Scannable humans? The future of South Beach

Imagine living in a world similar to that of Minority Report or I, Robot, where credit cards and driver licenses are products of yesteryear and individual privacy no longer exists. Allow South Florida’s Applied Digital Systems to present its latest invention: scannable humans.

Applied Digital Systems has developed an implantable identification microchip known as VeriChip, which was approved for human use by the Food and Drug Administration in October 2004. The chip is a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) micro transponder and is the size of a grain of rice. Each chip carries a unique verification number which sends information back to special reading devices. In humans, the chip is inserted below the skin in the upper arm through a syringe.

Deemed as the “spy chip,” the RFID can currently transmit information to special reader through most substances up to 30 feet away. The RFID technology, however, is not new, and has been used for commercial tracking purposes, electronic toll collection, animal identification and more for some time.

In the United States the chip is approved for medical usage; it can contain information such as blood type and allergy information to aid medical practitioners incase of an event where patients have fallen unconscious or suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and can not provide the necessary information.

However, thanks to the innovative approach other nations have taken in VeriChip usages, its future in the United States may soon expand to include applications in security and financial arenas.

Baja Beach Club in Barcelona, Spain, has established a system where club patrons link their VeriChip to their credit cards to pay for the evening’s drinks. This concept was also featured on an episode of CSI: Miami, when a clubber used the chip to carry her credit card information while partying on South Beach. Additionally, Mexico has used VeriChip to regulate admission into government buildings and implanted it into some of the attorney general’s staff members.

Although not widespread in use, Applied Digital Systems believes that VeriChip will soon become the way of the future. According to an NBC news report, the Jacob’s family of Coral Springs, Fla., is the first family to be implanted with the chip. The father, mother and son each have an individual chip on which they stored telephone numbers and information about medications.

Although approved for human use, the FDA has warned consumers of possible side effects in a letter, available at www.sec.gov. Such effects could include “adverse tissue reaction; migration of implanted transponder; compromised information security; failure of implanted transponder; failure of inserter; failure of electronic scanner; electromagnetic interference; electrical hazards; magnetic resonance imaging incompatibility and needle stick.”

While the days of phone books, medical tags and checkbooks look secure for now, VeriChip and other space age technology are out there and waiting for society to gear up and progress towards the science fiction world once only found in books and movies.

Bari Lieberman can be contacted at b.lieberman@umiami.edu.

April 5, 2005


The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami

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