Martijn Wismeijer, a biohacker and bitcoin entrepreneur has discovered an unusual place to keep a bitcoin wallet. Well, unusual for now, but this new method of storing digital currency may be normal in the future. ‘Mr Bitcoin’ as he is known in the digital currency community injected two near-field communication (‘NFC’) chips in the back of his hands at a biohacking event hosted by Permanent Beta.
In an interview with CoinDesk, Martijn noted that he has tested storing darkcoin, litecoin, dogecoin, and bitcoin on the NFC devices. He said that each device can store up to 888 bytes of data each. He also added that “As long as you can export your private key, you can write that into your hands.” Mr. Bitcoin has decided not to use the implants as his long-term method of storing his crypto-currency offline, due to the media publicity he has received. Although he did go on to indorse this method by stating:
“If you are a bit more discrete about your implant, nobody will ever know it’s there. Apparently the chips don’t show up in a full-body scanner at airports…totally secret agent style, available to consumers everywhere.”
Infatuated with Bitcoin
Wismeijer learned about bitcoin in November 2010 and became intrigued with the blockchain. He noted that it “gave me the same ‘wow’ effect as the internet in early 90’s.” Now, four years after Wismeijer discovered bitcoin, he has come a long way. He started off mining bitcoins on his laptop and experimenting with API’s to running an international ATM collective that assists operators with a range of issues from repairs to regulatory compliance.
The website DangerousThings, which sells the NFC digital currency device for $99 has not yet been cleared for human use. In fact, Tom van Oudenaarden, a ‘body manipulation artist’ from Ultrecht is the only technician in the Netherlands known to install the NFC bitcoin digital currency device. Also, after the chip is injected and the pain is gone, you need to program the chip, and testing the chip could sooner than 2 days after injection could be dangerous. Wismeijer explains:
“Don’t be like me, I wanted to try it out even before the blood dried up…everyone wants to try it out right away but in case of the implant really should leave it alone until it is no longer swollen and healed.”
The failure to follow this advice could lead to potential infection, and also, the body could completely reject the implant.
The chip is a small glass capsule that is 2x12mm in size. The glass encapsulates a radio frequency identification tag, often referred to as an RFID chip. An RFID chip is a programmable barcode that has been associated in the past with tracking retail products, pets, and even babies. Wismeijer’s digital currency chip requires no battery, and it receives its data and power via its NFC antenna from paired devices. Mr. Bitcoin noted that there is “no charging required, no toxic batteries inside. The chip can be written to about a 100,000 times before it needs replacement so in theory it should last a lifetime.”
Aside from the installation of the chip, the actual storing of cryptocurrency on the chip is much less painful. All you have to do is disable the lock bits so the chip can’t be made read-only. Then you use an NFC app, such as NXP Tagwriter, and you write in your own private keys as ‘text’ tags, and finally you program this into you hand once done.
Wismeijer claims that the chip can store 26 different mini private keys around 33 characters long each. He further explains that not all users will require this capacity, and instead recommends that users should secure their private keys using BIP-38 encryption, which allows for each private key to reach 58 characters. Additionally, each user will need to rewrite their tag approximately every 10 years, since each chip can only store data for about a decade; at least for now.
The Future of NFC Bitcoin Wallet Implants
As of now, these chips are restricted by the amount of data that they can store, but it is likely that upgrades in the future will allow for more storage. Wismeijer mentioned:
“I met with Amal Graafstra, the engineer behind this biohacking implant and he is working on exciting new models with more memory but these will be larger and more difficult to install as they will probably have to be unfolded under the skin as opposed to just be injected.”
Mr. Bitcoin noted that there are approximately 3,000 people with an implant like his. Although this technology may seem strange, the NFC bitcoin wallet raised 383% of its $8,000 goal on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo last December. The idea was backed by 305 backers. Wismeijer also notes that there are new ideas and uses being discovered with the technology, including some that are impacting his life today. Some examples of these new concepts include an off-switch for his alarm clock and a wireless door lock for his house. Wismeijer discussed how he has real-world uses for the chip today and that his tablets and phone are all compatible. Who knows where this technology is headed, but it is safe to say that Bitcoin is bringing innovation, regardless of how strange the new concepts may seem.