My editorials and opinions on the topic of...

Socioethical Approaches to Robotics Development



This special section of IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine (RAM) is a collaborative effort with IEEE Technology and Society Magazine (T&S) (the March 2018 issue). This means that members of each Society will gain electronic access to one another’s publications for this issue only. Please take the time to explore international author findings from each of the magazines and compare outcomes. While the RAM special section focuses on socioethical approaches to robotics development, t h e T&S special issue discusses more general robots and social implications. T&S, guest edited by Katina Michael, Diana Bowman, Meg Leta Jones, and Ramona Pringle, takes a broader view of the definition of robots, encapsulating a variety of systems, including anthropomorphized and industrial robots, drones, driverless cars, smart Internet-of-Things hub devices, and software bots.

Focus of the Joint Special

The aim of this joint special was to bring together diversity of thought in robotics from a variety of disciplines, and this has been achieved with specialists from anthropology, sociology, philosophy, psychology, and law working alongside mechanical, mechatronic, electrical, computer, and software engineers. The skill set in both specials is impressive in breadth and capacity for interdisciplinarity. These are the kinds of collaborations that need to be encouraged by government grant bodies, technical institutions, and corporations alike. It will not be long before internal review boards and ethics committees demand the role of an ethicist or sociologist in submitted project applications.

Public participation in the robotics development process is also vital but a much harder proposition to achieve before diffusion. At best, perceptions of consumers or employees can be harnessed at the proof of concept or trialability stages, but these are only representative. Unfortunately, the patent process is not inclusive of socioethical dilemmas [1]. A product or process is usually awarded a patent based on its inventiveness, without a pursuant discussion on the possible socioethical implications at the time the patent is filed [2].

The results of the joint special collectively indicate that there is, unsurprisingly, a major interest in the social and ethical dimensions of robotics development and application, but few studies published in the public domain that have incorporated socioethics. Historically, there are even fewer studies that we can point to that link social and ethical issues with intelligent machines [3] or robots, but for the greater part, the link of socioethics is embedded into the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) framework and applied to biologically related innovation (e.g., human genome) [4]. More recently, responsible research and innovation have been applied by researchers in the space of emerging technologies [5] to emphasize corporate social responsibility. And there is a growing number of philosophers who now study ethics and robotics [6].

We seem to be able to theorize on the possibilities through various forms of scenario planning, but very little empirical work to support the possibilities is conducted on prototypes or realworld operational robots. We envisage the domain of socioethics to boom in the coming years as we come to grips with new standards, policies, and laws related to the field of robotics at large. This is to take seriously the understanding that ethics is not devoid of societal context and different markets have relative values that are influenced by culture. Disparate social groups within the same society may also prioritize their actions based on their values in differing ways, and this may lead to conflicting worldviews. How do we innovate mindfully, given that the existence of a robot in a specific process has far-reaching impacts beyond the user? And can we imbue robots with ethics [7]?

Search the IEEE for the term socioethical or derivatives thereof, and you will not find much in terms of published research. In the field of engineering and information and communications technology, one is more likely to come across references to sociotechnical (systems) or socioeconomic (impacts) or sociocultural (implications) or sociolegal (cases) or simply broader ethical issues in the domain of study. Search more specifically for evidence that ethics has been considered in the end-to-end design lifecycle of a new process or product, and you will find even less proof that these practices exist.

This does not mean that socioethical issues are not being adequately addressed in robotics, but we are more preoccupied with the tensions between conception, deployment, first-mover advantage, and feedback loops than embedded ethics from the outset. Whether this has to do with more agile development approaches or trade secrets that won’t relinquish industry practices, this special is a call to raise awareness of the importance of socioethics as an integral part of any problem definition or feasibility study right through to operation and maintenance road maps of emerging technologies. Yet, evident even in the contributions of this special section, engineers of all types are mixed in their attitudes toward the effectiveness of the application of ethical frameworks, with some believing they are relevant at the beginning of a development lifecycle, and others arguing you cannot prejudge ethics. The following brief section introduces how the IEEE Standards Association is contributing to ethical considerations, an initiative led by the chair, Raja Chatila, with hundreds of contributions from all over the world, academicians and industry specialists from large and small boutique companies, and government and nongovernment participation.

