Microchip implant (human)

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A surgeon implants British scientist Dr Mark Gasson in his left hand with an RFID microchip (March 16, 2009)

A human microchip implant is any electronic device implanted subcutaneously (subdermally). Examples include an identifying integrated circuit RFID device encased in silicate glass which is implanted in the body of a human being. This type of subdermal implant usually contains a unique ID number that can be linked to information contained in an external database, such as personal identification, law enforcement, medical history, medications, allergies, and contact information.


  • 2004 - March 18, 2004 - Nokia, Philips (now under NXP Semiconductors) and Sony established the NFC Forum, a non-profit industry formed to advance the use of NFC wireless interaction in consumer electronics, mobile devices and PCs. Standards include the four distinct tag types that provide different communication speeds and capabilities covering flexibility, memory, security, data retention and write endurance. NFC Forum promotes implementation and standardization of NFC technology to ensure interoperability between devices and services.[6]
  • 2005 - In early March 2005 hobbyist Amal Graafstra[7] implanted a 125khz EM4102 bioglass-encased RFID transponder into his left hand. It was used with an access control system to gain entry to his office. Soon after in June 2005 he implanted a more advanced HITAG S 2048 low frequency transponder. In 2006 he authored the book RFID Toys,[8] Graafstra uses his implants to access his home, open car doors, and to log on to his computer. With public interest growing, in 2013 he launched biohacking company Dangerous Things[9] and crowdfunded the world's first implantable NFC transponder in 2014.[10] He has also spoken at various events and promotional gigs[11] including TEDx,[12] and built a smartgun that only fires after reading his implant.[13]
  • 2009 - On 16 March 2009 British scientist Mark Gasson had a glass capsule RFID device surgically implanted into his left hand. In April 2010 Gasson's team demonstrated how a computer virus could wirelessly infect his implant and then be transmitted on to other systems.[14] Gasson reasoned that with implanted technology the separation between man and machine can become theoretical because the technology can be perceived by the human as being a part of their body. Because of this development in our understanding of what constitutes our body and its boundaries he became credited as being the first human infected by a computer virus. He has no plans to remove his implant.[15]
  • 2014 - In June 2014, during the From Now Conference[16] in Vancouver, Canada, event organizer and futurist Nikolas Badminton had an xNT chip implanted into his left hand on stage by noted biohacker Amal Graafstra.[17]
  • 2018 - VivoKey Technologies[18] developed the first cryptographically-secure human implantable NFC transponders in 2018. The Spark is an AES128 bit capable ISO/IEC 15693 2mm by 12mm bioglass encased injectable device. The Flex One is an implantable contactless secure element, capable of running Java Card applets (software programs) including Bitcoin wallets, PGP, OATH OTP, U2F, WebAuthn, etc. It is encapsulated in a flat, flexible 7mm x 34mm x 0.4mm flat biopolymer shell. Applets can be deployed to the Flex One before or after implantation.
  • 2020 - On 28 August 2020, Neuralink CEO Elon Musk, revealed a company directed live video podcast showcasing a pig called Gertrude with a coin-sized computer chip in her brain to demonstrate his ambitious plans to create a working brain-to-machine interface.[19]

Notable people[edit]

An RFID tag visible under the skin soon after being implanted

Several hobbyists, through to scientists and business personalities have placed RFID microchip implants into their hands or had them inserted by others.

  • Mikey Sklar had a chip implanted into his left hand and filmed the procedure.[20]
  • Jonathan Oxer self-implanted an RFID chip in his arm using a veterinary implantation tool.[21]
  • Patric Lanhed sent a “bio-payment” of one euro worth of Bitcoin using a chip embedded in his hand.[23]
  • Marcel Varallo had an NXP chip coated in Bioglass 8625 inserted into his hand between his forefinger and thumb allowing him to open secure elevators and doors at work, print from secure printers, unlock his mobile phone and home, and store his digital business card for transfer to mobile phones enabled for NFC.[24]
  • Biohacker Hannes Sjöblad has been experimenting with near field communication (NFC) chip implants since 2015. During his talk at Echappée Voléé 2016 in Paris, Sjöblad disclosed that he has also implanted himself with a chip between his forefinger and thumb and uses it to unlock doors, make payments, unlock his phone, and essentially replacing anything that is put in one’s pockets.[25] Additionally, Sjöblad has hosted several "implant parties," where interested individuals can also be implanted with the chip.[26]
  • Amal Graafstra CEO of Vivokey and Dangerous Things has gained prominency for being an inventor and business commercial distributor of subdermal RFID/NFC Implants on the world stage. Implanted in both hands with his companies' implants, he aims to bring awareness to the growing implantation movement.[27]


