Magazine article The Futurist

Microchip Implants Closer to Reality

Magazine article The Futurist

Microchip Implants Closer to Reality

Article excerpt

Microchip implants that track people's movements or allow shoppers to purchase groceries with the wave of a finger may soon be more than science fiction: One scientist is working to make them part of everyday reality.

Kevin Warwick, a professor of cybernetics at Reading University in England, has implanted into his forearm a miniature electronic device that can control the light and heat in his office by sending messages to a computer. Warwick believes such implants could be used not only in "intelligent" buildings, but also to replace credit and bank cards.

The computer that controls the environment in Warwick's office recognizes his presence because the implant - a glass capsule 23 millimeters long containing microchips - sends a unique signal. The computer can then adjust the lights and heat to Warwick's pre-set preferences.

The key to implants' usefulness is that unique signal, which many speculate could be used as a cross between a social security number and a PIN, allowing computers in your home, workplace, car, grocery store, and hospital to recognize you. You wouldn't have to worry about losing your keys again: Your car and your house would automatically admit you. (Of course, if the implant broke or the computers went down, you'd face the high-tech equivalent of losing your keys.) At the bank or grocery store, implantees could transfer funds or buy provisions without ever having to reach for a wallet or purse.

Such implants might tempt criminals to attack individuals and forcibly remove the implants in order to steal a person's identity or access his bank account. …

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