Biochip/Implant

Miniature Sensor

...Equipped with a Tiny Antenna

 

A Chip in the Old Block
by William Peakin

Source: The Scotsman
http://www.thescotsman.co.uk/index.cfm?id=TS00155151&d=Features&c=heal th&s=6&keyword=the&_#Under%20surveillance

October 4, 2000

Have you ever wondered if there is a guardian angel watching over your shoulder? Speculate no more: later this month in New York a digital version you can carry with you will be unveiled.

It is a tiny chip implanted under the skin which will monitor your body's vital signs - heart beat, temperature, blood-sugar levels and so on - send data to a hospital or doctor's computer and, via satellite, will pinpoint your location if you need to be alerted to a problem.

It's a simple enough operation and one that would usually be performed under local anaesthetic. The makers, Applied Digital Solutions, a Florida-based company, believe that their so-called Digital Angel will also be able to locate adults or children in the event of being kidnapped, pinpoint people lost in avalanches, monitor soldiers in combat, check the whereabouts of criminals on parole, track livestock and foodstuffs and trace valuables. The company recently took over one of America's leading providers of microchip identification for pets.

A significant market is also envisaged in e-commerce; the chip could also store financial information and be used to confirm the identity of consumers. Those who did not want to wear it, say ADS, might keep it in their computer.

Many tracking and monitoring technologies have previously been patented and marketed but, say ADS, "all are unsuitable for widespread tracking, recovery and identification of people due to a variety of limitations." These include unwieldy size, maintenance requirements, insufficient or inconvenient power supply and problems in activating the device. But ADS believes it has overcome those difficulties.

When implanted under the skin, the device is powered electromechanically through the movement of muscles, and it can be activated either by the wearer or by a remote monitoring facility. One feature even is expected to allow the wearer to control the device to some degree.

"This technology relates directly to the exploding wireless marketplace," says Richard Sullivan, chairman of ADS. "We'll be demonstrating for the first time ever that wireless telecommunications systems and bio-sensor devices, capable of measuring and transmitting critical body function data, can be successfully linked together with GPS [global positioning satellite] technology and integrated with the internet."

Those attending the demonstration in New York City will see a working, multimedia demonstration of the implant. The miniature sensor equipped with a tiny antenna will capture and wirelessly transmit a person's vital body-function data, such as body temperature or pulse, to an internet-integrated ground station.

In addition, the antenna will receive information regarding the location of the individual from the GPS satellite. Both sets of data - medical information and location - will then be wirelessly transmitted to the ground station and made available on Web-enabled desktop, laptop or wireless devices.

ADS have secured patents for the chip, which will be powered by the body's own energy, and expect to generate a worldwide market worth 500 million.

"We believe its potential for improving individual and e-business security and enhancing the quality of life for millions of people is virtually limitless," says Sullivan.

Initially the chip will simply be worn close to the body - the company is working with watch and mobile phone manufacturers, for example - but approval for implants will be sought from America's food and drug administration.

Even before its launch the Digital Angel has sparked debate over its possible misuse, from civil rights campaigners who regard it as Orwellian.

"I think most people would be repulsed by the idea. This is just a sort of modern version of tattooing people, something that for obvious reasons - the Nazis tattooed numbers on people - no-one proposes," said Bob Gellman, a Washington privacy consultant.

"I'm sure there's a strong argument that implanting a chip in a person is unconstitutional. It would [in the case of criminals] be cruel and unusual punishment."

According to Emily Whitfield, a spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union:

"This is a situation that can go in the blink of an eye from being voluntary to being mandatory."

The idea has already made a positive appearance in Hollywood, when Tom Cruise implanted a tracking device in the foot of a co-star in Mission Impossible II.

It probably won't be long before the darker side gets an airing, perhaps starring Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone, where the jealous husband gives an opulent anniversary watch with the chip inside it to his cheating wife, so he can obsessively monitor her movements, her body temperature, the very acceleration of the pounding of her heart rate... until she figures it out, and puts the chip to work against him.

Some Christian groups even liken the Digital Angel to "the mark of the beast". But Dr Peter Zhou, president and chief scientist at DigitalAngel.net, Inc, a subsidiary of ADS, counters:

"I am a Christian, but I don't think [that argument] makes sense. The purpose of the device is to save your life and improve the quality of life. There's no connection to the Bible."

Zhou adds:

"I'm particularly excited about Digital Angel's ability to save lives by remotely monitoring the medical conditions of at-risk patients and providing emergency rescue units with the person's exact location. This will be a connection from yourself to the electronic world. It will be your guardian, protector. It will bring good things to you. We will be a hybrid of electronic intelligence and our own soul."

The New York Times recently asked experts to speculate on what the future might hold using similar technology to the Digital Angel. One engineer suggested a chip encoded with our unique genetic sequence "for perfect identification in matters medical, official, criminal or otherwise."

Some of the other possibilities: a "decoder" ring, an implant in the human iris to be read with a retinal scanner, and even an oval-shaped "genegg" for the belly button.

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