A doctor implants a chip into a person’s hand, they plan to operate their smart home with their implant.
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Extreme smart home choices

Do You Need a Surgical Implant to Operate Your Smart Home?

Steve Hansen
November 15, 2023

Extreme Smart Home Choices and Other Ways to Achieve Similar Results

How far would you go for convenience? Would you pay a few hundred dollars to have a 1/8-inch-wide needle stuck into your hand to inject an electronic capsule or two? Why?

The capsule is called a “subdermal implant,” and it’s the same idea as the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chips we’ve used for our pets for a while. For our pets, they’re a safety feature and include the owner’s contact information, for example. For one “smart home guy,” who made this video about his plans for his implants, it’s a different sort of practicality.

Why Use Implants?

Brett Turner is the smart-home guy in the video, and he’s made scores of videos that you can check out. He’s creative, and you might even call him a hacker. He wants the implants for four reasons, he said:

  • Replacing his existing keys and fobs so he doesn’t have to carry keys or a wallet.
  • Creating authentication for his computer and phone, sort of like a “super-secure fingerprint scanner.”
  • Building his own custom solutions with a small antenna that he can link to his smart lock on his front door.
  • Handling point-of-purchase payments as you do with a tap credit card; he said this project is more complicated than the others and will take more time to set up.

When used in people, these implants are often inserted into the meaty area of the hand between the thumb and forefinger, and it’s generally advisable to have a professional do the job for you. Various types of medical implants are actually quite common, and they’re used for birth control, pacemakers, and blood pressure sensors, to name just a few. As with any medical procedure, there is a small but real risk of infection or other complications. Migration, or the unit moving from its intended place, can happen as well, but is uncommon. Also, the implants are not intended to be removed. If removal becomes necessary, that may require a surgical procedure.

What Are These Implants?

RFID, which means radio frequency identification, implants are tiny, non-powered contraptions that contain a microchip and an antenna. They don’t have a battery, so they’re activated by the power of the reading device. They’re roughly the size of a large grain of rice, and the microchip can store and transmit the data that you need for your keys, fobs, credit cards, and so on. They’re made of a glass or polymer material that’s biocompatible with human and animal tissue and nonallergenic to avoid adverse reactions from implantation.

When you want to use the device to unlock a door, for example, you just pass your hand across the reader so it can activate the chip; then, the chip sends its radio waves to the reader, which then unlocks the door.

Besides pet security and helping people with an aversion to carrying keys and a wallet, RFID implants have many other uses. They can be used for wildlife tracking and for storing medical records and patient information, for example. Other medical uses are quite compelling, as well.

People with physically limiting health conditions such as multiple sclerosis may find that an RFID implant helps to increase their independence, according to this article. In this example, “a wheelchair-mobile person can approach a door and the reader will unlock the door, avoiding the need for keys that the person may not be able to use for themselves.”

Alternatives to RFID Implants

But back to smart home topics. I’ve watched that video a dozen times, and I understand the geek factor in getting some new tech going, but I think the idea is out there. There’s plenty of work to do “under the hood” to get those chips programmed just right, and I would need it working for me right out of the box. But to each their own. Another way to get that same functionality is with different wearable devices, such as a watch, bracelet, or ring. And, of course, those options exist.

Check this out if you want to add your house key and/or car key to your Apple Wallet. You just need a compatible smart lock and/or compatible car for it to work. Then the “key” goes into your wallet, and you just wave your watch in front of the reader/device when unlocking or locking it. Very slick. Android users can see how their version works here.

Of course, when we’re talking about smart locks, the app for your locks should handle locking and unlocking for you anyway, often automatically when you get close to the door. So if you’re wearing your smart watch and have the app for the lock, you’re set.

A person adjusts their smart watch

As for payment transactions, I can see that paying with your smart watch is not as easy as waving your hand across the reader, but it’s still pretty easy. For example, when you’re at the checkout station:

  • Double-click the side button.
  • Your default card opens automatically. If necessary, scroll down to choose another card.
  • Hold the display of your Apple Watch near the contactless reader until you feel a gentle tap and hear a beep.

So that’s two of the most common tasks in daily life, card payments and locking and unlocking your home, all using a smart watch.

A ring would be a handy way to take care of those tasks, too, and it looks like you can get a programmable RFID ring here. (You’ll find a few on Amazon, too.) This is the company that the smart home guy in the video used for his implants. I watched a video for how you can program the ring to open your smart lock on your front door, and another for connecting an antenna to the garage door opener. Very handy, and I would have zero chance of success. But someone who gets programming could figure it out, no doubt.

Finally, I haven’t found an RFID bracelet that people say is worth it, either. They all look like they’re made for hotel and event use, so they’re cheap and disposable, with bad reviews. It looks like the smartwatch is the slickest solution for now.

But that sounds a lot better than a massive hypodermic needle!

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