Storing Bitcoins in what is known as a cold wallet has become a popular method of securing virtual currency. A cold wallet is a form of Bitcoin storage which is off line, and therefore not susceptible to theft by hackers.
The ingenious means by which entrepreneurs and Bitcoin technology enthusiasts are doing this has taken a very unusual turn, with one particular individual resorting to what could almost be regarded as cybornetics, having had near-field communication NFC chips injected into his hands.
According to a report by artstechnica, Martijn Wismeijer, a Dutch entrepreneur and Bitcoin enthusiast, has lived with an NFC chip embedded in each hand for the two weeks.
The chip has been programmed to contain data that he is constantly overwriting, and he can put his contact details in simply by having another person scan his hand with an NFC-enabled phone. But the other contains the encrypted private key to his wallet.
Mr. Wismeijer’s perspective on the effectiveness of the storage is perhaps as off-the-wall as the actual concept itself. “I use it for cold storage, but it’s not cold because it’s 37 degrees Celsius inside my body!” he explained to Artstechnica on Friday of last week.
The type of chipset that is being used is an NFC Type 2 compliant NTAG216 RFID unit, which has been mounted inside a miniscule glass capsule which measures 2 milimeters by 12 milimeters, and has been injected into the fleshy part of Mr. Wismeijer’s hand between his thumb and his index finger.
According to the report, each capsule has a very limited data storage capacity of just 880 bytes, however this is sufficiant to retain a cold storage wallet.
The cost of effecting this system was very minimal, with Mr. Wismeijer having purchased the entire kit including a pre-loaded syringe for $99 from an ominously named website dangerousthings.com which is based in Washington State and specializes in objects for biohackers and hobbyists.
On November 3 this year, Mr. Wismeijer had it installed at a piercing studio in Utrecht, Holland, this being his only option as his medical practitioner refused to carry out the task.
“My doctor doesn’t like it!” Wismeijer said. “He didn’t want to do it, he just wants to make people better, and I’m not sick—I just want this thing inside my body. He was right, so that’s why you need body manipulation artists.”
Although the practicality and functionality of this somewhat extreme measure is yet to be proven, Mr. Wismeijer has become somewhat of a convert to this method of security, with plans to replace the door locks of his home with NFC tags so that he can open them with signals from inside his hand.
That’s what Amal Graafstra, the founder of DangerousThings.com has been doing for nearly a decade. He too has the NFC chips installed in the webbing of his hands, and has $200 Samsung Ezon door locks on his house.
“Since 2005 that’s what I’ve primarily been using it for, and I’ve been really happy,” he told Ars. “It unlocks when I reach for the doorknob, and I go in a little high, and it opens.”
He doesn’t even notice that the chip is there anymore: “You don’t even think about it—that’s the whole point of implantable technology.”
As far as long-term health risks are concerned, Mr. Wismeijer is a pioneer, and therefore there is no practical way of telling what possible damage can be done, however he said that it does not heat up, however he has not quite got used to it being there and it is noticeable. He understands that within two months, he may be able to fully ignore the chip and incorporate it into his daily routine.
Photograph courtesy of artstechnica.