Track Your Position

...and Relay Vital Medical Information Via Satellite


Guardian (Digital) Angel
by Kathy Moran

Source: The Daily Express
Express Newspapers, 2000

September 4, 2000

A REVOLUTIONARY human implant which can track the position of the wearer and relay vital medical information via satellite will be unveiled this autumn.

Scientists hope the Digital Angel could save thousands of lives by sending early-warning signals to those with known medical conditions or help rescuers to track victims of accidents or disasters.

The implant is a miniature sensor, the size of a 5p piece, equipped with a tiny antenna, which can be inserted under the skin. Using satellite and wireless technology, it can pinpoint the location of the wearer to within 50ft, record the body's vital signs and pass the information on to a monitoring station.

Chief project scientist Dr Peter Zhou told the Daily Express:

"The name should say it all. Digital Angel's purpose is to save life."

As well as monitoring patients with medical conditions such as heart disease or diabetes, the device could be used to track missing persons such as victims of mountaineering accidents, soldiers lost during missions, or missing and kidnapped children.

Applied Digital Systems, the Florida-based parent company, also see benefits for e-commerce, allowing firms to verify the identity of those using online services such as banking.

The device will capture and transmit a person's vital body-function data, such as temperature, blood pressure or blood sugar levels, to an Internet-integrated ground station.

The device is powered through movement of muscles and can be activated by the wearer or a monitoring facility.

Dr Zhou said:

"It will be a connection from yourself to the electronic world. It will be your guardian and protector."

But concerns have been raised about personal privacy, especially as the device can store the history of a person's whereabouts.

With the integrated technology, a person's location, health status and other personal data will be transmitted and available via the Internet. Civil liberty campaigners warned of problems and the UK's privacy watchdog called for a thorough scrutiny of the way the technology would be used, transmitted and stored.

Ian Bourne, of the Data Protection Office, said:

"We would want to be certain that people signing up to the implantation of such a device were clear about its strengths and weaknesses.

"Information transmitted over the airwaves and stored in computers is not always secure. In the case of medical records, the information stored on the chip could be very personal and private. The last thing the wearer would want is for other people, or organisations such as insurance companies, to have access to it.

"Another example is that of a celebrity wearer. Perhaps the celebrity has a history of drink or drug problems. If that is on the chip you can imagine how unscrupulous people may try to make use of it for their own nefarious purposes.

"The manufacturers would also have to answer questions as to how secure any data would be and who would have access to it. There would also be the issue of any widening of the use of the microchip. If it was to be used to track people's whereabouts, most of us would think that was Big Brother gone too far."

A spokesman for the human rights organisation Liberty, said: "For us the issue is what is done with the information gathered and the security of it." Professor Ross Anderson, of the Foundation for Information Policy Research in Cambridge, described Digital Angel as a "load of rubbish".

He said:

"The most compelling reason against it is how information on the chip will be accessed by those who do need to know - like doctors.

"Anyone can read a donor card or a Med Alert bracelet but not everyone is going to have access to a scanner or computer. Imagine if a person collapses on a plane. Both the air hostess, trained in first aid, or a foreign-speaking doctor can recognise a Med Alert bracelet which tells them the patient is an insulin-dependent diabetic.

"That will not be possible if there is a microchip hidden under the skin with the information on it not accessible."

Back To Biochip Implants