Skip Links

RFID is really getting under people's skin

And that's a good thing, say early wireless chip implantees.

By , Network World
April 04, 2005 12:05 AM ET

Network World - Joseph Krull doesn't have a chip on his shoulder. But he has one in it.

The San Antonio security consultant is one of a small but growing number of people who essentially turn themselves into wireless network nodes for the sake of making personal information available to authorized parties with the wave of a radio frequency identification (RFID ) scanner.

In Krull's case, the chip was implanted two months ago so hospital staff could access his medical information quickly in emergency situations. Others are "getting chipped," as those in the know call it, for everything from entertainment to personal safety.

Krull's chip is basically the same kind of RFID-based technology that's been used for years to tag dogs so they can be identified if lost, except the human chip works on a different radio frequency.

Since Applied Digital, on behalf of its subsidiary VeriChip, got authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last October to sell the chips for human implantation, about 1,000 chips have gone live.

"I have a blown pupil, a detached retina, in my left eye from a skiing accident," says Krull, explaining his decision to have a physician with a syringe stick a chip in him under local anesthetic in what he described as a fairly simple procedure. "I'm supposed to wear a MedAlert bracelet because one of the indicators of a head injury is a blown pupil. One thing they might do in that kind of emergency is drill holes in your skull."

The thought of having holes unnecessarily drilled into his head, because of a misdiagnosis during a medical emergency, got Krull thinking about having a chip implanted after he heard about it during a conference in Spain. "I wanted to get chipped," he says.

His family - wife, sisters, nephews and nieces - was wary.

"They said, 'Are you nuts?' They had a lot of questions, like will the chip be visible or is there a risk of rejection," Krull says.

Now officially human No. 1020000000, Krull can access his personal data stored online at VeriChip's portal and make any changes he wants by using a reader and a PIN code. Krull elected to store his medical information and address, phone numbers, fax and e-mail at the Web site.

One catch with RFID implants is that emergency technicians won't necessarily know that a patient has a chip under his or her skin. But VeriChip is giving away its RFID scanners to hospitals in the hope of building momentum for use of chips.

While Krull's family has grown relaxed about it all, "the biggest opposition is from people in my own field - security," Krull points out. Critics say the chip poses a huge privacy and security threat that will let the government and private-sector snoops get personal information.

Krull says he understands the point of view taken by some privacy advocates but contends there's little value in keeping information such as the condition of his eyeball a secret.

"It's entirely up to me what I put on my chip," he says. "I've been involved with authentication for 20 years, working with biometrics, and I was promoting the token. Now I am the token."

Our Commenting Policies
Latest News
rssRss Feed
View more Latest News