Bio-sensors that can track your EVERY move are tested in ‘cyborg cows’ ahead of being implanted in humans
- Biohacker Tim Cannon is behind the EmbediVet devices that monitor cattle
- They let farmers keep track of their health and spot early signs of disease
- Some fear it could be used to track our movements if implanted in people
- Mr Cannon first hit headlines for a chip that tracks changes in his temperature
‘Cyborg cows’ are being used to test tracking technology of the future.
A company named Livestock Labs has created a sensor that can be implanted under a bovine’s skin to monitor its health and movements.
The idea is that farmers will have a way to easily monitor illness in livestock and quickly stop the spread of disease.
While the technology is currently being used in cows at a farm in Utah, Livestock Labs hopes to create similar implantable chips for humans.
Although the intention behind the device may be benign, many people fear that chips under our skin could be used by governments and others to track us.
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Implantable sensors that can monitor everywhere you have been may be on the way, thanks to the development of a microchip implant for cows. EmbediVet (pictured) works like a Fitbit for cows, keeping track of their movements, vital signs and other biological data
The current version of the sensor for cows is known as EmbediVet and is the creation of biohacker Tim Cannon, according to MIT Technology Review.
It works like a Fitbit for cattle, keeping track of their movements, vital signs and other biological data.
Three animals equipped with the chips, created by Mr Cannon’s startup firm Livestock Labs, are currently living on a dairy farm Wellsville, Utah.
Bluetooth base stations gather data collected on their condition, which is harvested when the creatures stop at a scratching post on the estate.
That includes details like where they have walked and how often they to chew, to their body temperature and heart rate.
This information is fed into artificial intelligence software, which Livestock Labs hopes will one day be able to provide valuable information on their health.
This ranges from how well they are eating, any signs of illness or even whether they are about to give birth.
A limited version of the new chip may be available for testing in bovines from next March.
A planned future version may one day offer the same insights into the wellbeing of human’s equipped with the technology.
Three cows equipped with the chips are currently living on a dairy farm Wellsville, Utah (pictured). The firm behind them hopes to create a version that can be implanted in people to help monitor their health in the future
Similar implants have proved divisive in the past and Rosalyn Berne, an associate professor of science, technology and society at the University of Virginia, says there are strong reactions on both sides of the debate.
Speaking in July, Dr Berne said: ‘Implanted devices have been used in farm animals for a while, and RFID chips with GPS capacity are commonly implanted in personal pets for tracking purposes.
‘The question is how, once such the implants become widely accepted and used, such devices will evolve in their capacity and application.
‘With novelty to the body, there comes ambiguity, fear, excitement.
‘A knee replacement, for example, is one thing, it replaces a human body part that was already there at birth.
‘This is not a replacement, but an enhancement, bringing novel capacities to the individual. It is thrilling, exciting for many, but horrifying for others.’
WHAT IS BIOHACKING?
Biohackers, or grinders, are people who hack their own bodies with do-it-yourself devices.
They practice body modification in an effort to extend and improve human capabilities.
They usually turn to body modification experts like piercing artists to perform the implant procedures – but many do it themselves too.
One of the first biohackers was Kevin Warwick, an engineer and the Vice-Chancellor at Coventry University who had an RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) chip implanted into his arm which allowed him to control devices such as lights by simply snapping his fingers.
Professor Kevin Warwick undertook a ground-breaking experiment with an implanted computer chip in his arm. Professor Warwick became the first human cyborg by implanting a computer chip in his arm to control machines with signals from his brain
A Utah based biohacker named Rich Lee has six implants; one in each ear that serve as headphones, two magnets in two different fingertips for feeling magnetic fields, an NFC (Near Field Communication) chip in his hand for controlling devices and a bio-therm chip in his forearm for monitoring temperature.
The first implant was a finger magnet, which he got because ‘the thought of being able to feel an invisible force and gain a new sense was too intriguing to pass up.’
He explains that he used to have implants in his shins to see how well they would protect his bones from impact.
