A new injectable microchip could turn people into ?human bar codes.? Radio-frequency identification chips, which are used in toll road passes, may soon be able to be injected into the human body. Applied Digital Solutions of Palm Beach, Florida has introduced a chip that could be injected through a syringe and is compatible with human tissue, and wants to develop it for use in pacemakers, defibrillators and artificial joints.
The chips could be attached to the outside of the heart device or implanted nearby in the body, enabling medical personnel to identify and monitor a patient?s implanted devices 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 says. ?The chip could provide information about the [pacemaker?s] settings, who its manufacturer is and whether you have any medical allergies.? The company is working with makers of implantable pacemakers and defibrillators to incorporate the chip during the manufacturing process.
Because the microchip and its antenna measure just 11.1 x 2.1 millimeters, they can be injected through a syringe and implanted in various locations within the body. The tube-shaped chip has 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, enabling it to transmit data. 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 lost. The human chips differ mainly in the biocompatible coating that?s used to keep the body from rejecting the implanted chip.
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 says. ?He thought that there had to be a more sophisticated way of doing an identification.? Seelig has now had the chips implanted in him for three months with no signs of rejection or infection. Ordinarily, the chips would be implanted in a doctor?s office under local anesthesia.
The chips could be implanted in young children or in adults with Alzheimer?s disease. The company isn?t interested in applications such the tracking of prisoners or parolees. ?We are advocating that this technology be totally voluntary,? Bolton says.
Veterinarians who have implanted the chips in dogs and cats say that the techniques used in animals are unlikely to be used by humans. ?The needle is huge,? says Dean Christopoulos, a veterinarian in Des Plaines, Illinois. ?It?s almost as thick as your pinky.?
?Are we going to see chips embedded in the human body? You bet we are,? says Paul Saffo, a director of The Institute for the Future. ?But it isn?t going to happen overnight.?
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If you?re not imbedded with your own bar code, there?s now a camera can tell if you?re lying about your identity by monitoring the temperature of your face. This could lead to more effective screening procedures at airports and other high-security locations, according to Norman Eberhardt and James Levine of the Mayo Clinic and Ioannis Pavlidis of Honeywell Laboratories, who have developed the high-resolution thermal imaging camera. It identifies an instant rush of blood to the area around the eyes, which is a phenomenon that has been linked with lying.
In tests the camera picked out liars with accuracy comparable to conventional polygraph equipment. ?If the technology proves this accurate in the airport, it could revolutionize airport screening,? says Levine. ?The ultimate concept [is] that you would ask someone if they were carrying a weapon and get an immediate response from the camera.?
In 20 tests performed at the U.S. Department of Defense Polygraph Institute, the device correctly identified 75 per cent of those who had lied and 90 per cent of those who were telling the truth. Traditional polygraph equipment used on the same subjects was only 70 percent accurate.
Levine speculates that increased blood flow to the eyes could be linked to searching for a way to escape. The same reaction has been recorded when subjects hear a startling noise.
But Aldert Vrij of the Department of Psychology at Portsmouth University in the U.K. says, ?There is the risk that people start to rely on it too much.? He says the camera?s results could vary significantly between individuals and believes that some people may be able to fool the camera by altering their emotional state, as is the case with polygraph tests.
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