Ethical Considerations of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems



The IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems (A/IS) was launched in April of 2016 to move beyond the paranoia and the uncritical admiration regarding autonomous and intelligent technologies and illustrate that aligning technology development and use with ethical values will help advance innovation while diminishing fear in the process [8].

The goal of the IEEE Global Initiative is to incorporate ethical aspects of human well-being that may not be automatically considered in the current design and manufacture of A/IS technologies and reframe the notion of success so human progress can include the intentional prioritization of individual, community, and societal ethical values. The mission of the IEEE Global Initiative is to ensure that every stakeholder involved in the design and development of A/IS is educated, trained, and empowered to prioritize ethical considerations so that these technologies are advanced for the benefit of humanity.

The IEEE Global Initiative has two primary outputs, the creation and iteration of a body of work known as Ethically Aligned Design: A Vision for Prioritizing Human Well-Being with Autonomous and Intelligent Systems [9] and the identification and recommendation of ideas for standards projects focused on prioritizing ethical considerations in A/IS. Currently, there are 11 approved standards working groups in the IEEE P7000 series.

A key distinction we also always make in our work is to point out that ethical considerations in and of themselves are not new for engineers, academics, and programmers. Codes of ethics have guided these professions for decades and provide seminal principles regarding safety and compliance that have provided, and still provide, critical guidance for technology design and production. Our goal is to provide an additional set of principles and standards to help any technologists not used to dealing with the new aspects of how A/IS can affect human agency and emotion. Like any new technology, A/IS simply brings new issues to deal with, and, in the case of systems or products directly interacting with humans, applied ethics or values-driven design are methodologies that help technologists evolve their ethical paradigm to address the algorithmic age.

Overview of Accepted Articles in the Special Section

Three articles were accepted for inclusion in the special section. The first article, by Amigoni and Schiaffonati, presents an ethical framework for experimental technologies with respect to robotics. The article takes the ethical framework proposed by van de Poel for experimental technologies and applies it to the case of robotics. Amigoni and Schiaffonati critically and somewhat controversially argue that explorative experiments can be conducted in robotics given the absence of proper theoretical backgrounds. The authors claim that we can only address ethical issues on the impacts of robots in society through real-world deployments. They utilize two examples in the domain of search and rescue, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Robotics Challenge and the Fukushima Nuclear Emergency, to make their case.

The second article, by Villani et al., focuses on industrial robots to simplify work-related operational processes. The article highlights the benefits of measure, adapt, and teach (MATE) robots in care and service roles and provides an excellent discussion on observed socioethical implications. The ELSI framework and roboethics have been integrated more broadly into the development process of MATE robots used in the workplace. The authors state that technical requirements are not solely driven by the use cases but by other design recommendations stemming from the analysis of implications on ethics and social and legal issues related to the use of adaptive human–machine systems (i.e., MATE).

The third article, by Borenstein et al., uses a survey methodology to report on parental perspectives on the overtrust of pediatric health-care robots, specifically exoskeletons. This article is concerned with socioethical issues surrounding postdeployment of robotics in the personal health-care domain. A key finding in the study was that over 62% of respondents indicated they would typically or completely trust their child to handle risky situations with an exoskeleton.

While the guest editors decided to accept only three articles, these are indicative of various perspectives in theoretical or applied foundations (e.g., explorative experiments versus roboethics and ELSI and aspects of trust and risk), in context (e.g., search and rescue with respect to defense and emergency services versus industrial robots versus personal health-care robots), and end users (citizens, employees, patients, and consumers). 


1.  K. Michael, "Can good standards propel unethical technologies?", IEEE Technol. Soc. Mag., vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 6-9, 2016. 

2. What is a patent?, 2017, [online] Available:

3. M. A. Boden, "Social implications of intelligent machines", Proc. 1978 Annu. Conf. (ACM ’78), pp. 746-752, 1978.

4. "The ELSI research program", 2017, [online] Available:

5. N. McBride, B. Stahl, "Developing responsible research and innovation for robotics", Proc. IEEE Int. Symp. Ethics in Science Technology and Engineering, pp. 1-10, 2014.
View Article Full Text: PDF    (220KB)

6. R. Capurro, M. Nagenborg, Ethics and Robotics, Heidelberg, Germany:AKA G.m.b.H., 2009.

7. K. Miller, "Can we program ethics into AI?", IEEE Technol. Soc. Mag., vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 29-30, 2017.

