A microchip implant is a small electronic circuit which is designed to be implanted into the body. The circuit is usually covered in a housing which will not react with the body or break down with use, protecting the chip inside for the lifetime of the wearer. A wide variety of information can be encoded on the microchip, ranging from data about allergies to identifying information. Microchip implants have not been without controversy, especially among people who are concerned about the potential for government tracking of human beings.
Microchip implants were first used in animals. An animal microchip implant can be used in a pet to ensure that the animal can be identified even if it loses its collar and tags, and microchips can also be used to identify and manage livestock, along with animals such as racehorses. Human microchip implants for medical use have been released by several companies, and some researchers have also experimented with microchip implants which interact with the environment, such as a chip which communicates with a computer to turn lights on and off.
Whether in a human or animal, a microchip implant works in the same way. The chip is about the size of a grain of rice, and it is typically equipped with RFID technology. Using a reader which is held over the site of the implant, someone can gather the information on the chip. Some can be written to by a reader/writer, while others must be programmed before insertion. Due to concerns about RFID security, some are encoded so that the information on the chip is secure.
Many are designed to be inserted with a large-bore needle which injects the microchip into the site, with this practice being standard for veterinary implants. Others are large enough that a surgical procedure must be used to implant the chip.
From a biological standpoint, one of the major problems with a microchip implant is that it is difficult to build chips which will remain stable in the body for a prolonged period. Sometimes chips are rejected by the body, and in other cases, they are corroded by body fluids. Glass-encased implants are inert, but the glass could break, potentially posing a very serious health risks. Biomedical researchers have worked on a number of microchip implant designs which are designed to address these problems.
Ethicists have also expressed concerns about microchip implants. Some of these concerns revolve around the insecurity of RFID technology, with the potential for the harvesting of personal data from implants with the use of a device which can gather information from RFID transmitters. Other people have expressed concerns that microchipping of humans is an ethically questionable practice which could set the stage for government monitoring or other potentially sinister uses which have not been specified.