Q. What is the VeriChip human implant?

The VeriChip human implant, or VeriChip, is a glass-encapsulated RFID microchip designed for implantation in the human body. The VeriChip is designed to remain permanently embedded under the skin. It is sold and marketed by VeriChip Corporation of Delray Beach, Florida.

The VeriChip consists of a Radio Frequency Identification or "RFID" integrated circuit (aka a microchip), a capacitor, and an antenna wrapped around a ferrite core. These components are sealed in a capsule of medical-grade glass. The glass capsule is partially coated in a porous polypropylene substance called Biobond in an effort to prevent the device from migrating within the body.

Q. What is the purpose of the VeriChip and how does it work?

The VeriChip Corporation markets the implant as a method of accessing medical records in an emergency, for use as a payment device, and as a way to control access to secure facilities.

When a VeriChip scanner is brought within range of an implant, the scanner emits a radio signal that stimulates the implant, causing it to emit its own radio signal in response. That signal is picked up by the scanner and converted into a unique 16-digit identification number. The number is used to identify the individual or to call up a related record.

Q. What information is stored on a VeriChip?

At present, the VeriChip implant contains only a unique 16-digit identification number. This number is similar to a social security number or a bar code number that can be used to look up a record in a database.

Q. How is the VeriChip inserted into the body?

Implantation is an outpatient procedure that typically takes 15 minutes or less. People have been implanted in doctors' offices, at convention booths, and even in European night clubs.

The implantation site, typically the arm, is first wiped with an alcohol swab and numbed with an injection of a local anesthetic. When the area is numb, a 12-gauge, preloaded hypodermic syringe known as a cannula is inserted into the flesh and depressed, where it releases the implant into the subcutaneous tissue.

Q. Where on the body is the VeriChip injected?

The VeriChip is typically injected into the flesh of the triceps of the arm between the elbow and the shoulder. In some cases the implant is injected into the biceps muscle, between the elbow and wrist. (Sean Darks of CityWatcher appears to have had the VeriChip implanted in the biceps.)

There are also "hobbyists" who have chipped themselves with RFID implants obtained from other sources, typically using implants sold for animal use. Several of these individuals have inserted the chips into their hands. As Amal Graafstra, one such individual put it, "It's a lot easier to open your door or unlock your car by waving your hand rather than by wiggling your bicep." 1

Q. How many people have received VeriChip implants?

When the VeriChip Corporation became a publicly traded company in early 2007, it disclosed that 222 people in the United States had been implanted with its product. At the beginning of 2008, that figure was estimated to be around 300 people. Many of the implanted individuals are employees of the VeriChip Corporation or patients participating in experimental trials of the device.

The VeriChip Corporation has publicly stated that "several thousand" people throughout the world have been implanted with its product. However, the company has not released details on overseas implantation and has provided no independent verification of these figures.

Q. Are other companies marketing implantable RFID microchips for human use?

Not to our knowledge. The VeriChip Corporation routinely bills the VeriChip as "the only implantable RFID technology with FDA approval," and we are not aware of any other implantable RFID product being manufactured or marketed for identification, access control, or payment purposes.

Q. I've heard the VeriChip is a passive RFID device. What does that mean?

A "passive" RFID device does not have a battery or other internal power source. It derives its power from the signal sent by the reader or scanner that reads it. In contrast, an "active" RFID device has a battery or other power source that enables it to send out its signal continuously, or on command, whether a reader is present or not. Active RFID tags have a longer read range than do passive tags, but they eventually stop transmitting when the battery wears out. Passive tags, in contrast, can theoretically transmit indefinitely.

Q. What is the read range of a VeriChip?

The read range on a VeriChip implant is about three to 12 inches when a hand-held scanner is used. This means the scanner must be brought within 3" to 12" of the chipped body part in order to read the VeriChip and capture its information. When a larger antenna is used, such as a doorway portal application, the read range can be theoretically expanded to around three feet. Given the laws of physics, it is not feasible to read a VeriChip implant from a much greater distance.


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