Why you shouldn’t implant computer chips in your arm

Fri, 11/01/2013 - 3:31pm
Kasey Panetta, Managing Editor

In general, medical implants and their components are strictly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and for good reason. You can’t just stick anything under your skin without extreme consequences including things like major infections, pretty gnarly scaring, and potentially deadly health complications. It’s a serious business and each aspect of implants like stents or pacemakers are carefully tested before approval in trials that can take long periods of time.

Apparently, Tim Cannon wasn’t concerned with any of this when he decided to implant a computer chip under his skin. Cannon, who considers himself a biohacker, thought this would be a good idea. The chip, called the Circadia 1.0 — by Grindhouse Wetware — is designed to record biometric data from Cannon’s body and send it to any Android-powered mobile device. It’s open-source and the user has full control over what information is sent to the device. Before we get to any other Image from, this chip is massive as far as chips and medical implants go. It’s combined with a battery, which makes it even more comically-sized, before being enclosed in a plastic case.

It’s actually pretty interesting from a technology standpoint. The Circadia, which has since been made smaller, records body temperature and uses Bluetooth to transfer the information. The tattoo on Cannon’s forearm servers as a platform for the three status LED lights. Future plans will allow for pulse monitoring and communication between the chip and the Internet-of-Things.

From a medical standpoint, it’s pretty alarming. Because this has no FDA approval, Cannon implanted it without the help of a surgeon or anesthetics, instead relying on the community of body modifiers.

The materials and coatings for stents or other implants are a seriously studied aspect in the medical world. Some coatings actually deliver drugs, but the goal is to create designs that won’t irritate the body and there is a strong movement towards dissolvable implants. When designing for medical, it’s important to be as sterile and as minimally invasive as possible. By circumventing the approval process, Cannon has also missed out on all the serious safety checkpoints along the way.

There is a video of Cannon talking about the implant and battery — note his bright red arm — which is a pretty interesting look into how you charge a battery that is under your skin. The LEDs in the design are flawed in that they really burn through battery power, which is a downside if an implant is under your skin.



The laws regarding medical implants are in place for a reason. It is dangerous to just stick objects — particularly electronics — under your skin and the problems have been well-documented both in the medical and body modification worlds. It's definitely a step towards a potentially cool technology, but it's a dangerous step.

Cannon is taking a big risk with his life in the name of bio-engineering, and if you’re interested in doing the same, the Circadia will be available for about $500. Plus, you’ll only have to pay $200 to have it jammed under your skin by someone without a medical degree.


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