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RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) Technology refers to a persistent technology in which digital data encoded in Radio Frequency Identification tags are captured by a reader device transmitted through radio waves. The technology is classified under a group of technologies known as Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC). The technologies methodologies include automatically identifying objects, collecting relevant data from the devices and providing the data as input to computer systems with minimal human intervention. The technology has been existent for the last 50 years in the world. Therefore, from the above definition, an RFID chip refers to a microchip that can transmit data such as its static identifier to a reader device over a short distance through radio waves. Moreover, an RFID chip implant is a microchip placed in the body of a human being used to transmit data. Notably, the chip can also be placed in animals.
RFID Chip Technology
As stated out earlier, RFID technology has been existent in the world. The first implementation of the technology was in the World War II in a system referred to as “Identification Friend or Foe.” During that time, countries relied on radar technology to detect incoming planes within their range. However, radar technology did not have the required technology to distinguish an ally or enemy plane. Therefore, the British used RFID technology by placing transponders into their fighter planes such that as the aircraft approached the territory, it could be easily identified as an ally plane. An advancement of this technology is still being implemented in armies around the world.
Commercially, the technology was implemented in the “Electronic Article Surveillance” (EAS). The system was developed as a theft prevention system. Tags that could store single bits were placed on products. A reader device was placed at the exit of the market or shop. The bit of the label would be read as the customer left the shop if the bit were not unset the system would sound an alarm. Later, RFID tags were used in agriculture, where animals in a farm could be tagged. The labels were used to monitor the animals.
Current RFID systems consist of three main components classified intoto two combinations:
- Transceiver – It consists of a transmitter and a receiver.
- Antenna – The device used to amplify the transmission signal.
- Transponder – It consists of a transmitter and a responder. A tag consists of a transponder combined with an antenna. The transponder is programmed with unique information.
- Data Processor: The processor is tasked with storing the relevant information regarding the tags and the tagged products.
Currently, there are three types of transponders:
- Passive Transponders or Passive Tags: These are transponders that do not have a source of energy as such the tags convert the radio signals received from the reader into energy to respond. The tags are cheaper and easier to manufacture and have a longer life-span. Lastly, the transponders are smaller in size.
- Semi-active Transponders: These are transponders that have an inbuilt source of energy which is only used to power the underlying chip. Thus, the transponder uses the power from the signal to retransmit the message. Therefore, the semi-active transponders have an increased range as it uses only the signal’s power to retransmit the power.
- Active Transponders: These are tags that have an inbuilt source of energy or battery. The transponders use the power in the cell to relay radio signals to the reader. The tags are much more expensive to manufacture than passive transponders and have a shorter lifespan. Further, they can communicate over a longer distance than passive tags.
Communication between the different components occurs through radio waves. The transceiver transmits radio signals to a specific range according to its range specification. In the case of a passive transponder, when the signal is received, its converted to power enabling the device to respond. However, in the case of an active transponder, the transponder replies with its power by transmitting a radio wave. The data processor stores the information or sends the information to a computer.
RFID Chip Implantation
RFID Chip implantation in human beings raises ethical and health issues. Many health issues have been highlighted that the technology must address for the users. First, since the device is placed on a human being, it should be in its most miniaturized form. Moreover, the chip should have a passive transponder since battery space would affect the size of the device. Consequently, the control of the device should be localized as it should not affect the working of the rest of the body.
Additionally, the device should be enclosed by a biocompatible material to avoid tissue reactions. Since the human body reacts to foreign substances, the chip is enclosed in the biocompatible cover. Further, the chip should stagnant in the body reducing the overall movements. A secure and encrypted transmission method should be used while transmitting the data from the chip to the transceiver. Mostly, this is to prevent the confidentiality of the information transferred. Lastly, the impact of the radio waves transmitted between the devices to the human body.
RFID chip location of insertion is an essential factor in the implantation procedure. The implantation should be placed into the posterior of any extremity. Mostly, the preferred site should be not less than two centimeters from any joint and at least twenty millimeters from significant nerves. Mostly, there are two convenient and safe places, one on the posterior forearm and the other near the thumb on the posterior of the hand.
The chosen area should be washed for a minimum of two minutes using warm water and a surgical solution. Next, the area should be marked to indicate the point of injection and the point of chip placement. In the case of posterior hand placement, place the thumb laterally. Mark a straight line between the thumb and the pointer finger along the webbing halfway. At the starting point, center and end of the straight line palpate marks respectively. Usually, the placement of the RFID is at the center marked halfway while the insertion point is at between 15 to 20 millimeters.
The surface which the procedure will be undertaken should be disinfected. Further, the equipment should be sanitized and placed strategically for the process. One should scrub hands for a minimum of two minutes with disinfecting wipe. Gloves should be sterilized with the recommended gloving technique. The insertion area should be cleansed with surgical scrub and allowed to dry.
