ADS, U.S. company on Thursday launched Mexican sales of microchips that can be implanted under a person's skin and used to confirm health history and identity. The microchips, already available in the United States, could tap into a growing industry surrounding Mexico's criminal concerns. Kidnappings, robberies and fraud are common here, and Mexicans are constantly looking for ways to protect themselves against crime.
The microchip, the size of a grain of rice, is implanted in the arm or hip. Hospital officials and security guards use a scanning device to download a serial number, which they then use to access blood type, name and other information on a computer.
In a two-hour presentation, Palm Beach, Fla.-based Applied Digital Solutions Inc. introduced reporters to the VeriChip and used a syringe-like device and local anesthetic to implant a sample in the right arm of employee Carlos Altamirano. "It doesn't hurt at all," he said. "The whole process is just painless."
Another chip user, Luis Valdez, who is diabetic, said the chip is "as innovative to me as the cell phone."
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has said it would not regulate the implant as long as it contains no medical data. Thus, the information is stored in a separate database and not on the chip itself. Although regulations are different in Mexico, the Mexican version of the chip will still use the database framework.
Antonio Aceves, the director of the Mexican company in charge of distributing the chip here, said that in the first year of sales, the company hoped to implant chips in 10,000 people and ensure that at least 70 percent of all hospitals had the technology to read the devices.
One chip costs $150 and has a $50 annual fee. The scanning device and related software cost $1,200. Users can update and manage their chips' information by calling a 24-hour customer service line. Similar technology has been used on dogs and cats as a way to identify the pets if they are lost or stolen.
Company officials said they are working on developing similar technology that would use satellites to help find people who may have been kidnapped. While the idea of using the chip to track people has raised privacy concerns in the United States, the idea has been popular with Mexicans. For now, VeriChip can help confirm a kidnap victim's identity only after a body is found.
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