For Microchip implants that are encapsulated in silicate glass there exists multiple methods to embed the device subcutaneous ranging from placing the microchip implant in an syringe or trocar[28] and piercing under the flesh (subdermal) then releasing the syringe to using a cutting tool such as a surgical scapel to cut open subdermal and positioning the implant in the open wound.

Popular usage[edit]

A list of popular uses for microchip implants are as follows;

Other uses either cosmetic or medical may also include;

Digital identity[edit]

RFID implants using NFC technologies have been used as access cards ranging for car door entry to building access.[29] Secure identity has also been used to encapsulate or impersonate a users identity via secure element or related technologies.

Medical records[edit]

Researchers have examined microchip implants in humans in the medical field and they indicate that there are potential benefits and risks to incorporating the device in the medical field. For example, it could be beneficial for noncompliant patients but still poses great risks for potential misuse of the device.[34]

Destron Fearing, a subsidiary of Digital Angel, initially developed the technology for the VeriChip.[35]

In 2004, the VeriChip implanted device and reader were classified as Class II: General controls with special controls by the FDA;[36] that year the FDA also published a draft guidance describing the special controls required to market such devices.[37]

About the size of a grain of rice, the device was typically implanted between the shoulder and elbow area of an individual’s right arm. Once scanned at the proper frequency, the chip responded with a unique 16-digit number which could be then linked with information about the user held on a database for identity verification, medical records access and other uses. The insertion procedure was performed under local anesthetic in a physician's office.[38][39]

Privacy advocates raised concerns regarding potential abuse of the chip, with some warning that adoption by governments as a compulsory identification program could lead to erosion of civil liberties, as well as identity theft if the device should be hacked.[39][40][41] Another ethical dilemma posed by the technology, is that people with dementia could possibly benefit the most from an implanted device that contained their medical records, but issues of informed consent are the most difficult in precisely such people.[42]

In June 2007, the American Medical Association declared that "implantable radio frequency identification (RFID) devices may help to identify patients, thereby improving the safety and efficiency of patient care, and may be used to enable secure access to patient clinical information",[43] but in the same year, news reports linking similar devices to cancer caused in laboratory animals had a devastating impact on the company's stock price and sales.[44]

In 2010, the company, by then called PositiveID, withdrew the product from the market due to poor sales.[45]

In January 2012, PositiveID sold the chip assets to a company called VeriTeQ that was owned by Scott Silverman, the former CEO of Positive ID.[46]

In 2016, JAMM Technologies acquired the chip assets from VeriTeQ; JAMM's business plan was to partner with companies selling implanted medical devices and use the RfID tags to monitor and identify the devices.[47] JAMM Technologies is co-located in the same Plymouth, Minnesota building as Geissler Corporation with Randolph K. Geissler and Donald R. Brattain[48][49] listed as its principals. The website also claims that Geissler was CEO of PositiveID Corporation, Destron Fearing Corporation, and Digital Angel Corporation.[50]

In 2018, A Danish firm called BiChip released a new generation of microchip implant [51] that is intended to be readable from distance and connected to Internet. The company released an update for its microchip implant to associate it with the Ripple cryptocurrency to allow payments to be made using the implanted microchip.[52]

In 2020, A London based firm called Impli released a microchip implant that is intended to be used with an accompanying smartphone app. The primary functionality of the implant is as a storage of medical records. The implant can be scanned by any smartphone that has NFC capabilities.[53]

Building access and security[edit]

In February 2006, CityWatcher, Inc. of Cincinnati, OH became the first company in the world to implant microchips into their employees as part of their building access control and security system. The workers needed the implants to access the company's secure video tape room, as documented in USA Today.[54] The project was initiated and implemented by Six Sigma Security, Inc. The VeriChip Corporation had originally marketed the implant as a way to restrict access to secure facilities such as power plants.

