[Dave Birch] People are very squeamish about the idea of implanting RFID chips into themselves or others. I’ve no idea whether this is because there is some fundamental issue at stake or whether it’s because the idea is just new. I’ve certainly heard of applications for RFID implants that seem quite reasonable to me. Tracking Alzheimer’s patients by implanting a chip that can be read by doctors might well provide a lifeline to confused and vulnerable people in a time of need — and I speak as someone with first-hand experience of the tragedy of Alzheimers. In this example, the chip simply has a 16-digit number. It is implanted in the patient’s arm and read using a handheld reader (just like our old favourite the Baja Beach nightclub). The Verichip chip — which is what is being used here — was approved as a medical device in 2004 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently being used in nearly 200 hospitals. I’m not sure if I’m as enthusiastic about the idea of chipping my children but I’m not sure why. It seems perfectly reasonable for someone to say to me “how come you put a chip in your cats, so that if anything happens to them the vet can identify them and contact you, but you won’t put a chip in your kids?” and I’m not sure how I’d answer. There must be a philosopher, moral teacher or ethicist out there who can help!

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You don’t have to actually implant the chip. You can just stick them on. A company called Gentag has announced RFID skin patches that stick to the skin of the patient with a breathable bandage like material. I might try and order some to play with in the office. Interestingly, the article implies that the patches are ISO 14443 because one of the company founders is quoted saying

By combining cell phones with RFID skin patches, we feel that medical errors in hospitals worldwide can be reduced significantly, resulting in major cost benefits.

When the company says that physicians and nurses to use their cell phones or wireless PDAs to update medical charts, time of patient visit, drug administration, and also be immediately warned about possible drug interactions, prior to drug delivery, I’m assuming that they are talking about using NFC phones with some health care applications on board. This is another example of general purpose mobile phones with NFC taking over a previously specialised function.

These opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]

1 comment

  1. There’s no scientific reason not to chip everything and everyone in site that I’ve heard.
    Problem is, society is based on the protection of anonymity. All those people on the street are anonymous and unknown, and that gives them protection against attack. It’s not perfect, but it does work, to a large extent.
    Strip that protection away, and who or what is going to replace it?

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