RFID Implants 101

Maybe you have heard about an implantable radio frequency identification (RFID) chip but you are not sure what it is. In that case, you came to the right place. In this post, I will look at what RFID is and what the different types of implants are and what they can be used for.

what is RFID?
RFID is a general term used to talk about devices that can be accessed wirelessly (using radio frequency) to read the contents of a tag. RFID can be chopped into different sub-categories. We will look at the following three in this post.

Low Frequency (LF) between 125-134 kHz
High Frequency (HF) at 13.56 MHz
Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) between 856-960 MHz

Each sub-category of RFID has different advantages and disadvantages that you would want to look into depending on your needs. For this post, I will be focusing on LF and HF, since this is the most common types of implantable chips.

What we normally refer to as an “RFID tag” is in the LF part of the spectrum around 125 kHz. A Near Field Communication (NFC) tag operates in the HF part of the spectrum at 13.56 MHz.

What makes up an RFID System?
An RFID system is comprised of two main parts, a reader and a tag. A common example is a wall-mounted unit you might see at your office when you enter the building. Most organizations in the United States utilize the HID access card system and provide a small white plastic card to their employees. The card is scanned by the reader when the employee wants to use the door.

The typical range for an LF or HF tag is less than three feet. In practice, I have observed a range of a few inches. The implantable RFID tags that are on the market today are LF and HF tags and have an even shorter range.

It is worth noting that UHF tags can have a read distance of up to 328 feet (100 meters). To accomplish the longer read distances, the tag is typically larger and is powered by a battery. To the best of my research ability, I am not able to locate an implantable UHF tag.

What is an RFID Implant?
An RFID implant is typically housed in a small glass capsule that can be implanted under the skin using a syringe. Depending on the chip you select, they can range in size between 11-13 mm long and 2 mm in diameter.

I personally have obtained my RFID implants from Dangerous Things and Cyberise. Both sites sell RFID implant kits that come with the chip already in a sterilized injection, gloves, and other items needed during the procedure.

It has been my experience that it takes a few days for the implant to be usable. This is due to the irritation of the tissue caused by the needle during the implant process. That should give you some indication of how sensitive these chips are if a small amount of irritation to the surrounding tissue can cause the implant to not function correctly.

Why get an implant?
Getting an implant is definitely a personal decision. I purchased my first implant along with a friend who was interested in the process. Since my first implant in 2016, I have recieved three more for a total of four chips. Each chip serves a different purpose.

The first implant is used to replace my HID door access card to my office so I do not need to carry around a badge all day. The others are NFC chips. As we talked about earlier, NFC is a sub-set of RFID. One NFC is a Vivo key which can be used as an online authentication token. The other two NFC chips are for the storage of data. Each chip can old 1,868 Bytes. When I purchased the NFC storage chips in 2018/2019 they were the larges capacity chips on the market. I think it will be some time before we are able to carry large amounts of data on a chip implanted in our hands.