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"The way you write science fiction is: you sit down at your writing machine and you open your mind to the first thought that comes through."
- Frederik Pohl

Implanted Credit Card  
  A credit card system that could be surgically implanted; uses radio frequency identification to communicate with checkout hardware.  

Injectable or implantable transmitters have a variety of uses; a recent radio frequency identification (RFID) product called VeriChip is now being used in a controversial pilot program in Mexico to help identify missing children. There is increasing interest in RFID technology in business and industry; many practical applications are being developed.

However, Stephenson has his own take on this kind of technology in 1995. It's clear that people who love to shop just don't think about the implications of a device like this for privacy. However, I don't think I would want to broadcast my Visa card number everywhere I went.

If they accepted you, they'd shoot the credit card right into you, then and there, on the spot. These guys implanted it in the iliac crest of the pelvis, some opted for the mastoid bone in the skull... Then you could go around and buy stuff just by asking for it...
From The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson.
Published by Bantam Books in 1995
Additional resources -

Of course, you could probably get the same effect today if you swallowed a SpeedPass (a small cylinder you can attach to your keyring). Speedpass transactions use a unique radio frequency identification code. An electronic system located in the Speedpass reader "talks" with a transponder in your Speedpass.

The VeriChip was introduced by Applied Digital Solutions in May of 2002; it is a rice-sized tracker with a frightening tagline - "Get Chipped!" The VeriChip puts out a 125-kHz RF signal that transmits a person's unique ID number to a scanner, which then accesses a database containing a file on that person.

Be sure to see the news story Veripay Credit-Card Implant (from 11/27/2003). See the two-way version: take a look at implanted transceiver - hands-free phone from The Godmakers by Frank Herbert.

Find out more about RFID:

What is RFID?
How Does RFID Work?
How is RFID used inside a living body (like maybe yours)?
What can RFID be used for?
Is RFID Technology Secure and Private?
Are There Concerns About How RFID Will Be Used?
Next-Generation Uses of RFID?
Links to more sources of RFID information

Comment/Join this discussion ( 2 ) | RSS/XML | Blog This |

Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Diamond Age
  More Ideas and Technology by Neal Stephenson
  Tech news articles related to The Diamond Age
  Tech news articles related to works by Neal Stephenson

Implanted Credit Card-related news articles:
  - VeriChip Provides Emergency ID
  - Veripay Credit-Card Implant
  - Baja Beach Club Implants VeriChip In Customers

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