Practical Experimentation with Human Implants

Practical Experimentation with Human Implants

Kevin Warwick (University of Reading, UK) and Mark N. Gasson (University of Reading, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4582-0.ch004
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In this chapter, the authors report on several different types of human implants with which the authors have direct, first hand, experience. An indication is given of the experimentation actually carried out and the subsequent immediate consequences are discussed. The authors also consider likely uses and opportunities with the technology should it continue to develop along present lines and the likely social pressures to adopt it. Included in the chapter is a discussion of RFID implants, tracking with implants, deep brain stimulation, multi-electrode array neural implants, and magnetic implants. In each case, practical results are presented along with expectations and experiences.
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Rfid Implants

The first experiment to be considered is the use of implant technology, for example, the implantation of a Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) as a token of identity. In its simplest form, such a device transmits by radio a sequence of pulses which represent a unique number. The number can be pre-programmed to act rather like a PIN number on a credit card. So, with an implant of this type in place, when activated, the code can be checked by computer and the identity of the carrier specified.

Such implants have been used as a sort of fashion item, to gain access to night clubs in Barcelona and Rotterdam (The Baja Beach Club), as a high security device by the Mexican Government or as a medical information source (having been approved in 2004 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration which regulates medical devices in the USA, see Graafstra, 2007; Foster & Jaeger, 2007). In the latter case, information on an individual’s medication, for conditions such as diabetes, can be stored in the implant. Because it is implanted, the details cannot be forgotten, the record cannot be lost, and it will not be easily stolen.

An RFID implant does not have its own battery. It has a tiny antenna and microchip enclosed in a silicon or glass capsule. The antenna picks up power remotely when passed near to a larger coil of wire which carries an electric current. The power picked up by the antenna in the implant is employed to transmit by radio the particular signal encoded in the microchip. Because there is no battery, or any moving parts, the implant requires no maintenance whatsoever – once it has been implanted it can be left there.

The first such RFID implant to be put in place in a human occurred on 24 August 1998 in Reading, England. It measured 22 mm by 4 mm diameter. The body selected was the first author of this Chapter. The doctor involved burrowed a hole in the upper left arm, pushed the implant into the hole and closed the incision with a couple of stitches.

The main reason for selecting the upper left arm for the implant was that we were not sure how well it would work. We reasoned that, if the implant was not working, it could be waved around until a stronger signal was transmitted. It is interesting that most present day RFID implants in humans are located in a roughly similar place (the left arm or hand), even though they do not have to be. Even in the James Bond film, Casino Royale (the new version), Bond himself has an implant in his left arm.

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