One of the biggest questions with cryptocurrencies is where to actually store your Bitcoin so that they are secure. Well, entrepreneur Martijn Wismeijer, who is also known as “Mr. Bitcoin,” thinks that he has a possible answer.
Instead of trusting in online exchange and wallets, or even an encrypted wallet in a smart phone or other digital device, Wismeijer decided to invest in a US$99 NFC (near-field communication) chip from Dangerous Things and have the device surgically implanted under the skin of his hand at a bio-hacking event last week that was sponsored by Permanent Beta.
The device is able to store up to 888 bytes of data (or about 26 different mini private keys around 33 characters long) each as stated by Wismeijer in an interview with Coindesk, which means that downloading the entire blockchain is not yet possible. The chips can be read by a wide range of devices however, and might serve as a good place to store private keys as security is improved.
Moreover, he also plans to install an NFC lock on his door to shed himself of the need to worry about losing his house keys. So far Wismeijer said that he has experimented with storing Bitcoin, Litecoin, Darkcoin and Dogecoin in the devices and that they do not show up on a full-body scanner at airports.
There are a number of foreseeable problems with his idea, however. The distributor for the chips, Dangerous Things, warns that they have not been cleared for human use so future health issues are a possibility.
Another problem is that these chips are not built to last forever and the operation to remove them can be quite a hassle. Indeed, removing an implant by undergoing painful surgery is not quite the same as ejecting a SIM card from your smart phone.
Wismeijer said that he will not be using the chips himself simply because of the media coverage that he has already gotten about his experiment. But he stated in an interview:
“If you are a bit more discrete about your implant, nobody will ever know it's there. Apparently the chips don't show up in a full-body scanner at airports ... totally secret agent style, available to consumers everywhere.”
Another potential problem is actually finding someone to perform the insertion. Doctors are unlikely to want to participate and so far there is only one technician, Tom van Oudenaarden, a 'body manipulation artist' based in Utrecht, the Netherlands, who specializes in 3D implants and body suspension and is known to have actually installed the pre-loaded injection kit supplied by Dangerous things.
The chip itself is a small glass sphere only 2x12mm in size and operates using a radio frequency ID tag (RFID) that has been used for tracking pets and even by governments to give specific employees access to sensitive areas.
Mexico has had such a program since 2004 with at least 160 employees in its Attorney General’s office. Wismeijer’s tag does not require a battery. Instead it both powers up and receives data from devices that have been paired to it via its NFC antenna. According to Wismeijer, the chip can be overwritten about 100,000 times before it needs to be replaced.
Wismeijer stressed that his idea is still in its infancy and still needs a great deal of work before it can become commercially viable. One big problem is the limited storage capability, which he is reportedly working to solve with the engineer who designed the implant, Amal Graafstra.
Meanwhile, larger implants will, of course, be greater in size and more difficult to install. Instead of an injection they might have to be surgically implanted. The idea seems to be developing at least a small fan base, however, as Wismeijer was able to generate US$8,000 last December from 305 backers.
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