This Man Is the First Person to Hack His Body to Make Digital Payments

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A Swedish software developer can buy his groceries with the wave of his hand — literally.

Patric Lanhed, a developer at DigitasLBi in Malmö, Sweden, implanted a chip in his hand that lets him move money from one bank account to the other. In a video demonstration he posted to YouTube, Lanhed taps a sensor to the Radio-Frequency Identification chip under his skin. The movement triggers one Euro to transfer into his Bitcoin wallet from his bank account.

Lanhed with the hardware to read his RFID chip.Source: YouTube
Lanhed with the hardware to read his RFID chip.  YouTube

Juan José Tara Ortiz, an embedded system engineer at Arduino who developed the hardware for recording, writing and reading all the RFID info, told Mic, "We started with bio-payment because it's interesting to people. But with this interface you can keep your bank account, your ID, your passport. ... We wanted to create a full ecosystem."

Is it possible for hackers to steal the information in the chip? That'd be difficult, said Ortiz. "To steal the info on the chip, you need a reader really close to the hand, plus eventually there will be security software. If you think about a wallet, someone can steal that. But no one can steal your hand."

Ortiz, explaining the technology to Mic in a Skype call.Source: Mic
Ortiz, explaining the technology to Mic in a Skype call.  Mic

"One major part of this project has been to specify how to store different data on the chip," Lanhed wrote on Medium. "The aim is to have this accepted as a standard so we'll be releasing this as open source."

RFID chips use electromagnetic fields to transfer data, so the hardware, the implantable part, doesn't need to be much larger than a grain of rice. For instance, the cards used to get into some offices use RFID.

In the video, Lanhed shows himself choosing the amount of money to transfer. Then, instead of manually inputting his bank account number like you'd do on an Internet shopping site, he just presses the sensor to his hand. The sensor contains the bank account data he needs.

Lanhed scanning his RFID implant.Source: YouTube
Lanhed scanning his RFID implant.  YouTube
The payment is successful.Source: YouTube
The payment is successful.  YouTube

The future: Lanhed said using an RFID chip implant would keep vital documentation and account information on your person, like medical records, passport, travel documents and data authentication for home and security systems.

Soon, the days of swiping, manually entering credit card numbers and trying to remember multiple documents to renew a driver's license may be behind us. And since Lanhed has pledged to make the data open-source, anyone can do it themselves. Now we just need the hardware at grocery stores and DMVs to catch up.

"We aren't going to have wallets full of pieces of plastic in 20 years," Ortiz told Mic. "It's the 21st century and we still carry wallets. That's ridiculous."