8. "Ethically aligned design version 1 for public discussion", IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems., Dec. 2016, [online] Available:

9. "Ethically aligned design version 2 for public discussion", IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems, Dec. 2017, [online] Available:

Keywords: Robots, Autonomous robots, Ethics, Social implications of technology, Bot (Internet)

Citation: Noel Sharkey, Aimee van Wynsberghe, John C. Havens, Katina Michael, IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine, Vol: 25, No. 1, March 2018, pp. 26-28, DOI: 10.1109/MRA.2017.2787225.

Go Get Chipped - Part 2

Go “Get Chipped” A Brief Overview of Non-Medical Implants between 2013-2017 (Part 2)

 The original "Get Chipped" campaign by the Verichip company.

The original "Get Chipped" campaign by the Verichip company.

In Part 1 of “Go Get Chipped” we covered the inception of microchip implants for non-medical applications from 1997 to 2012 [1]. This period demonstrated the breadth of applications that implantables could be used for [2]. This was a time of intense novelty, early hype, a bit of magic for magic’s sake, and proposing a future that very few genuinely wished to engage with, save for severe sufferers of Parkinson’s disease, Tourette Syndrome, major depressive disorder (MDD), amputation, or quadriplegia [3]. Until then, few academics, some keen biohackers, and radical start-ups had taken the idea of “microchipping people for non-medical applications”(not just dogs and cats) seriously, but things were about to drastically change when some big brands got behind the broader concept of a paperless and cashless society.

Well known to most of us in the auto-ID industry were two IBM commercials produced in the mid-2000s that showed off radiofrequency identification (RFID) for “grab and go” shopping at a smart supermarket [4], and increased visibility in the supply chain [5]. In fact, the “cutesy” nature of these commercials were a step away from the original “shock and awe” of the Applied Digital Solutions VeriChip “Get Chipped” campaigns that were a response to national security (i.e., 9/11) and America’s healthcare crisis [6]. IBM instead evoked a “look how cool and fun this new tech can be — join us” kind of sentiment with their very slick and somewhat mischievous marketing approach.

In 2007, MG Michael delivered an invited talk at Terra Incognita in Montreal, Canada [7], where he showed these IBM clips as part of his uberveillance delivery, and the response was quite unexpected. At the conclusion of the meeting, this presentation was highlighted in the presence of the delegates as one of the responses contra the top heavy surveillance keynote that had been delivered earlier in the week by the second United States Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff [8]. Some years prior, MG had delivered a paper at the British Computer Society [9] where Ken Wood of Microsoft Research in Cambridge [10] and the current CTO of CISCO Monique Morrow were present [11]. It did not take long on that occasion, for the discussion on microchipping of humans to zero in on the potential for an “onoff” switch for implantables located somewhere in the human body, perhaps on the forearm. Soon after, we had chance meetings, first at an airport in India with a Nokia chief who beckoned MG to become a tech evangelist for them. There was another in 2010 in our little hometown with a longstanding InQTel employee who stated that what we were working on was the future [12]. Business cards exchanged, what were the odds we thought of all of these “touchpoints.” I too, spoke to an employee from Ericsson over breakfast about implantables at IEEE ISTAS’15 in Dublin and again, as karma struck once more, he was the very same man who wrote the article I was pointing to in our discussion [13]. So what to make of all these primary, face-to-face links, save to say that our research trajectory had been on target and this was an area of research now preoccupying the time of big business? Informal validations from very formal players — and these persons weren’t just your “think outside the box” hackers, they were executives of large multinationals who still hold major influence today.

