X-Message-Number: 13073
From: Eugene Leitl <>
Date: Sat, 8 Jan 2000 20:57:32 -0800 (PST)
Subject: GPS implants will make it easy to pinpoint people

Caveat: currently vaporware tech. In principle, with a digital pulse
radio positioning (realtime cm positioning accuracy on a ~1 mW budget
in km-sized cells) and relay infrastructure in place such a device
could be viable. Bottlenecks are signal dampening, since subcutaneous,
and chronical energy deficit (ATP metabolizing fuel cell or
piezoelectricity generator plus pulsed operation could lick
this). ObCryonet: vital signature monitoring.


They can find you

GPS implants will make it easy to pinpoint people

A TRACKING device designed to be inserted under the skin could allow
parents to keep tabs on their children, help courts track offenders or
make it easy to find lost hikers. But civil liberties campaigners are
already worried that the device might be abused.

A prototype, dubbed the Digital Angel, is being developed by Applied
Digital Solutions of Florida, which has licensed the technology from
another company. "Although we're in the early developmental phase, we
expect to come forward with applications in many different areas, from
medical monitoring to law enforcement," says Richard Sullivan, ADS's
chief executive.

The device contains a miniature global positioning system (GPS)
receiver, which uses tiny differences in timing signals from
satellites to calculate its position on Earth. The device can
broadcast this information to a local receiver. It gets its power from
a piezoelectric device that converts energy from a person's normal
movements into electricity stored in a small battery.

The device, which will be the size of a small coin, would be implanted
just under the skin. Most of the time it would be inactive. But a
mechanical switch--or a timed series of muscular contractions--could
trigger it. Even a tune would do the trick. And instead of monitoring
GPS signals, the Digital Angel could be designed to monitor a person's
vital signs.

It will also be possible to trigger the device remotely using a coded
radio signal, Sullivan says. This would be useful in the case of a
lost child or kidnap victim. And the authorities could activate the
Digital Angel to track down a prisoner on the run.

Sullivan says his company will have a prototype ready by the end of
2000. But others are sceptical because the technology for a
piezoelectric power supply is in its infancy. "You should never say
'never' in today's technological age. But the power management
technology we have will not support something like this in the short
range," says Ron Bishop, technology vice-president for SOS Wireless
Telecommunications, a company in Irvine, California, that sells
cellphones designed for emergency use. "I think you could make the
parts small enough. But you're going to have to carry around a 12-volt
car battery."

For civil liberties groups, that might be a good thing. "This kind of
stuff has enormous potential for abuse by the authorities, or by
anyone who can break into the information," says Emily Whitfield, a
spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union. She worries that
the devices could become widespread, allowing governments to monitor
their citizens. And she speculates that criminals could crack the
codes needed to activate and use the devices, allowing them to
pinpoint, say, potential kidnap victims.

Kurt Kleiner

            From New Scientist, 8 January 2000

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