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Getting under your skin

Are Electronic Implants the next logical progression from wearables?

D/SRUPTION Commentary

Most people are fairly attached to their smart phones, but imagine actually having technology quite literally under your skin. It sounds like something from a sci-fi novel. An estimated 30,000 to 50,000 people across the globe already have electronic implants in their bodies. These implants work via RFID (radio frequency identification) and can be used to store all kinds of data, from personal ID to bitcoins. As society becomes more at home with wearable tech like smart watches, electronic implants seem to be the logical (if not somewhat evasive) progression.


From the WallStreetJournal;

Patrick Paumen doesn’t have to worry about forgetting his keys and being locked out of his apartment. That is because he doesn’t need a key anymore—he simply unlocks the door with a wave of his hand.

The 32-year-old IT expert from the Dutch city of Heerlen is one of a growing number of people with electronic implants under their skin, mostly to use as keys or for identification.

Mr. Paumen has several such implants, or tags, embedded in the fatty tissue of his hands and his lower arm. He uses separate tags to unlock not only his apartment door, but also his office and the gate to a secure parking lot at work. Another stores information he would otherwise put on a business card—name and contact details—and yet another holds similar information for nonbusiness encounters.

The implants can be activated and scanned by readers that use radio frequency identification technology, or RFID. Those include ordinary smartphones and readers already installed in office buildings to allow entrance with a common ID card.
Mr. Paumen says the tiny devices simplify his life. When nearing the secure office parking lot, he says, “I just roll down the window, stick my arm out and let the reader at the gates scan the implant, which is just below my little finger. I don’t have to worry about losing my access card.”

Done in seconds
There is no comprehensive data on how many people have RFID implants in their bodies, but retailers estimate the total is 30,000 to 50,000 people globally.

The fact that the tags can’t be lost is one attraction. Another, users say, is that the tags don’t operate under their own power but rather are activated when they’re read by a scanner. That means they can never be rendered useless by a dead battery like smartphones.

It only takes a few seconds to inject the small glass cylinder containing a tag, the size of a grain of rice, under the skin. It can be done by anyone, but proponents say it is best done by a trained person with sterilized equipment to lower the risk of infection.

Once a tag is implanted, there can be an adjustment period: “They can move a little bit depending on skin type and activities,” says Quentin Inglis, owner of the Kalima Emporium, a tattoo and piercing studio in Worthing, England, who has implanted tags for several customers. Mr. Inglis keeps his business card on an implanted tag. “I do a lot of climbing, so mine moved around a bit until it found a position it was happiest with,” he says.

Medical potential
Implanted tags have a demonstrated potential for use in travel. Andreas Sjöström, the head of digital solutions at Sogeti, a technology consulting unit of Capgemini Group, used an implanted tag loaded with information identifying him as a Scandinavian Airlines customer to board an SAS flight from Stockholm to Paris for the first time in December, and has since used the tag several times for SAS flights. The tag contains the same information some SAS passengers normally have on a sticker used for the same purpose, and is read by the same scanner the airline uses for those stickers…more