Perth man opts for microchip implant

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 slampt.net.