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Barcelona clubbers get chipped

BBC | September 29 2004

FLASHBACK: Alex Jones Interviews Conrad Chase (PP.tv members)

FLASHBACK: Baja Beach Club in Barcelona, Spain Launches Microchip Implantation for VIP Members

BBC Science producer Simon Morton goes clubbing in Barcelona with a microchip implanted in his arm to pay for drinks.

Imagine having a glass capsule measuring 1.3mm by 1mm, about the size of a large piece of rice injected under your skin.

Implanting microchips that emit a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) into animals has been common practice in many countries around the world, with some looking to make it a legal requirement for domestic pet owners.

The idea of having my very own microchip implanted in my body appealed. I have always been an early adopter, so why not.

Last week I headed for the bright lights of the Catalan city of Barcelona to enter the exclusive VIP Baja Beach Club.

The night club offers its VIP clients the opportunity to have a syringe-injected microchip implanted in their upper arms that not only gives them special access to VIP lounges, but also acts as a debit account from which they can pay for drinks.

This sort of thing is handy for a beach club where bikinis and board shorts are the uniform and carrying a wallet or purse is really not practical.

Thumping heart

I met the owner of the club, Conrad Chase, who had come up with the idea when trying to develop the ultimate in membership cards and was the first person implanted with the capsule, made by VeriChip Corporation.

With a waiver in his hand Conrad asked me to sign my life away, confirming that if I wanted the chip removed it was my responsibility.

Four aspiring VIP members sat quietly sipping their beverages as the nurse Laia began preparing the surgical materials.

Like a scene from a sci-fi movie, latex gloves and syringes were laid out on the table as the DJ played loud dance tunes that made my heart thump, or was it just fear?

Questions were going through my mind. Would it hurt? What are the risks? What if I want to get it out?

I ordered another drink.

Comfortably numb

Laia started by disinfecting my upper arm and then administered a local anaesthetic to numb the area where the chip would be implanted.

With the large needle in her hand, she tested the zone which made me flinch and led to another dose of the anaesthetic.

With a numb arm, Laia held up the rather large needle containing the microchip and inserted it beneath the layer of skin and fat on my arm.

She pressed the injector and it was in - my very own 10 digit number safely located in my body.

The chip is made of glass and is inert so there is no risk of it reacting with my body.

It sits dormant under the skin sending out a very low range radio frequency so it will not set off airport security systems.

The chip responds to a signal when a scanner is held near it and supplies its own unique ID number.

The number can then be linked to a database that is linked to other data, at the Baja beach club it make charges to a customers account.

If I want to leave the club then I can have it surgically removed - a pretty simple procedure similar to having it put in.

Now, the question of did it hurt. Having the chip inserted was a breeze, no real pain to report of.

The real pain was the sore head the following day after a night on an open bar tab.

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