Applied Digital Solutions, maker of implantable identification chips for humans, is ramping up a new media blitz with the “chipping” of a reporter and unveiling yesterday in London of a new temperature-sensing microchip.
Meanwhile, a June deadline looms for the financially troubled company to pay off a $30 million IBM loan.
Applied Digital Solutions (NASDAQ: ADSX) of West Palm Beach, Fla., maker of the implantable VeriChip, coined the term “getting chipped” as part of a marketing campaign that attracted worldwide coverage. It culminated last May when 8 individuals were chipped.
The VeriChip is an injectable radio-frequency identification chip marketed for human use. It can carry a unique identification number along with other data. In addition, it is wirelessly write-able.
The company invited Angela Swafford, a Miami-based journalist, to get “chipped” while she was working on a VeriChip story for a major media outlet.
Swafford is a science writer whose work has appeared in New Scientist magazine, Astronomy magazine, Discovery, and ABC News. Her story is expected to be released in the near future.
“When it comes to reporting on stories, I like to get as involved as possible in the science behind them,” said Swafford. “I have been known to lend my body to science, from participating in NASA hyper-gravity tests, to having my brain scanned by neurologists trying new imaging techniques at MIT. All in the name of exploration of new frontiers … and of good stories.”
She added, “When offered the opportunity to be chipped, it occurred to me that I could tell this story in a unique way. I think the technology is tremendously exciting, with applications that defy our wildest dreams. This chip is quietly heralding a time when humans will literally have technology under the skin.”
‘Cap Cyborg’ a ‘media tart’?
Meanwhile, in England, mixing getting chipped with publicity has back-fired on famous British professor Kevin Warwick, who has recently been accused of launching a “publicity stunt” in the “worst possible taste.”
Warwick, who had previously been implanted with various chips as a part of research projects, announced to a flurry of press coverage he planned to implant a British girl with a GPS-tracked device.
The announcement came on the heels of the tragic deaths of two abducted British girls.
An intermediary firm began handling requests from media who wanted to interview Warwick, dubbed “Captain Cyborg,” charging reporters a rate of $125 for ten minutes of talk time.
WorldNetDaily contacted Warwick asking for proof the GPS implant existed, but received no response. In addition, Jackie Fenn, vice president of Emerging Technologies and a research fellow with Gartner Research, told WND she could not obtain verification the implant exists.
When no one could verify the existence of such a device, the merciless headlines read, “Cap Cyborg is a Media Tart. True.” Critics charged him with fueling hysteria following the deaths of the girls and with manipulating the fears of parents.
The respected online tech-journal the Register called him a “tedious self-publicist” who was essentially providing “less critical elements of the press with a never-ending stream of stupid stories.”
John Lettice, of the Register noted, “And by pushing positive aspects of tagging, even years before it’s actually feasible, they’re softening public opinion up for the days when it can be widespread, and when its application can be more sinister.”
Warwick had called for an urgent government debate on the issue, and said government ministers should consider implants for all children.
“This is why we need the debate to take place,” he said. “In the future, it may be that only the police have the authority to allow the system to be activated. But, as things stand, parents can have that right themselves.”
The suggestion that only police, and not parents, might have control of such a future system is sure to raise hackles in England, where there has been a steady stream of police officers arrested on child-porn charges.
In 1999, Applied Digital announced they had obtained the patent rights to a GPS implant. The microchip was described as a syringe-injectable implant that was “small enough to be implanted in a child” and could be “continuously tracked by GPS.”
Four years later, the implant has yet to make it to market, but the company discussed the need for GPS implants during last year’s child kidnapping crises. Jackie Fenn of Gartner notes Applied Digital has told her they are on track for bringing a GPS implant to market.
To date, only intelligence agency uses of GPS implants have been reported as being in current use: Time magazine previously reported the Israeli Secret Service was using GPS implant technology in some of its operatives.
About Applied Digital, the Register complained the firm has essentially been busy “punting cattle tags at the hard of thinking.”
Tagging in health care
Meanwhile, yesterday and today Applied Digital was scheduled to make two presentations at the IDTechEx “Smart Tagging in Health Care” conference in London.
