VeriChip IPO Focuses Attention on Human Implants

By Mark Roberti

Applied Digital's decision to offer shares in its VeriChip division focuses attention on the use of RFID in humans.

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I'm not a big fan of implanting people with radio frequency identification transponders. It's unnecessary and a little creepy. There certainly could be some benefits to doing so. After Hurricane Katrina, thousands of people saw their medical records wiped out because the physical documents were destroyed. And many people left their homes in the middle of the night wearing only their pajamas, so they had no way to prove who they were when seeking medical treatment.

By linking electronic medical records stored securely in a remote location and backed up properly to a chip inside a person, that person could be sure he or she would always be able to be identified and have access to medical records. But not everyone likes the idea of getting implanted. It's the stuff of TV dramas, and it scares people. My view is that a pendant with an RFID transponder in it could work just as well.

VeriChip's initial public offering (see VeriChip Launches IPO) has focused attention on RFID implants, and that has had a chilling effect on some people's attitude toward RFID. The Securities and Exchange Commission requires companies to provide full disclosure of everything that could have an effect on the stock of a company going public. Opponents of RFID have pointed out that VeriChip lays out nearly 20 pages of risk factors in its Form S-1 Registration Statement, a required document for the IPO.

I don't know if VeriChip is a good or a bad investment. I don't know if getting a chip under your skin is a good or bad idea. But I do know that the undue media attention focused on this one company offering a niche application of RFID is having a negative impact on the public perception of RFID. That's unfortunate, because so few people, so far, have chosen to "get chipped."