rfid for overseas Americans?
January 30, 2006 5:18 PM   Subscribe

Could rfid chips implanted in Americans working in Iraq save them in the event they were kidnapped?
posted by sswiller to Technology (19 answers total)
"Save them" as in "magically teleport them back to the U.S. consulate, ready to pick up their paycheck and go out again?" Probably not.
"Save them" as in "be detected from a distance so that U.S. soldiers would know where to find them?" Again, probably not. Although RFID chips are detectable at considerable distances (despite reassuring claims to the contrary from people who want to put chips on everything), their range is practically limited to a few tens of meters, even under good conditions. It's not likely that a satellite or drone plane could figure out where in Iraq chipped Americans (or other nationalities, for that matter) are located.
"Save them" as in "help identify their remains?" Probably.
posted by spacewrench at 5:24 PM on January 30, 2006

Is there any kind of small GPS device that could be implanted?
posted by agropyron at 5:27 PM on January 30, 2006

Bad idea.

Surely Iraqi kidnappers would counter this by removing the implanted RFID chips from hostages - thus guaranteeing serious injury to every single American hostage.
posted by matthewr at 5:31 PM on January 30, 2006

GPS is a passive system. The little unit in your car or whatever receives signals and does a little trigonometry, it doesn't ask the satellites "where am I?"

Conceivably, one could wire a GPS receiver up to a transmitter that broadcast its location and a distress signal. But if you're broadcasting a signal, that can be triangulated directly. And there's already a couple of frequencies reserved for things like shipwrecked people and downed planes. Maybe there's one for lost persons, I dunno.

In any event, it's not like kidnappers are going to be so stupid as not to check for anything large enough to be an active transmitter. I suppose, with a lot of work, one could design a unit that was laid out along a long bone or placed in the abdominal cavity and could have enough power to transmit for a few days.

But then all it takes is a metal detector to find it and a metal cage to negate it.
posted by jedicus at 5:33 PM on January 30, 2006

Could rfid chips implanted in Americans working in Iraq save them in the event they were kidnapped?

I see no conceivable way that they could.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:38 PM on January 30, 2006

Likely they're not keeping the prisoners near open windows. The transmitter would have to be sending a pretty strong signal to get far enough to matter I would imagine.
posted by saraswati at 5:39 PM on January 30, 2006

What about that RECCO stuff I have in my ski jacket? Or something from the Breitling Emergency range?
posted by blag at 5:52 PM on January 30, 2006

As with the idea of RFID enhanced passports, this sounds like a great way to trigger detonators.
posted by pompomtom at 6:14 PM on January 30, 2006

What space wrench said. There exists no practical embeddable technology that can be "swept" by satellites or spy planes (that we're presently aware of.)

Although the theory of an ultra-powerful RFID scanner mounted in a plane... is an interesting one.

RFID is passive (mostly) as well, which is the only reason something like this could work--no power source is needed, since the chip passively modifies the radio signal passing through it.

That'd have to be one hell of a scanner, though.

Short answer: No. And lots of Americans have a pretty big affinity towards the book of Revelation, which isn't too keen on implantable identifiers, either under hand or forehead...
posted by disillusioned at 6:26 PM on January 30, 2006

Only if there were RFID readers every 10 feet.

GPS tracking with GSM transmitters. might help you out, though.
posted by delmoi at 6:31 PM on January 30, 2006

As with the idea of RFID enhanced passports, this sounds like a great way to trigger detonators.

Heh, yeah that would be about the only thing this would be usefull for. And since GPS dosn't even work indoors, a transmitter broadcasting GPS singals wouldn't help too much (reciving GPS signals is still easier then trying to triangulate something)
posted by delmoi at 6:34 PM on January 30, 2006

delmoi has the main reason, they're just passive little chips and you have to read them from very very nearby. RFID is not the right technology for this. You might be able to use it to identify corpses, depending where you put it.
posted by jessamyn at 7:00 PM on January 30, 2006

The range is really limited. Most are passive, but some RFID chips include a power source for longer range - feet, not miles.
posted by caddis at 7:10 PM on January 30, 2006

If you could get the tech working, then the kidnappers would just switch to killing people immediately.
posted by rdr at 9:53 PM on January 30, 2006

And if you make for the americans to find people, you're also making it easy for the insurgents to find people.
posted by rdr at 10:03 PM on January 30, 2006

Not to mention that it gives the kidnapper a very good reason to start cutting into his victim.
posted by knave at 11:35 PM on January 30, 2006

Digital Angel was doing press releases about an implantable GPS/GSM module a few years back - They've taken links to it off their front page, however.
posted by Orb2069 at 7:01 AM on January 31, 2006

That's a great idea, blag. Remind me to get a Breitling Emergency before I get deployed to Iraq.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:40 AM on January 31, 2006

For what it's worth, we talked about a similar technology in our Understanding Technology class (required and stupid). It seems that a lot of the reserves already have chips that can broadcast a cellular signal embedded in their ID. Why? So that they can be located if they don't show up for mobilization. But this only works in areas with enough cell towers to track down the chip.
posted by klangklangston at 11:46 AM on January 31, 2006

« Older How much gas does starting the car use?   |   Recommend shiatsu in Southern Los Angeles area? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.