Perth man opts for microchip implant

Perth man opts for microchip implant

Summary: A 28-year-old Perth IT professional opens up to ZDNet Australia about his journey to becoming one of the few Australians to have a radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip implanted in their hand.


A 28-year-old Perth IT professional opens up to ZDNet Australia about his journey to becoming one of the few Australians to have a radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip implanted in their hand.

Joe Wooller, technical manager at the Western Australian Internet Association, decided to get the chip implanted into his hand on Wednesday, 16 June, almost two weeks ago. His decision to do so follows former Linux Australia president Jonathan Oxer who did it in 2008.

"The area is still a bit tender," Wooller said. "You can't really feel it. You can see it if you stretch your skin, you can see the lump and when you put your finger over it you can feel it, but in terms of actually feeling it inside you floating around, nah, you can't feel it at all."

Joe Wooller

IT professional Joe Wooller
(Credit: Joe Wooller)

The reason for getting the chip was "pretty petty", he told ZDNet Australia. "I just want to get rid of my keys."

Wooller described the chip as "a bit longer than a Tic Tac, but a lot thinner".

Currently, he has the chip working with his house front door, but also plans to soon have it working with his motorbike ignition system and car, among other things.

As an IT professional, Wooller said working with datacentres involved carrying a significant amount of keys for communications equipment cabinets, and implanting a chip into his hand was just one way of reducing the amount of metal on his key chain.

"I'm not saying that I'll be able to do that with everything, but you know, with day-to-day stuff I can effectively just get rid of all my keys and use my [hand]," he said.

Wooller said he was a little chary of getting his newly implanted chip to talk to his company's RFID readers because once his hand was read by a chip reader, his employer would be able to copy his chip's identification number and create its own key to access his house, car or motorbike.

"So effectively there is no real encryption, there is no security in that respect," he said.

"Once they've [read my hand], they could effectively open my house, start my car, start my motorbike or whatever, so as tempting as it is to go up and touch an RFID reader on a building and swipe it just for a kick, I don't do it, because I don't want the user ID to be read."

But he wasn't too worried about this happening on the sly due to the fact that a reader had to be at least two centimetres away from his hand to read it. If someone was trying to read it secretly, it wouldn't be too hard to spot.

As for Wooller's wife and their oldest daughter, who is eight, they will get an RFID key fob each.

"She thinks I'm weird," Wooller said of his wife. "She knows I do a lot of strange things from time to time and she's probably just come to accept that."

His eight-year-old daughter, however, "loves it".

"She wants one," Wooller said. "She thinks it's the coolest thing ever.

"But no, she'll have a key fob to get [into the house]," he said.

However, finding someone to implant the chip in Australia was a problem in itself, according to Wooller. He said he had tried emailing a number of veterinary clinics, with most of them ignoring his request. He even tried walking into a local clinic, which turned him away.

"I actually went to a vet down the road from me and they said 'No, [we] can't do that on humans, I think it's a bit messed up'," Wooller said.

"But I actually found a doctor through a friend who said 'Give this guy a call, he's a cosmetic surgeon that is working as a GP currently. So he was more than happy to do it because he's done implants — hormonal implants — and that kind of stuff all the time."

Wooller's friends, who work in IT just like him, are "all geeks in nature", he said, and they were also considering getting a chip implanted as well.

"I think a lot of them have just waited to see if someone else they knew would do it and essentially I've done all the hard work," he said.