A major drawback for such systems is the relative ease with which the 16-digit ID number contained in a chip implant can be obtained and cloned using a hand-held device, a problem that has been demonstrated publicly by security researcher Jonathan Westhues[55] and documented in the May 2006 issue of Wired magazine,[56] among other places.

  • The Baja Beach Club, a nightclub in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, once used VeriChip implants for identifying VIP guests.[57]
  • The Epicenter in Stockholm, Sweden is using RFID implants for employees to operate security doors, copiers, and pay for lunch.[58]

Purpose and appeal[edit]

Patients that undergo NFC implants do so for a variety of reasons ranging from, Biomedical diagnostics, health reasons to gaining new senses,[59] gain biological enhancement, to be part of existing growing movements, for workplace purposes, security, hobbyists and for scientific endeavour.[60]



Infection has also been cited as a source of failure within RFID and related microchip implanted individuals.[61] Either due to improper implantation techniques, implant rejections or corrosion of implant elements.


Concern has been raised and investigated independently by various journalists and bodies on the nature of safety of being implanted and their proximity to MRI machines. So far no common conclusive investigation has been done in the matter of each individual type of implant and its risks involved near MRI's other than anecdotal reports ranging from no problems occurring with MRI machines, to requiring hand shielding before proximity, to outright denial of proximity due to danger.[62]


Electronics-based implants contain little material that can corrode. Magnetic implants, however, often contain a substantial amount of metallic elements by volume, and iron a common implant element is easily corroded by common elements such as oxygen and water. Implant corrosion occurs when these elements become trapped inside during the encapsulation process, which can cause slow corrosive effect, or the encapsulation fails and allows corrosive elements to come into contact with the magnet. Catastrophic encapsulation failures are usually obvious, resulting in tenderness, discoloration of the skin, and a slight inflammatory response. Small failures however can take much longer to become obvious, resulting in a slow degradation of field strength without many external signs that something is slowly going wrong with the magnet.[63]

Criticisms and concerns[edit]

Cancer risks[edit]

In a self-published report,[64] anti-RFID advocate Katherine Albrecht, who refers to RFID devices as "spy chips", cites veterinary and toxicological studies carried out from 1996 to 2006 which found lab rodents injected with microchips as an incidental part of unrelated experiments and dogs implanted with identification microchips sometimes developed cancerous tumors at the injection site (subcutaneous sarcomas) as evidence of a human implantation risk.[65] However, the link between foreign-body tumorigenesis in lab animals and implantation in humans has been publicly refuted as erroneous and misleading[66] and the report's author has been criticized over the use of "provocative" language "not based in scientific fact".[67] Notably, none of the studies cited specifically set out to investigate the cancer risk of implanted microchips and so none of the studies had a control group of animals that did not get implanted. While the issue is considered worthy of further investigation, one of the studies cited cautioned "Blind leaps from the detection of tumors to the prediction of human health risk should be avoided".[68][69][70]

Stolen identity, privacy security risks[edit]

The Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA) of the American Medical Association published a report in 2007 alleging that RFID implanted chips may compromise privacy because even though no information can be stored in an RFID transponder, they allege that there is no assurance that the information contained in the chip can be properly protected.[dead link][71]

Stolen identity and privacy has been a major concern with Microchip implants being cloned for various nefarious reasons in a process known as Wireless identity theft. Incidents of forced removal of animal implants have been documented,[72] the concern lies in whether this same practice will be used to attack implanted microchipped patients also. Due to low adoption of microchip implants incidents of these physical attacks are rare. Nefarious RFID reprogramming of unprotected or unencrypted microchip tags are also a major security risk consideration.

