Abstract the tattooed and pierced, and adds an

Implantable technologies are gaining
popularity. This paper aims to provide a brief insight into the
history of implantables. I’ve reviewed some of the devices available
today, their impact on society and how they might revolutionise smart
technologies as we know them.

1. Brief history and notable persons
Implantable medical devices such as
cochlear implants and real-time blood pressure sensors have been
around since the first pacemaker implant in 19581, non-medical use
is still relatively new, and has only gained traction in the past few
decades. Most of the emerging applications use radio-frequency
identification (RFID) tags for control and convenience.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

1.1 Professor Kevin Warwick
In 1998 Professor Kevin Warwick became
the first recorded human to be implanted with an RFID device. Using
the transponder, he was able to interact with the ‘intelligent’
building that he worked in. Doors automatically opened, lights
activated when he entered a room and upon sensing his presence his
computer greeted him. Warwick’s ‘Project Cyborg 1.0’ experiment
showed enormous promise for humancentric convenience applications of
RFID. 2 From that moment on, Warwick embarked on a research project
that he hoped would lead to successful communication between human
nervous systems and computers providing applications toward medical
cures 3. Warwick’s background in telecommunications also had a
profound influence on the reason why he implanted microchips into his
body: “I am historically from the communications field… For me,
it was the possibility of opening up a new communication channel”
4. His research is also helping patients diagnosed with certain
illnesses. There is a number of neural microchip implants developed
by Warwick providing benefits for spinal injury 5, epilepsy and
Parkinson’s disease sufferers, as well as a wide range of other
terminal disease sufferers 6. By experimenting with microchip
implants in his own body, Warwick is able to develop applications for

1.2 Biohackers – the Grinder community
The domain of grinders is the space
where body modification and hacking meet. It mixes the same
willingness to modify one’s body that is common among the tattooed
and pierced, and adds an interest in hacking technology.
Collaborative design and shared techniques allowed the movement to
One of those pioneers of biohacking is
Amal Graafstra of Washington, the owner of several technology and
mobile communications companies, including an online biohacking store
he opened in 2013. He’s selling implantable devices including
near-field communication (NFC) chips, radio-frequency identification
chips (RFID), biomagnets, and other materials to people who want to
‘upgrade their body’ to be more connected to the devices around them
for easier accessibility. 8 His interest started in 2005 – he
just wanted to be able to unlock his office door without needing to
carry around a key. 7 Early experimentation by Amal and several
others created the inspiration necessary to launch the grinder
By the end of 2016, Dangerous Things
has sold several thousand implants and the client base has expanded
to a much more diverse group of people. He believes that “The body
isn’t this spiritual, sacred, mysterious vessel anymore. And like
with anything when you remove the mystery and you look at the truth
of the matter, it kind of becomes less romantic and more
utilitarian.” 8

1.3 VeriChip – The first commercial
implantable RFID
The VeriChip Corporation in the United
States was established soon after the September 11, 2001 terrorist
strike. On the 11th of May 2002, the Jacobs family volunteered to be
the first consumers to undergo the chipping procedure which was
broadcast live on American television. VeriChip then chose to implant
some high profile people, including Mr Rafael Macedo de la Concha
(Mexico’s Attorney General) and a number of his staff citing security
purposes. In 2004 and 2006, Baja Beach Club and Citywatcher.com
respectively, were engaged in human implantable programs on their
company premises. 9
When VeriChip first launched their
product range, they had four cornerstone application contexts: (1)
VeriPay, (2) VeriMed, (3) VeriGuard, and (4) Corrections. The VeriPay
system allowed end-users the capability to perform cash and credit
transactions with the embedded implant. VeriMed was a user-driven
healthcare information portal whereby consumers (i.e. patients) could
maintain their own personal health record online. Hospital staff and
emergency services personnel could then access that information to
get patient history, as well as allergic reactions to drugs and more.
The VeriGuard application was considered to be versatile secure
access technology which let in authorized persons and blocked out
unauthorized persons. Finally, VeriChip’s ‘Corrections’ product
had to do with chipping people who had committed a crime, were on
parole or probation, or were awaiting trial. According to VeriChip
about 2,000 persons had been implanted worldwide
by the end of 2008. 9

2. Effects on society
As we can see from the above examples,
the application of implantable technology ranges from academic
research through a hobby to commercial uses. As it’s becoming more
popular, it also raises more and more questions and issues.

2.1 Conspiracy theories
As with all conspiracies, there are
variations on the theory and they vary in extremeness but the main
claim is that governments will eventually force everyone to get
implanted, either by phasing out cash so the only way to buy anything
will be with an implant that also functions as an ID, or secretly
implanting people through vaccination programmes. Then the government
will use the implants to constantly monitor our every move, like in
an Orwellian nightmare. The most extreme claim ties in with religious
conspiracy theories and deem the implants the Mark of the Beast as
referred to in the Book of Revelation. 10

Even less radical groups seem to
believe that the implants might be used for some form of tracking.
These fears can be dismissed immediately as tracking is simply not
possible with this technology, as the passive RFID tags don’t have
their own energy source, they collect energy from a nearby reader’s
interrogating radio waves, with a range around 10cm, which makes
constant tracking impossible. Batteries cannot be made small enough
to sustain implants for very long, maybe a few days. The implantation
procedure cannot be done without the cooperation of the person
getting the implant. After an implant, there is a noticeable wound
and an obvious bulge. 11

2.2 Security
Altough fears of surveillance and
involuntary implants lack any real evidence, some security risks
still exists. It’s possible to capture and replay the signal from
RFID implants, as John Halamka, MD proved it in an experiment 12
where they harvested signal from a VeriChip and replayed it to the
reader. The reader accepted the signal as valid.
At another experiment in 2010
at the Universitiy of Reading an implanted HITAG S-tag was
infected with a malicious code that instead of simply reading the
data, made the system also execute some SQL injection code,
overwriting in the the database valid data in such a way that any tag
subsequently using the system will likely become overwritten and
infected. The browser used for the administration of the database
alse became infected and redirected to another website, denying easy
access to rectify the problem and also enabled unauthorised access.
For security systems that rely on
VeriChips for authentication—like payment systems and physical
access-control systems—the consequences are serious. With little
sophistication and at little expense, an attacker can undermine
system security by surreptitiously capturing and replaying VeriChip