It bugged me that the average refrigerator is more wired than I am.
Last weekend I injected an RFID tag into my right hand.
It was a spur of the moment thing, really.
I was at the Singularity University Summit in Amsterdam, and an hour before I spoke, Raymond McCauley, Chair of SU’s Biotechnology & Bioinformatics Track, had an RFID tag inserted into his hand—live on stage.
The Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag was an xNT chipset encased in a 2x12 mm cylindrical biocompatible glass housing. It was super small — about the size of a grain of rice — and injected subcutaneously. The entire process took less than 3 minutes and looked pretty simple, so when I was offered the chance to do the same, I agreed.
The pain was minimal, a 3 out of 10, and left a small puncture wound and a bit of soreness that kept me from shaking hands for 24 hours.
The purpose for embedding such an RFID tag is still up for grabs. So, again, why do this?
In the near term, implanted devices like the xNT RFID will enable seamless interaction with the Internet of Everything (IoT) around us. Unlock doors with a wave of your hand, start your car, or perhaps pay for a coffee with bitcoin stored in memory.
But honestly, for me it’s much more of an experiment: How would I feel about having tech inserted inside my body?
Inside and Outside
In all honesty, I think biohacking and the cyborg human are an eventuality that will materialize when the value proposition gets high enough. Many big companies such as Apple, Samsung and Google are working on technology to measure your biology from outside of your body. Wearable devices ranging from watches to contact lenses will track everything—footsteps, heart rate, blood glucose, blood pressure and other critical vitals. The challenge is that they only work when you remember to wear them, and there are some things you can’t measure from the outside.
The question is: when would you be ready to start incorporating technology into your body? If it helped you live longer, stay out of the hospital, and be healthy more of the time, would you do it then?
Recently, Google described its, “ambitious plan to use magnetic nanoparticles circulating through the blood to detect and report back on signs of cancer or an impending heart attack.” While the project is very difficult and is far from coming to market, the potential is there.
Hospitals around the world already use implantable pacemakers and defibrillators. Researchers out of MIT are developing an under-the-skin sensor that they say could be “useful in the monitoring of cancer or other diseases that cause inflammation… able to detect immune reactions in patients who have artificial hips or other implanted devices.”
The IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society reports that researchers at the University of Illinois, working with colleagues in Singapore, “have figured out how to embed flat, flexible, stretchable electronic sensors into temporary tattoos that can withstand wrinkling, bending and twisting of the skin. These micro-electronics, which are thinner than a human hair and applied with water, could be used to provide irritation-free monitoring of electric signals produced by the heart, brain and muscles.”
At Texas A&M University, teams “are working on micro-particles that can be injected into the highly vascular dermis layer of the skin and change color to reflect changes in blood chemistry.”
Things are moving quickly.
General Electric — which manufactures and leases jet engines to all major airlines — now puts up to 250 sensors in each of its 5,000 leased engines. Each of these aircraft transmits a terabyte of data per day on the state of those engines, allowing engineers to monitor engine “health” in real time, even midflight, and fix any problem before it gets too serious.
But for most people, their refrigerators are better wired then they are. Why? Don’t we deserve to have our healthcare become proactive and preventative as well?
Whether my RFID tag or any other tech I implant in the near-term will transform my healthcare, I don’t honestly know, but I do think differently about what is possible now.
It’s an exciting time to be alive.
By the way, if you want to join me in this discussion — the intersection of healthcare, Internet of Everything, sensors, networks and human longevity—there are only a few spots left in my executive mastermind group called Abundance 360. Each year, I meet with these 250 CEOs, investors and entrepreneurs to workshop these ideas and discuss their implications on the future. Apply here.
Cover image courtesy of dangerousthings.com