IDTechEx refers to the London conference as the “first major” conference devoted to the potential health-care benefits of smart tagging technologies. As described by IDTechEx, the conference is intended to help attendees “learn how smart labels can save lives, reduce errors, improve health, reduce costs and lead to new services.”
Dr. Richard Seelig of Applied will be speaking about possible medical applications of the VeriChip, and will provide the first-ever public demonstration of the company’s new temperature-sensing microchip technology, marketed, patented and first announced by Digital Angel Corporation (AMEX: DOC) in February 2003.
This new Radio Frequency Identification microchip has similar dimensions and performance characteristics to VeriChip, but it can also obtain and transmit body-temperature data.
Dubbed “Bio-Thermo” the microchip previously was used for pets, livestock and other animals. The information on the chip can be retrieved with a handheld scanner or by the animal passing through a special portal.
The London conference will mark the company’s shift from marketing the chip for animals to also marketing it for human use.
Currently, there is a wide variety of biosensors approaching commercial viability.
Biosensors now are being developed to detect everything from the first chemical signature of cancer to the presence of anthrax, and advances in fields such as nanotechnology, microelectronics and molecular diagnostics have paved the way.
As previously reported by WND, Dr. Peter Zhou had commented in 2000 that he was “very interested” in pursuing the company’s implantable technology as a form of a universal health-care identifier, along the lines of what former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala proposed under the Clinton administration.
Applied says its new BioTherm chip has applications relevant to chemotherapy-treatment management, chronic-infection monitoring, organ transplantation treatment management, infertility management, postoperative monitoring, critical-care monitoring, medication monitoring and response to treatment evaluation.
Surge of interest in chip tracking
The health-care tagging conference comes at a time where there is a surge of industry interest in many applications of Radio Frequency Identification chip tagging.
At the forefront of this interest is MIT’s Auto-ID Center.
Founded in 1999, the Auto-ID Center is a cutting-edge partnership between more than 87 global companies and three of the world’s leading research universities: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the U.S., the University of Cambridge in the UK and the University of Adelaide in Australia.
Together they are creating the standards and assembling the building blocks needed to create what they call an “Internet of things.”
The Center proposes an “intelligent infrastructure” that allows physical objects to communicate with one another. This infrastructure would consist of low-cost electronic tags, unique object identification numbers, common networking services and standardized protocols and languages.
The Center is designing, building and testing the components of such a system, with a view to deploying a global infrastructure – a layer on top of the Internet – that will make it possible for computers to identify any object anywhere in the world instantly.
“Electronic tags when coupled to a reader network allow continuous tracking and identification of physical objects. Reader arrays have been fabricated and integrated in floor tiles, carpeting, shelf paper, cabinets and appliances. Similar to cellular phone grids, the reader network may provide seamless and continuous communication to tagged objects,” says Auto-ID Center co-director David Brock.
It’s commonly accepted the proposed architecture has the potential to revolutionize supply chain, logistics and inventory.
The Center foresees: “No more inventory counts. No more lost or misdirected shipments. No more guessing how much material is in the supply chain – or how much product is on the store shelves.”
Although its first applications are focused on supply-chain management, the concept of seamlessly communicating physical objects has many applications in other areas, such as health care.
The ability to provide continuity of care, continuous patient monitoring, shared yet secure medical records, valid and accurate medical dosages, medical equipment tracking and improved information display and communication are some of the propositions enabled by the technology.
In its full implementation, the Auto-ID technology is said to have the potential to greatly reduce costs while increasing the reliability and effectiveness of human health care.
Chip maker facing financial struggles
Meanwhile, Applied Digital continues to face financial struggles, even in the wake of worldwide press coverage.
Under a new forbearance agreement reached with creditor IBM, the financially struggling Applied Digital gained the right to buy back its existing indebtedness from IBM Credit with a one-time payment, on or before June 30, of $30 million. If this payment is made, Applied Digital would satisfy its full obligation to IBM Credit, according to the company.
For 2002, Applied has posted a net loss of $112.5 million on revenues of $99.6 million, according to the latest SEC filing. The loss is significantly lower than 2001’s net loss of $215.6 million, but the company’s losses for the past three years total $443.3 million.
Earlier this month, Applied announced the SEC is conducting an informal inquiry into the company.