January 7, 2006
Computer Chips Get Under Skin of Enthusiasts
NEW YORK -- Forgetting computer passwords is an everyday source of frustration, but a solution may literally be at hand -- in the form of computer chip implants.
With a wave of his hand, Amal Graafstra, a 29-year-old entrepreneur based in Vancouver, Canada, opens his front door. With another, he logs onto his computer.Tiny radio frequency identification (RFID) computer chips inserted into Graafstra's hands make it all possible.
"I just don't want to be without access to the things that I need to get access to. In the worst case scenario, if I'm in the alley naked, I want to still be able to get in (my house)," Graafstra said in an interview in New York, where he is promoting the technology. "RFID is for me."
The computer chips, which cost about $2, interact with a device installed in computers and other electronics. The chips are activated when they come within 3 inches of a so-called reader, which scans the data on the chips. The "reader" devices are available for as little as $50.
Information about where to buy the chips and readers is available online at the "tagged" forum, (http://tagged.kaos.gen.nz/) where enthusiasts of the technology chat and share information.
Graafstra said at least 20 of his tech-savvy pals have RFID implants.
"I can't feel it at all. It doesn't impede me. It doesn't hurt at all. I almost can't tell it's there," agreed Jennifer Tomblin, a 23-year-old marketing student and Graafstra's girlfriend.
Mikey Sklar, a 28-year-old Brooklyn resident, said, "It does give you some sort of power of 'Abracadabra,' of making doors open and passwords enter just by a wave of your hand."
The RFID chip in Sklar's hand, which is smaller than a grain of rice and can last up to 100 years, was injected by a surgeon in Los Angeles.
Tattoo artists and veterinarians also could insert the chips into people, he said. For years, veterinarians have been injecting similar chips into pets so the animals can be returned to their owners if they are lost.
Graafstra was drawn to RFID tagging to make life easier in this technological age, but Sklar said he was more intrigued by the technology's potential in a broader sense.
In the future, technological advances will allow people to store, transmit and access encrypted personal information in an increasing number of wireless ways, Sklar said.
Wary of privacy issues, Sklar said he is developing a fabric "shield" to protect such chips from being read by strangers seeking to steal personal information or identities.
One advantage of the RFID chip, Graafstra said, is that it cannot get lost or stolen. And the chip can always be removed from a person's body.
"It's kind of a gadget thing, and it's not so impressive to have it on your key chain as it is to have it in you," Sklar said. "But it's not for everyone."
Sklar's girlfriend, Wendy Tremayne, has yet to be convinced. She said she probably would not inject the computer chip into her body unless she thought it was a "necessity."
"If it becomes more convenient, I may," said the 38-year-old artist and yoga teacher. "(But) I'd rather have an organic life."