The insertion procedure begins with massaging the skin slowly to facilitate the separation of dermis from the subcutaneous structures. Pinch some skin, insert the needle of the injector through the skin at the insertion mark. The needle should be injected beneath the skin layer. Next, the needle should be advanced between 8 to 10 mm beyond the placement mark. The injector should be withdrawn some millimeters while slowly positioning the RFID chip into the cavity space. After the chip is successfully placed, remove the needle gradually, put a sterile gauze over the insertion point and maintain pressure till the bleeding stops. The injector should be disposed off correctly to prevent accidents. Lastly, apply band-aid on the insertion point.
The injection site should be left to heal and kept clean always. This is to reduce chances of infection in the area. One should avoid friction or any irritation from clothing. Typically, the wound should heal within five days.
Applications of RFID
RFID technology can play a significant role in healthcare. The technology can be used to advance the medical field in numerous ways. First, since the RFID devices can store information, the devices can be used to store patient’s information. A patient visiting the doctor would need to have the chip only for the doctor to have a complete medical history. The chip is preferable than the traditional method of storing the information in a central computer where doctors can retrieve the data (Espejo, 2009). The decentralization of the patient data improves the security of the data. Further, the chip ensures flexibility for the patient as he or she can easily change hospital venues while storing medical history.
RFID devices can be used to prevent accidents in hospitals and special homes. The chip can be implanted into people with conditions such as dementia or newborn babies. Currently, there are numerous cases in the world of child swapping and child theft in hospitals. Therefore, if the chip is implanted into a newborn, chances of theft would be reduced as the hospital could be alerted when such a case occurs. Further, people who have dementia can be monitored to ensure that they do not leave the medical institutions. This will reduce accidents resulting from such cases while protecting the people.
A microchip can be placed in the brain of a human being to improve the functionality of the prosthetic. As such, the patient would have both input and output capabilities. Alternatively, the chip can be placed to improve the electrical impulses from the brain. Also, RFID can be used to control myoelectrical limbs thus when placed within the limb signals can be detected. Further, the chips can be used to send commands to a computer. Electrodes placed to detect brain signals can be used to send commands to the computer. A user can be trained to control their neural activity hence being able to communicate specific commands to the machine. The result leads to the automation of task undertaken.
RFID systems can be used to store financial information thereby able to initialize payment transactions. Since the RFID chips are implanted in the body, they can be used to identify a person uniquely. Therefore, with the chip, a person can make payments. Primarily, the chip is linked to the person’s financial information thereby providing access to initialize the payment. Currently, the technology is being implemented as people can pay for road tolls without unnecessary stops.
Security and Access Control
The tags have unique identifiers, as stated above, therefore can uniquely identify a person. The tag acts as an electronic key to control access to office buildings. Initially, the system used low-frequency tags. However, new tags with a longer range read have been introduced. RFID tags are more convenient than badges used to unlock doors as there is minimal contact with the reader. As such, this reduces chances of damage and leads to less maintenance.
RFID tags have been utilized to identify animals in some countries. For instance, if a pet with an RFID tag strays away from its home, the animal can be easily found using the tag.
Future of the Technology
RFID can be used to reduce the chances of doping by athletes. Before international games, the athletes can be implanted the devices to monitor their consumption thus decreasing chances of doping.
RFID chips can have embedded Global Positioning Systems chips to ensure that people can be tracked. Essentially, the primary aim of human tracking would be to aid in the search for missing persons. This can be achieved by monitoring the individual via the last known location, speed, latitude, altitude, and direction of movement.
The technology has not been fully exploited. However, there is a promising future for the technology. Currently, the chips are only being minimally implemented in various sectors. Yet, as the technology is massively implemented more applications and advantages can be outlined. Currently, the technology needs to overcome some challenges and problems.
Challenges of RFID Microchip Implants
Security and Privacy
Security and privacy is a major concern for RFID chip implants. The microchip can uniquely identify a person thereby posing a threat to the person’s privacy and security. Further, the technology can store personal information increasing the risk of the person. Consequently, the technology has not yet implemented proper security solutions to prevent a malicious individual from exploiting the vulnerabilities. Currently, in the world, cybercrime rates have increased exponentially thereby raising questions about the security of the technology. For instance, an attacker could easily attack an RFID of a medical patient ( Michael, Michael, & IGI 2014). The attacker could alter the contents of the RFID thereby providing wrong information to the doctor putting the patient at risk. On the other hand, the attacker may clone the data stored in the RFID tag for malicious use. Therefore, from the cases above, the security and privacy of people is a significant concern for the technology.
A possible solution to security and privacy would be the use of encryption. Communication between the transceiver and the reader could be encrypted using a shared key to prevent malicious people from accessing the information. Encryption would effectively prevent the security of the device and the information contained. This would reduce the chances of attacks; however, the privacy of the person could still be violated.
RFID microchip continually emits radio signals which combined with body fluids or chemicals could cause health risks to a person. The result would be a long-term effect rather than a short-term risk.
Over the years, RFID technology has existed but has not been successfully integrated into the modern world. However, with the miniaturization of the devices and the subsequent assurance of security and privacy issues. Technology has many applications in the current world. With the current technological advancement, the technology will be fully implemented soon.
- Espejo, R. (2009). RFID technology. Detroit: Greenhaven Press.
- In Michael, M. G., In Michael, K., & IGI Global,. (2014). Uberveillance and the social implications of microchip implants: Emerging technologies.