Industry Deregulation

Initially, I had studied the historical emphasis on back-end interoperability for fundamental financial transactions in Europay, MasterCard and VISA, or what was known as the EMV alliance [14]. But dramatic things were to follow beyond “standards” and “specifications” — a wave of fullblown deregulation of the telecommunications and banking sectors across the globe then occurred bit by bit. It had become evident that traditional providers were being pre - ssured by non-traditional players [15]. Credit card companies now had competitors who were information and communication technology (ICT) giants. It did not take long after the MONDEX card and other failed smart card initiatives for the mobile telephony revolution to gather steam and come head to head with companies like VISA. I recall the attempt in Australia to launch the “mini” VISA that one could wear as a necklace or bracelet which was literally the size of a semiconductor chip. But the horse had bolted, and soon Apple and Samsung were offering their own payment gateways [16], circumventing the need for banks or credit card companies to play any part in customer transactions. On the occasions I’ve spoken on financial payments or financial crime in Australia, again the em - phasis has been on what the future of e-payments might look like [17]. Almost always, the focus has been on how to capture the consumer’s loyalty. In some of my talks here, I have described the steady technological trajectory from luggables to wearables to implantables. Of course, big players are well aware of the trends and have sometimes denied the possibilities on the one hand [18], only to subsequently engage in the very same research they have said to sideline [19]. Scenarios are crucial for these companies. I don’t fault them for thinking about what might come next [20]. We should all be thinking with such foresight. But all of this leads to what Foster and Jaegar called “murky ethics” in one IEEE Spectrum paper I reviewed in 2007 [21]. On the one hand, big corporations saying “we’d never do it,” and on the other hand, “it’s inevitable.” This reminds me of the forthcoming volume by transhumanist commentator Lazar Puhalo on the Ethics of the Inevitable [22].

Getting Real

Yet, I am often surprised by the fact that so many people that should be in the know about the latest technologies consider most of this implant talk within the realm of “mark of the beast” or “conspiracy theory” talk. MG Michael presented a paper on anti-chipping laws in the U.S. [23] in 2009, and was bewildered by the lack of awareness of the conference audience when they are foremost ahead in social implications of technology generalist discussions. The same thing happened to me at IEEE Sections Congress 2017, when I delivered my talk more recently. Many people were stunned at the use cases I was showing. Yet, increasingly, now, due to the reach of content platforms like YouTube, awareness of what is possible is growing, as is validation of what people are claiming is happening or indeed, wanting to normalize. For those of us keeping abreast of the latest developments day in day out, we also seem somewhat desensitized as a result of having watched endless piercings, “live” in action, streamed over the Internet. The format goes a little bit like this:

1) some nervous jokes to begin with,

2) surgical gloves come out in full view,

3) a discussion ensues about the importance of sterilization to keep infection at bay,

4) a sharp needle,

5) a tiny transponder,

6) breaking the skin,

7) a bit of blood,

8) some ad lib from the body piercer who is wearing tattoos and ear implants,

9) a hefty grin by the implantee who comments in passing “it doesn’t hurt,”

10) and then a band-aid and “that’s it” [24].

But that’s not it, and transformation takes more than just sporting an implant, although the outward bodily transfigurations cannot help but to have an inward-facing metaphysical and existential impact on the human person.

Caption: Initial implants were conducted by general practitioners (i.e. medical doctors) early in the 2000s. Over the last decade, we've replaced the white gown and clinical hospital-style backdrop with black gloves, tattoos and piercing professionals conducting the implant procedure, DIY style, with audiences looking on- a real public spectacle.

Recent Non-Medical Implantable Use Cases

 32Market Campaign for chipping employees and linking implantable chips to vending machines for epayment

32Market Campaign for chipping employees and linking implantable chips to vending machines for epayment

An overview, not exhaustive, of some of the more significant implant usecases in the last few years, includes: GoogleX’s swallowable chip [25], (myUKI re - branded as Vivokey) [26], [27], Tim Cannon [28] and Wetware Groundhouse [29] NorthStar and Circadia, the Swedish chipping parties [30], biohacker Hannes Sjoblad [31] and co-founder and CEO of Epicenter Patrick Mesterton [32], Charlie Warzel of BuzzFeed and his epayment chip [59], the launch of DeusEx (USA and Australia) [33], chipmylife. com [34], Andreas Sjostrom (implant boarding pass) [35], Biohax International (Swedish body piercers) [36], SJRAil Priority customers (Sweden) [37], Biofoundry’s Founder Meow Meow and his Opal Card implant [38], 32Market (Wisconsin, USA) [39], [40], etc.

