have argued the technology is an invasion of privacy, and that it could lead to heightened employee scrutiny.

"If most employees agree, it may become a workplace expectation," Vincent Conitzer, a computer science professor at Duke University, told NBC News. "Then, the next iteration of the technology allows some additional tracking functionality. And so it goes until employees are expected to implant something that allows them to be constantly monitored, even outside of work."

[h/t NBC News]

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Scientists Have Launched an Earthquake Emoji Design Competition
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iStock

There’s no denying that emojis have changed the way we communicate. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words—and sometimes a thumbs up or crying face emoji will suffice. But could an earthquake emoji help save lives?

A group of scientists thinks it certainly couldn’t hurt. As The Seattle Times reports, a self-proclaimed #emojiquake steering committee is hosting an open competition for emoji earthquake designs that could be used to swiftly spread news of an imminent earthquake to diverse populations.

“We need an emoji so we can communicate quickly with much larger groups of people,” Dr. Sara McBride, a disaster researcher who works with the U.S. Geological Survey, told The Seattle Times. “People can process pictures faster than words, and not everybody is fluent in English.”

As McBride pointed out on Twitter, there are existing emojis to represent other weather events—like tornados and cyclones—but none to depict an earthquake.

Social media has proven instrumental in alerting large populations about impending natural disasters, giving them time to seek shelter or take proper precautions. According to the BBC, Japan and Mexico both rely on earthquake alerts sent to their digital devices via early warning technology.

The winning design will be chosen by popular vote on Twitter, and the steering committee will work with Unicode Consortium—essentially the world’s emoji gatekeepers—to get the earthquake emoji approved for widespread use on phones, computers, and social media.

You don’t have to be a scientist or graphic designer to enter the contest. The committee has already received more than 40 submissions, but entries will be accepted until July 14. Designs can be emailed to emojiquake@gmail.com, but be sure to check out the guidelines and size specifications on the #emojiquake website.

[h/t The Seattle Times]

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Apeel
New Plant-Based Coating Can Keep Your Avocados Fresh for Twice as Long
Apeel
Apeel

Thanks to a food technology startup called Apeel Sciences, eating fresh avocados will soon be a lot easier. The Bill Gates–backed company has developed a coating designed to keep avocados fresh for up to twice as long as traditional fruit, Bloomberg reports, and these long-lasting avocados will soon be available at 100 grocery stores across the Midwestern U.S. Thirty or so of the grocery stores involved in the limited rollout of the Apeel avocado will be Costcos, so feel free to buy in bulk.

Getting an avocado to a U.S. grocery store is more complicated than it sounds; the majority of avocados sold in the U.S. come from California or Mexico, making it tricky to get fruit to the Midwest or New England at just the right moment in an avocado’s life cycle.

Apeel’s coating is made of plant material—lipids and glycerolipids derived from peels, seeds, and pulp—that acts as an extra layer of protective peel on the fruit, keeping water in and oxygen out, and thus reducing spoilage. (Oxidation is the reason that your sliced avocados and apples brown after they’ve been exposed to the air for a while.) The tasteless coating comes in a powder that fruit producers mix with water and then dip their fruit into.

A side-by-side comparison of a coated and uncoated avocado after 30 days, with the uncoated avocado looking spoiled and the coated one looking fresh
Apeel

According to Apeel, coating a piece of produce in this way can keep it fresh for two to three times longer than normal without any sort of refrigeration or preservatives. This not only allows consumers a few more days to make use of their produce before it goes bad, reducing food waste, but can allow producers to ship their goods to farther-away markets without refrigeration.

Avocados are the first of Apeel's fruits to make it to market, but there are plans to debut other Apeel-coated produce varieties in the future. The company has tested its technology on apples, artichokes, mangoes, and several other fruits and vegetables.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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