Microchip implant ahead of iPhone 6 release
With a wave of his left hand, Ben Slater can open his front door, turn on the lights and will soon be able to start his car. Without even a touch he can link to databases containing limitless information, including personal details such as names, addresses and health records.
The digital advertising director has joined a small number of Australians who have inserted microchips into their skin to be at the cutting edge of the next stage of the evolution of technology.
Mr Slater was prompted to be implanted in anticipation of the iPhone 6 release on September 9.
The conjecture among pundits and fans worldwide over what chief executive Tim Cook will reveal is building.
At present the iPhone cannot read microchip implants. However, Mr Slater believes the new version will have that capability. His confidence is now lodged between his thumb and forefinger.
He flew to Melbourne two weeks ago for a booking at a tattoo parlour to have the microchip inserted. The number of Australians microchipping themselves is very small but growing since its biohacking beginnings 10 years ago, and most rely on piercing experts to conduct the procedure.
For his appointment, Mr Slater brought a sealed and sterilised bag containing a larger than usual gauged syringe, which had been mailed to his Brisbane home from US website Dangerous Things.
The syringe contained a RFID (radio-frequency identification) microchip, slightly larger than a grain of rice. The needle was inserted into the webbing of his hand and the chip inserted.
The potential of the microchip has expanded dramatically with developments in near field communication, where information is read by simply touching or being brought into close proximity with a compatible smartphone or tablet.
Now Mr Slater is simply waiting on Mr Cook to bring that capability to his latest mobile. “The reason I did it?” Mr Slater pauses for a long time. “It’s freaky to think you can do it. You don’t know what can happen with it.
“I have always been fascinated by the next step in technology and where we are going with it. And I’m an Apple nut.
“My wife thinks I’m crazy. But I am just a family dude who has some crazy ideas and stuff.”
In October 2004, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the marketing of a microchip implantable under the skin of humans for medical identification. It had already been used to tag pets.
Since then, the potential for information storage, security access and tracking has become endless. It is thought that implantable microchips, if they were to ever become popular in use, would form a part of the cashless society.
Critics, however, have highlighted unproven cancer fears and security risks from third parties accessing personal information or tracking individuals.
Some Christian groups also believe the implantation of chips may be the fulfillment of the “mark of the beast”, prophesied to be a requirement for buying and selling, and a key element of the Book of Revelation. They have targeted Mr Slater’s work Facebook page since he posted the video of the implant procedure.
However, the technology lover, out on the new frontier, is unperturbed.
“[I think the implants] opens the real possibility of the ‘enhanced human’,” Mr Slater said.
“Maybe athletes of the not-too-distant future will be bio-enhanced so that vitals can be monitored and influenced? The Olympics of the future could have to ban both performance-enhancing drugs as well as implants.
“This future is not as far away as people think, and what I have done at the moment amounts to nothing more than parlour tricks – but with the rate of change that the world is experiencing at the moment, who knows what is next.”
Hacking the human body
What is the implant?
The implants are 12-millimetre cylindrical tags, slightly larger than a grain of rice. Encased in glass, they have no battery and are inert until brought into proximity with Radio-frequency identification (RFID) or Near Field Communication (NFC) reader devices.
What is RFID technology?
Radio-frequency identification is based on wireless use of electromagnetic fields to transfer data. It allows for automatic identification, storage of information and security passes.
What does it do?
With a wave of the hand, implants can be used to unlock doors or phones, log into computers, start vehicles and turn on lights. You can also share contact details, videos, Facebook pages and more with friends by letting them scan your implant.
How is it installed?
The ideal location is the webbing between thumb and index finger. Tags are small enough to be installed by a professional body piercer using a piercing needle, just like they would a piece of large-gauge body jewellery.
Are there risks?
Infection is the most common risk, followed by rejection of the tag.
Is it painful?
The pain is similar to piercings in locations such as the tongue, nose or ear cartilage. In other words, yes.