Among the implantees seem to be a growing list of journalists who are getting implanted for the millisecond shock factor of their online audiences. This trend will soon subside, the spectacle of something going into the body “for the first time” completely replaced by the potential flood of active nonmedical use cases. Journalists will also soon figure out that their body capacities are limited, and any future implantable will likely be taking up important “real estate” space. To the non-techy onlooker, this might seem like some form of human digital revolution (aka augmented humans), or some very extreme form of self-harm [41]. But then what of claims, from large companies like Medtronics who foresee a sensor implanted in everyone [42]? This is the normalization of the weird into the wonderful into the “cannot live without.” Companies like Cochlear in 2017 have described the potential to fuse their hearing implantable device with a service that delivers entertainment like music straight to the ear [43]. Why not? This is the blurring of the prosthetic with the amplified, the medical with the entertainment as I had once noted in a TEDXUWollongong scenario [44].

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics or Is It?

It is very difficult to predict what the future has in store for us. Table 1 shows some of the key surveys to have been conducted over the last 14 years. Perhaps most confusing is the disparity of the findings between the studies, though they have all measured different things, and have sourced respondents in various markets with varying levels of technology awareness. As readers we need to be aware of the message being sold to us by companies with vested interests, and a variety of emerging stakeholders. Survey bias is ever present and as consumers we need to always ask the fundamental questions before we make our own minds up about the latest technology rewards. This is our future. We will make of it what we will. But the strategic techno-spin boiler engine rooms will just continue to grow in sophistication making it harder for consumers to believe in something other than what they are projecting. It’s time to vote with our wallets, not just our voices [60]. Perhaps the bigger issues at hand, as I am constantly reminded by my biohacker friends, is not whether or not some government will forcibly implant us all for social security purposes and surveillance, but what is presently happening with the mass scale big data collection strategies using social media intelligence, CCTV, behavioral biometrics using facial recognition and visual analytics to monitor human activities, the keystroke-level tracking of end-users by third parties on Internet websites, the use of in-bound technology devices that conduct ICT surveillance and home monitoring, and even fitness trackers we carry alongside our mobile phone that are set to control our health insurance premiums. I will always riposte, wait till all of these are applied together as in the full-blown Uberveillance scenario [45], [46]. We predict the integration of invasive token and non-token based payment schemes for two-factor authentication (e.g., Alibaba’s use of facial recognition payment systems in KFCs in China [47]). Already one trial that Baidu led at the beginning of this year used facial recognition technology to predict customer orders [48]. Now that’s one way to speed up transactions at the point of sale, and potentially ensure calorie controlled intake as well!

What Kind of World Do You Want to Live In?

As my last editorial as Editor-in-Chief of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, I leave you with these final thoughts. What kind of world do you want to live in? I hope together we have continued to trail-blaze this question as a community of conscientious voices in my six years as EIC. Please never underestimate the significance of all your contributions. These don’t stem solely from scholarly works, but most likely might be in everyday discussions over a coffee to unexpectedly raise awareness about social implications of technology, or helping others harness the power of technology when there is real benefit. Personally, I have been inspired by these everyday conversations with people: with neighbors, with mums and dads, with the elderly in aged care, with young kids, with nurses, with teachers, and with those suffering from some of the negative backburn of the new technologies. Social implications of technology is not an “exclusive” topic that belongs to scientists, or academic researchers, or inventors alone, but to all of us who can observe the impacts in our own homes, our workplaces, dwellings we frequent like clubs, and even governments.

A long list of thank yous, I will need to cut short given space. Thank you to the authors who took time to research on pertinent topics of SSIT. Thank you to reviewers who freely gave of their time to offer their insights and ensure a top class benchmark was retained. To my outstanding Associate Editors and columnists who were there as a sounding board and who offered their own expert opinions, so often. To Terri Bookman who I know firsthand works round the clock to bring you the publication you see today — you have been sensational and the reason we have won so many awards. To my predecessors, Keith W. Miller and Joe Herkert, for always being there when I needed advice and practical help. And to the Vice Presidents/Presidents and Board of Governors of IEEE SSIT for all their ongoing support and direction, which I’ve always tried to incorporate. What an unforgettable experience for me! I will forever cherish the opportunity and pinch myself that it all happened. I was interviewed for the role just after my youngest child was born … I must confess it’s not always been easy, but oh so worth it! Thank you to my selfless husband whose discernment I would call upon and to my three young kids who were forever patient. I leave you in safe hands. To the forthcoming editor, Professor Jeremy Pitt of Imperial College London of whom I have the utmost respect. The trailblazing will continue on topics not previously covered, I am sure. And if his previous special issues and sections in IEEE Technology and Society are anything to go by — get ready for some spectacular work with an extensive new trusted network for SSIT to embrace. References


[1] K. Michael, “Go “get chipped” — A brief overview of non-medical implants between 1997-2013 (Part 1),” IEEE Technology and Society Mag., vol. 36, no. 3, Sept. 2017.