While a few of the implants were done himself, most were carried out by body modification experts such as piercing artists.
Rich Lee receiving an implant in his hand. He usually asks body modification artists to do the procedures for him, but he’s done a few on himself when he thinks the risk is extremely limited
This is not the first time that Mr Cannon has attracted attention for his grinding, the term used by enthusiasts for technological alterations to the body.
In what could be considered the ultimate in wearable technology, Mr Cannon had a biometric sensor fitted between his skin and tissue that tracks changes in his body’s temperature.
The sensor can connect wirelessly to any Android device, produce readouts of the temperature changes and send Mr Cannon a text message if he’s suffering from a fever, for example.
Mr Cannon created the sensor, called Circadia 1.0, using a Bluetooth connector, computer chip, and fitted it with LED lights.
This is not the first time that Mr Cannon has attracted attention for his grinding, the term used by enthusiasts for technological alterations to the body. He fitted a biometric sensor, called Circadia 1.0, under the skin on his forearm in 2013 (pictured)
These LEDs act as ‘status lights’ that can be used to light up a tattoo on Mr Cannon’s arm, under which the sensor is fitted.
The first version of the sensor reads temperature changes but, in theory, it could also be used to track other vital signs and body changes.
Circadia is protected inside a protective case and has a battery that can be charged wirelessly.
‘The human body is really failing in almost every way,’ Cannon told Motherboard, Vice’s science and technology channel.
‘I want to live to be thousands of years old, I don’t want to die and I don’t know why anybody would.
‘[The idea behind the sensor] is very fun. It’s meant to capture people’s imagination.’
Cannon created the sensor using a Bluetooth connector, computer chip, and fitted it with LED lights. Circadia is protected inside a protective case and has a battery that can be charged wirelessly
Mr Cannon was working for a company called Grindhouse Wetware that he founded, which builds devices designed to integrate with the human body, when he had the implant inserted.
Mr Cannon added: ‘We basically focus on the merging of man and machine.’
To insert the device, an incision was made on Cannon’s forearm above an existing tattoo.
His skin was lifted and separated away from his tissue and the device was inserted into the pocket that was created before being sutured shut.
It was inserted by a so-called Flesh Engineer called Steve Haworth at the Body Modification Conference in Germany.
To insert the device, pictured, an incision was made on Cannon’s forearm above an existing tattoo. His skin was lifted and separated away from his tissue and the device was inserted into the pocket that was created, before being sutured shut
Mr Cannon told Motherboard that no doctor would carry out the procedure, and Mr Haworth did not use any anaesthetic.
Before the procedure, Mr Haworth told Motherboard: ‘When we put this in it will make history.’
The Circadia 1.0 is open source, meaning that the data can be collected and used in whichever way the owner wants, and – if it ever gets to market – would go on sale for around £370 ($500).
This does not include fitting, which Haworth said he would charge around £150 $200.
WHY DID A SWEDISH FIRM INJECT ITS EMPLOYEES WITH MICROCHIPS?
Swedish firm Epicenter hit the headlines in April for offering RFID implants to its employees.
The Startup offers workers microchips the size of grains of rice that function as swipe cards, to open doors, operate printers, or buy smoothies with a wave of the hand.
The injections have become so popular that workers at Epicenter hold parties for those willing to get implanted.
But, experts say the ethical dilemmas will become bigger the more sophisticated the microchips become.
Self-described ‘body hacker’ Jowan Osterlund from Biohax Sweden, holds a small microchip implant, similar to those implanted into workers at the Epicenter digital innovation business centre during a party at the co-working space in central Stockholm
The technology in itself is not new. Such chips are used as virtual collar plates for pets.
Companies use them to track deliveries, but it’s never been used to tag employees on a broad scale before.
Epicenter and a handful of other companies are the first to make chip implants broadly available.
And as with most new technologies, it raises security and privacy issues.
While biologically safe, the data generated by the chips can show how often an employee comes to work or what they buy.
Unlike company swipe cards or smartphones, which can generate the same data, a person cannot easily separate themselves from the chip.
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