Risk to human freedom and autonomy[edit]

Some have expressed concerns that the technology could be abused.[73] Invasive technology has the potential to be used by governments to create an 'Orwellian' dystopia. In such a world, self-determination, the ability to think freely, and all personal autonomy would be completely lost; human beings would be essentially digital slaves to governments, corporations, or networks that owned the microchipping technology.[74][75][76]

An example of a particular privacy concern is tagging criminals with RFID implants to track their location to provide updates on their whereabouts to authorities. These privacy concerns have been subject of ongoing debate, for example in Indonesia where it was proposed to tag sex offenders with RFID microchips.[77][better source needed]


United States[edit]

Following Wisconsin and North Dakota,[78] California issued Senate Bill 362 in 2007, which makes it illegal to force a person to have a microchip implanted, and provide for an assessment of civil penalties against violators of the bill.[78]

In 2008, Oklahoma passed 63 OK Stat § 63-1-1430 (2008 S.B. 47), that bans involuntary microchip implants in humans.[79][80]

On April 5, 2010, the Georgia Senate passed Senate Bill 235 that prohibits forced microchip implants in humans and that would make it a misdemeanor for anyone to require them, including employers.[81] The bill would allow voluntary microchip implants, as long as they are performed by a physician and regulated by the Georgia Composite Medical Board. The state's House of Representatives did not take up the measure.[citation needed]

On February 10, 2010, Virginia's House of Delegates also passed a bill that forbids companies from forcing their employees to be implanted with tracking devices.[82]

Washington State House Bill 1142-2009-10 orders a study using implanted radio frequency identification or other similar technology to electronically monitor sex offenders and other felons.[83]

Potential future applications[edit]

In 2017, Mike Miller, chief executive of the World Olympians Association, was widely reported as suggesting the use of such implants in athletes in an attempt to reduce problems in sports due to recreational drug use.[84]

Theoretically, a GPS-enabled chip could one day make it possible for individuals to be physically located by latitude, longitude, altitude, and velocity. Such implantable GPS devices are not technically feasible at this time. However, if widely deployed at some future point, implantable GPS devices could conceivably allow authorities to locate missing people and/or fugitives and those who fled from a crime scene. Critics contend, however, that the technology could lead to political repression as governments could use implants to track and persecute human rights activists, labor activists, civil dissidents, and political opponents; criminals and domestic abusers could use them to stalk and harass their victims; and child abusers could use them to locate and abduct children.

Another suggested application for a tracking implant, discussed in 2008 by the legislature of Indonesia's Irian Jaya would be to monitor the activities of people infected with HIV, aimed at reducing their chances of infecting other people.[85][86] The microchipping section was not, however, included in the final version of the provincial HIV/AIDS Handling bylaw passed by the legislature in December 2008.[87] With current technology, this would not be workable anyway, since there is no implantable device on the market with GPS tracking capability.

Since modern payment methods rely upon RFID/NFC, it is thought that implantable microchips, if they were to ever become popular in use, would form a part of the cashless society.[88] Verichip implants have already been used in nightclubs such as the Baja club for such a purpose, allowing patrons to purchase drinks with their implantable microchip.

Market share of implanted individuals may possibly move on to more safer applications of wearable electronics and hardware such as Wearable computer.

In popular culture[edit]

The general public are most familiar with microchips in the context of identifying pets. Some Christians make a link between the PositiveID and the Biblical Mark of the Beast,[89][90] prophesied to be a future requirement for buying and selling, and a key element of the Book of Revelation.[91][92] Gary Wohlscheid, president of These Last Days Ministries, has argued that "Out of all the technologies with potential to be the mark of the beast, VeriChip has got the best possibility right now".[93] "Arkangel", an episode of the fictional drama series Black Mirror, considered the potential for helicopter parenting of an imagined more advanced microchip.

Transhumanism is a movement related the implants and their relation to trans human qualities of which microchipped/sub-dermal implanted individuals are commonly grouped together with.[94]

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Haag, Stephen; Cummings, Maeve; McCubbrey, Donald (2004). Management Information Systems for the Information Age (4th ed.). New York City, New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-281947-2.
  • Graafstra, Amal (2004). RFID Toys: 11 Cool Projects for Home, Office and Entertainment (4th ed.). New York City, New York: (ExtremeTech) Ziff Davis Publishing Holdings Inc. ISBN 0-471-77196-1.