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Category: RFID, Automated Data Collection, and Internet of Things

Implantable RFID Movement Seems to be Growing - Are You Ready for Your Chip?

 


Dangerous Things has Sold Thousands of Implant Kits, Saw Sales Rise 50% in 2015

June 1, 2016
SCDigest Editorial Staff

In 2010, SCDigest ran a story about Amal Graafstra, a West coast technologist who had RFID chips implanted in each hand, which he used to do thing like open his garage door and turn on the lights and his computer with a simple wave. Graafstra even convinced his girlfriend at the time to get an implant in one hand. (See Are RFID Tagged Humans Closer than We Think?)

It was a novelty sort of story, and we certainly didn't expect Graafstra to eventually turn this "body hacking" (one of the terms used for this phenomenon) into a business. But that's exactly what he has done.

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We will also note that in addition to the term "human hacker," others have used "transhumanism" to refer to this melding of the person and embedded technology.

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According to an article on CNBC.com this week, Graafstra is now the president of Dangerous Things, a company which designs, sells and, in rare cases, installs its own line of implantable radio-frequency ID chips.

It turns out all the publicity Graafstra generated from his implants led to many calls from others around the world interested in chips for themselves. In 2013, Graafstra decided he could make a real business out of it.

"I needed a way to help people out who were contacting me and make it worth my while," said Graafstra. "Our premise here is to upgrade your life. Open your doors, your cars and your computers [with a chip]."

Graafstra said his bootstrapped company has sold more than 10,000 implantable RFID chips and the do-it-yourself kits to install them under the skin to people across the globe. Each kit costs about $100.00, and includes the tag itself, an antiseptic, and injection tool needed to install it under the skin. Four different types of chip implants are available.

Dangerous Things had revenues of about $150,000 in 2015, up 50% from 2014.

Most doctors won't implant the chips, and many customers may not have the fortitude to do it themselves, as they could with the kit. So, Dangerous Things partners with and trains body piercers worldwide on how to inject RFID chips. Most often, people have the chips injected into their hands between the thumb and index finger.

The chips are really in most cases near field communication (NFC) devices, but which store data strings similar to those encoded on a standard RFID tag.

The CNBC story featured one college student who has had a chip implanted for a specific purpose: storing a lengthy password for accessing his computer.

"I would touch my hand to a receiver I constructed that would read the data and input it to my computer, allowing me to store a pass phrase significantly longer than one I would be able to remember and type by hand," the man said.

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In a separate article in Popular Mechanics magazine this month, columnist Rose Eveleth wrote about her decision to get a NFC chip implanted recently. She bought her kit from Dangerous Things.

While opening your garage door with a hand wave and such are "fun, goofy things to do" with an implant, Eveleth wrote, "in theory, the possibilities are far grander and more useful. I could connect it to my bank account and use it to pay at the grocery store. I could connect it to my transit card and use it to get into certain subway systems."

Alas, the problem is that these systems today aren't designed to work with an implanted chip - and may not be able to do so for many years, if ever.

One answer to that may be closed loop systems, such as one we reported on in early 2015, after news that an office building complex in Sweden built a system that would allow workers in the building to use their implanted RFID chips to gain access through security doors, use services such as copy machines, pay for lunch and more, all without PIN codes or swiping cards. (See Office Complex in Sweden Offers Option of Embedded RFID for Workers to Automate Access, Buy Lunch.)

How that program is going lately we haven't heard.

Dangerous Things, however, is indeed looking to put more smarts into its chips. Its new Uki chip, which will be available this fall, will let people make online purchases in bitcoin by tying their bitcoin wallets to the implantable device, as well as allow people to store and send encrypted, secure email messages.

We will also note that in addition to the term "human hacker," others have used "transhumanism" to refer to this melding of the person and embedded technology.

"Getting one of these transponders implanted in your hand is less risky and less time consuming than getting an ear piercing, and you've got this extremely functional device that's simple to remove," Graafstra says. "The question really comes down to: Why wouldn't you do this?"


Are you ready for your chip implant? Do you see this actually gaining real traction? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.

 

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