Nov 29, 2008

Bumblebots And Verichips

By Chuck Missler

Men with brilliant minds and determination have given us some wonderful inventions, from incandescent light bulbs to self-cleaning ovens. Technology, though, has a habit of getting a bit out of control. The initial purpose of some gizmo might really be excellent – and yet, it can pose a threat if misused.

Here are some new developments that could be helpful and convenient... as long as they remain in friendly hands:

Bug-Sized Flying Spies

Researchers at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio plan to develop insect-sized flying robots that can zip in through our enemies' windows and listen to them chat. The idea gives a new meaning to the term , "bugging a room."

The US has long used drones - Unmanned Aerial Vehicles - for doing surveillance and reconnaissance. These remote controlled planes soar over enemy territory and take pictures without putting human lives in danger. The new bug-sized spy planes, called Micro Aerial Vehicles, or MAVs, would do the same sort of work, only at the mini-mini level. MAVs the size of bumble bees could fly right into buildings where terrorists are hiding and both take pictures and record conversations.

Researchers do not expect their tiny robots to be humming through the air before AD 2030; it takes ingenuity to get all that weighty spy gear air-borne. They do hope to have bird-sized spy-cams ready around 2015. They plan to even make the birds' wings flap as they soar around cities, landing on building ledges and power lines.

It sounds like a neat idea – small flying robots out spying on terrorists and keeping the world free for democracy and iPod use. Technology has a way of getting spread around, though. This week two engineers from China were sent to prison for economic espionage after trying to sneak suitcases full of stolen chip designs out of the country in 2001. If MAV technology should ever get into irresponsible hands, bumblebots might not seem so cool anymore. They could potentially compromise our security - or just make us want to swat them.

VeriChip and HealthVault

VeriChip, the company that gave us injectable RFID tags for humans, has announced that it is teaming up with Microsoft to make patient medical information readily available online. VeriChip markets its implantable chip as "patient identification", "child protection", and "wander prevention." The chip has been promoted primarily as a way to identify Alzheimer's sufferers or people brought into the ER unconscious. A quick scan of the radio frequency ID chip embedded in a patient's arm gives doctors instant access to the patient's medical history. The chip itself does not contain the information; it simply gives doctors access to the patient's records in the VeriMed Health Link system.

Americans have not flocked to get "chipped" - even for safety or medical convenience. In fact, VeriChip is in danger of losing its Nasdaq listing because its stockholders' equity dropped below $10 million. Americans are not even eager to "chip" their children to identify them in case they get abducted. There are many reasons people have resisted VeriChip, from privacy concerns to worries that the chip could eventually be connected to the Mark of the Beast.

VeriChip may get a shot-in-the-arm, however, through this new partnership with Microsoft. Microsoft has created an online health information platform called HealthVault. People with HealthVault accounts can view their health data and can input and store information there. According to a recent agreement, VeriChip's VeriMed Health Link system will be accessible through HealthVault, allowing Health Link members to interact with their health information online.

In a press release, VeriChip's Chairman Scott Silverman said, "VeriChip's strategic alliance with Microsoft provides additional benefits to our members by enabling them to seamlessly store all of their personal health records on HealthVault's robust, security-enhanced website."

The alliance promises to give VeriChip a boost. Silverman added, "This agreement gives us added visibility among HealthVault's member base. For those who have chosen our tamper-proof, safe, 'always on' link to their personal health information, we believe this relationship with Microsoft is a logical expansion of our service."

As far as it goes right now, the VeriChip system appears to be merely a little-used convenience for medical staff and patients. Yet, the very idea of accessing information through a chip embedded in one's arm presents the potential for a serious Big Brother threat.

One man’s plowshare can become another man’s sword, and while we are to be as harmless as doves, we are also called to be as wise as serpents (Matt 10:16).

Related Links

Bug-Sized Spies: Us Develops Tiny Flying Robots - AP
VeriChip Corporation Selected by Microsoft to Offer Personal Health Record - VeriChip Corp
VeriChip Corporation Receives Nasdaq Notification - VeriChip Corp
2 Engineers Sentenced For Espionage - CNET News
RFID: Americans Don't Want to Be Chipped - Koinonia House