- Radio-frequency identification chips, which have found
a home in applications ranging from toll road passes to smart retail shelves,
may be close to taking up residence in the human body.
- A Florida-based company has introduced a passive RFID
chip that is compatible with human tissue, and the developer is proposing
the chip for use on implantable pacemakers, defibrillators and artificial
joints. The company, Applied Digital Solutions (Palm Beach, Fla.), also
said that the chip could be injected through a syringe and used as a sort
of "human bar code" in security applications.
- Called the VeriChip, the device could open up a broad
new segment for the $900 million-a-year RFID business, especially if society
embraces the idea of using microchips for human identification. Applied
Digital executives ultimately believe that the worldwide market for such
implantable chips could reach $70 billion per year.
- "The human market for this technology could be huge,"
said Keith Bolton, senior vice president of technology development at the
- Futurists agree that the idea of using microchips inside
the body could ultimately represent a large market opportunity, but they
doubt whether this initial effort will have a significant effect on the
- "Are we going to see chips embedded in the human
body? You bet we are," said Paul Saffo, a director of The Institute
for the Future (Menlo Park, Calif.). "But it isn't going to happen
- Pacemaker helper
- Still, Applied Digital Solutions' executives are preparing
to sell between $2.5 million and $5 million worth of VeriChips in 2002.
The company initially plans to sell the chips in South America and Europe
for use with pacemakers and defibrillators. In that application, it could
be attached to the outside of the heart device or implanted nearby in the
- Doing so would enable medical personnel to identify and
monitor a patient's implanted devices merely by running a handheld scanner
over the patient's chest.
- "If you're a pacemaker user and you're in an accident
and in shock, an ambulance attendant could scan the body and retrieve information
about the device," Bolton said. "The chip could provide information
about the [pacemaker's] settings, who its manufacturer is and whether you
have any medical allergies."
- The company said it is working with makers of implantable
pacemakers and defibrillators to incorporate the chip during the equipment-manufacturing
- Applied Digital Solutions is awaiting approval from the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration and does not expect to sell the chips
in the United States until that approval is granted. The company's engineers
said they expect approval later this year.
- The announcement of the chip's availability created a
media stir, however - not because of its potential use with pacemakers
but because of its science-fiction-like potential application in human
identification systems. Because the microchip and its antenna measure just
11.1 x 2.1 mm, Applied Digital Solutions said the assembly can be injected
through a syringe and implanted in various locations within the body.
- The tube-shaped VeriChip includes a memory that holds
128 characters of information, an electromagnetic coil for transmitting
data and a tuning capacitor, all encapsulated within a silicone-and-glass
enclosure. The passive RF unit, which operates at 125 kHz, is activated
by moving a company-designed scanner within about a foot of the chip. Doing
so excites the coil and "wakes up" the chip, enabling it to transmit
- The chips are said to be similar to those that are already
implanted in about a million dogs and cats nationwide to enable pet owners
to identify and reclaim animals that have been temporarily lost. Applied
Digital Solutions, which has made the pet-tracking chips for several years,
says that the human chips differ mainly in the biocompatible coating that's
used to keep the body from rejecting the implanted chip. The VeriChip is
believed to be the first such chip designed for human identification.
- Inspired by Sept. 11
- In September, Applied Digital Solutions implanted its
first human chip when a New Jersey surgeon, Richard Seelig, injected two
of the chips into himself. He placed one chip in his left forearm and the
other near the artificial hip in his right leg.
- "He was motivated after he saw firefighters at the
World Trade Center in September writing their Social Security numbers on
their forearms with Magic Markers," Bolton said. "He thought
that there had to be a more sophisticated way of doing an identification."
- Applied Digital said Seelig, who serves as a medical
consultant to the company, has now had the chips implanted in him for three
months with no signs of rejection or infection.
- Ordinarily, the company said, the chips would be implanted
in a doctor's office under local anesthesia.
- Applied Digital's executives said the ability to inject
the chips opens up a variety of RFID applications in high-security situations,
as well other types of human identification systems. The chips, they said,
could be implanted in young children or in adults with Alzheimer's disease,
to help officials identify people who can't identify themselves.
- But the company is backing away from involuntary identification
applications, such the tracking of prisoners or parolees. "We are
advocating that this technology be totally voluntary," Bolton said.
