Professor has world's first silicon chip implant

Steve Connor
Wednesday 26 August 1998 00:02 BST

A BRITISH SCIENTIST has become the first known person to have a silicon chip surgically implanted into his body in an experiment that raises the pros- pect of a man-machine cyborg.

Kevin Warwick, professor of cybernetics at Reading University, underwent the operation on Monday to place a chip under the skin of his forearm to study the control of intelligent buildings run by computers.

The chip emits a unique identifying signal that a computer can recognise to operate various electronic devices, such as room lights, door locks or lifts.

Professor Warwick said that implanting a silicon chip is the ultimate form of electronic tagging and is more permanent and secure than carrying a smart card. ``The potential for this technology is enormous. It is quite possible for an implant to replace an Access or Visa card. There is very little danger in losing an implant or having it stolen,'' he added.

The implant, which is 23mm long and 3mm wide, emits its unique signal only in the presence of radio frequency waves sent from transmitters placed around an intelligent building.

``An implant could carry huge amounts of data on an individual, such as national insurance number and blood type, with this data being updated and added to where necessary,'' he said. "It could contain information on any medical problems, qualifications, prior convictions and even speeding fines. It would be difficult to lie or cover up such information.''

A chip implant could avoid the need to use car keys and would make vehicles more secure, and it could be used to buy train tickets. It would also help a range of organisations to keep track of people.

``Individuals with implants could be clocked in and out of their business automatically. But all this smacks of Big Brother. An individual might not even be able to visit the toilet without a machine knowing about it,'' the professor said.

Scientists are also working on silicon chip implants that can communicate directly with human nerves. ``Human intelligence needs to keep up with the intelligence of machines. If we implant silicon chips into humans, humans can stay ahead,'' Professor Warwick said.

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