You can read more about Wooller's implant at his blog

Topics: Security, Government AU

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  • It's amazing how uninformed some of these "IT types" actually are. Quoted as saying "But he wasn't too worried about this happening on the sly due to the fact that a reader had to be at least two centimetres away from his hand to read it. If someone was trying to read it secretly, it wouldn't be too hard to spot." Obviously he hasn't done his research. Most RFID readers have a nominal range of 24cm. With a little bit of basic electronics work you can get that up to 1 meter. And while most readers are a compact integrated unit the only part of the reader that needs to get close to the chip is the antenna (think of how easy it would be to hide a small metal loop about the size of a paper clip.) It really would be realitively easy to clone his chip then it's goodby motorbike, goodby car. Or even worse, goodby critical information from the data center servers where he works due to corporate espionage.
  • *face palm*
    Lets be clear here, I wouldn't use my chip for work related things because generally I am not the one managed the system my UID would sit on. The chip currently emulates EM41xx style chips, what the article is missing is the fact that this is the first step and there are solutions I plan to implement to offer some sort of challenge response with my readers. That meaning you need to know not only the UID but what pages of data that are my authoritative sections to allow access. Even if someone wanted to go to the extent of reading my chip in its current state and stealing my stuff how is that so different from someone stealing my keys or any other current key swipe I have.
    The tools I have at home can easily read most of the RFID cards used in buildings it isn't very hard to duplicate these.
  • "Most RFID readers have a nominal range of 24cm" while this may be the case for Credit card size RFID used for building access, the ones that are implant size are considerably smaller and have a shorter range, this is a know limitation of this particular rfid, and even some poorly designed readers/antennas cant read the chip at all.

    And what most people fail to realise that alot of cars these days already use RFID in cars for immobilisers mostly Hitag S

    RFID is no less secure than a key, any one can steal/copy a key.. anyone can copy an RFID

  • jrr37: So what's to stop a locksmith coming and breaking into your house without ever needing to get a copy of your key.

    In reality this method is more secure from the start, simply because it's a rare setup. Sure there's people who know how to read and clone the chips, but as above.. it's just as easy for a locksmith to come and pick your lock. Now lets see a show of hands for people here who that's occurred to. Hmm, no one here.. funny that.

    As for your 'espionage'; it already says in the article he's doesn't want to use it for work purposes.
  • but no one has to actually physically steal anything to break into your stuff with this RFID they just have to get near enough to your hand to copy it. Wouldnt have been cheaper, easier and more secure to use a fingerprint reader, which are available from bunnings for around $400? And please don't go to that whole BS about how easy it is to copy fingerprints cause you saw it on TV unless you can do it yourself, my buddy tried it on my laptop and couldn't do it.
  • Reality check: No one has to steal anything to pick the lock on your front door either.
  • @sean you should watch the Mythbusters episode on fingerprint readers. All they have to do is get an object you have touched at any time, thrown in the bin even, to be able to clone a fingerprint. Fingerprint readers are rubbish.

    RFID is probably the only good equivalent to a physical key. I have played with a RFID reader and keys/fobs with a microcontroller (an Arduino) and the range is very short with typical equipment. Its not easy to clone either, you have to have some serious knowledge with electronics, sage at least, to know how to pull it off. Same as locksmiths.

    I would do the same if I had RFID locks to use all the time. Hysterical paranoia about RFID is hysterical.
  • There are two main differences between a physical key and an RFID chip implanted in your hand:

    1. You KNOW when someone's stolen your key (cause you don't have it anymore), someone can steal your RFID without you knowing.
    2. If someone DOES steal your key, it's easy to change the lock. Not so easy to get a new chip implanted.

    I think in this SPECIFIC situation, there's no problem. There's basically like half a dozen people in all of Australia who have a chip, so unless he drives a Veyron, then it's not really worth the bother. If it becomes more popular in the future (and I'm sure it will) then there will be other ways to secure the system.
    Dean Harding
  • Hi Dean,
    I can change my code on my chip, I can also revoke access to all my systems at any time.
    This also is a little bit cheaper than getting a locksmith. Like everything else RFID has its pros and cons, I chose to do it because I wanted to and if it makes life a little easier for me then great. :P
  • Slampt,

    I applaud you for this step and also putting up with the doomsday sayers on this.

    Congratulations. If this leads to other medical cures, thoughts, ideas this is the way it will go.

    For if something is thought and the idea is there, it will be done.

    Fellow Perth IT professional
  • Awesome. The sceptics are hilarious. As if a hard-core geek who has just had an RDIF chip implanted into his body doesn't know more about how it works that you!!

    And the number of times I have lost, misplaced, or had my bag nicked is WAY more than I would ever lose my arm.