- Whether the technology will boost the market for RFID
chips remains uncertain. Industry analysts had assumed that by now RFID
would constitute a far larger market than its current, $900 million annual
- A consortium of major manufacturers has sought to push
the technology as a replacement for bar codes in everyday products ranging
from cereal boxes to shaving cream cans, but the cost hasn't dropped low
enough to make that feasible. More recently, a group led by the European
Central Bank began work on embedding RFID chips in the euro bank note,
but the chip category has yet to find its killer app.
- Applied Digital nonetheless has high hopes for its RFID
technology. The publicly held company's stock did not fare well last year,
plummeting from a high of $3 a share on Feb. 7 to 11 cents per share on
Sept. 17. But its per-share stock price jumped to 50 cents from 38 cents
after the company announced the VeriChip.
- Eventual adoption
- Analysts expressed confidence that the concept would
eventually be adopted but were skeptical about its immediate future. "For
this to work, you are going to need a standard that everyone agrees to,"
said Saffo of The Institute for the Future. "Then you have to convince
people to buy reading devices that may be fairly costly."
- Applied Digital's engineers would not say how much the
chips or handheld readers might cost. The company's reader is a proprietary
unit that is required for use with the VeriChip.
- Some further suggested that the chip might be too large
for easy adoption. Veterinarians who have implanted the chips in dogs and
cats say that the techniques used in animals are unlikely to be embraced
by humans. "The needle is huge," said Dean Christopoulos, a veterinarian
in Des Plaines, Ill. "It's almost as thick as your pinky."
- Some engineers suggested the technology might ultimately
be scaled down, making the chip's acceptance more likely. At Alien Technology
Corp. (Morgan Hill, Calif.), engineers have already discussed using that
company's ultrasmall RFID chips in human applications. Alien, which uses
a process known as fluidic self-assembly to create chips measuring 350
x 350 microns, has demonstrated its 900-MHz technology on everyday products
such as soap and shampoo bottles. The coded information can be detected
and read across distances measuring almost 3 feet.
- "There are companies making RFID tags that are much
smaller than a couple of millimeters," said Andy Holman, director
of business development for Alien Technology.
- Analysts also suggested that human identification technology
would be more likely to be popularized when engineers are able to integrate
more memory and other features, such as global-positioning satellite units
and induction-based power-recharging techniques. GPS might help find lost
children and adults, they said, while larger memories would enable doctors
to store vital patient information.
- The concept "goes all the way back to the 1960s,"
said Jerry Krasner, vice president of market intelligence for American
Technology International Inc.'s Embedded Forecasters Group. "What's
new is the ability to store a lot of data.
- "As soon as you can do that, you'll see more applications
for this type of technology," he said.
- From Sheryl Jackson
- The screws are tightening. Now the push for the Human
Bar Code will begin. If anyone thinks this is for our benefit, they are
nuts. Mega Criminal Teens. Million dollar scam that is probably Dad's,
Why did he get to keep $100,000 dollars? What is up with that? Flight
800, 93 and 587 had credible eyewitness but no official wrongdoing? No
official acceptance of the public's word. Mandatory flu shots and vaccinations
for our children and Canada's paramedics. Remember squalines? And autism?
- Yet there has been a CURE for virus A for over 20 years.
It is called Amantadine. Originally developed as a cure for the extrapyamidal
side effects of psychotropic meds. You can buy Amantadine over the counter
in every free world country on the planet except America. AMA forbids
it because it would stop 40% of the medical visits of the population of
America. We are not considered smart or wise enough to understand what
we feel in our bodies.
- There has been an opium based cure for cancer in Turkey
for over 5 thousand years. But because The WhiteMale Medical establishment
has spent so much on NUCLEAR MEDICINE, they have never wanted to cure
Cancer when they can make people survive and suffer for ten years. Lots
of money there.
- I do not understand why people are unable to think about
and question what has been happening here in America since the first NON-crisis
Energy Crisis that hit us in l972. That was the beginning of killing
America's Sovereignty. (quite honestly I believe that the soya and preservatives
that are in the food coat the synapses of the brain and cause dulled senses.
The hormones and anti-biotics of the beef, pork and poultry industry are
also very harmful. But no one questions that the government has loosened
the restrictions on food regulations for the last ten years.)
- President Eisenhower often spoke of the necessity of
the government keeping control of the Capitalists, stating that if the
government did not keep tabs on them, they would become a BEAST out of
control and would bring America down. I know he has been tossing in his
grave for the last 30 odd years. I listened to every speech he ever made
when I was a child of the '50's. My AF father quoted him regularly.
- Sheryl Jackson