[2] A. Masters and K. Michael, “Lend me your arms: The use and implications of humancentric RFID,” Electronic Commerce Research and Applications, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 29-39, 2007.

[3] K. Michael, “Mental health, implantables, and side effects,” IEEE Technology and Society Mag., pp. 5-7, Jun. 17, 2015.

[4] IBM, “The future market: Business innovations,” 2007; watch?v=eob532iEpqk, accessed Aug. 29, 2017.

[5] IBM, “Inventory off track: IBM can help,” 2007; v=oAvQcYcvyaw, accessed Aug. 29, 2017.

[6] Applied Digital Solutions, “The VeriChip: HealthLink information,” 2006; https://, accessed Aug. 29, 2017.

[7] M.G. Michael and K. Michael, “Uberveillance” in Proc. 29th Int. Conf. Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners. Privacy Horizons: Terra Incognita, Location Based Tracking Workshop (Montreal, Canada), 2007; kmichael/146/, accessed Aug. 29, 2017.

[8] M. Geist, “The Future of Privacy: Privacy Threats No Longer “Terra Incognita,” Oct. 2, 2007; http://www.michaelgeist .ca/2007/10/terra-incognita-column-post/, accessed Aug. 29, 2017.

[9] L. Perusco, K. Michael, MG Michael, “Location-based services and the privacy-security dichotomy,” in Proc. 3rd Int. Conf. Mobile Computing and Ubiquitous Networking (London, British Computer Society), Oct. 11-13, 2006, pp. 91-98.

[10] K. Wood, “Ubiquitous computing at Microsoft Research in UK,” Channel 9, Sept. 29, 2004; https://channel9.msdn .com/Blogs/TheChannel9Team/Ken-WoodUbiquitous-computing-at-Microsoft-Researchin-UK, accessed Aug. 29, 2017.

[11] S. Chan, “Monique Morrow aims to give others identity — and her identity is built on helping others,” CISCO: The Network, Sept. 7, 2016; feature-content?type=webcontent&article Id=1785844, accessed Aug. 29, 2017.

[12] IQT, “National security: Identify, adapt, deliver,” In-Q-Tel, 2017; https://www.iqt .org/sectors/national-security/, accessed Aug. 29, 2017.

[13] S. Kupriyanov, “Four reasons chip implants aren’t mainstream,” The Networked Society, Jul. 29, 2015; https:// the-networked-society-blog/2015/07/29/ four-reasons-chip-implants-arent-mainstream/, accessed Aug. 29, 2017.

[14] K. Michael, The Automatic Identification Industry Trajectory, Ph.D. thesis, School of Information Technology and Computer Science, University of Wollongong, 2003, ch.

[15] C.A. Allen and W.J. Barr, Eds., Smart Cards: Seizing Strategic Business Opportunities. McGraw-Hill, New York. 1997.

[16] S. Lohr, “As more pay by Smartphone, banks scramble to keep up,” NYTimes, Jan. 18, 2016; 2016/01/19/ technology/upstarts-are-leading-the-fintechmovement-and-banks-take-heed.html.

[17] K. Michael, “A brave new world of ‘under the skin’ payments,” presented at Technology & Innovation — The Future of Payments (Sydney, Australia), Sept. 19, 2014;

[18] G. Storey, “Bringing the ease of contactless payments to the virtual marketplace,” presented at Technology & Innovation — the Future of Payments (Sydney, Australia), Sept. 19, 2014; conferences/technology-innovation-futurepayments.

[19] H. Francis, “Chip implants beneath the skin bring a new meaning to ‘pay wave’,” Sydney Morning Herald, http://www chip-implants-beneath-the-skin-bring-a-newmeaning-to-pay-wave-20150528-ghbq71. html, accessed Aug. 29, 2017.

[20] K. Michael, G. Roussos, G.Q. Huang, R. Gadh et al., “Planetary-scale RFID services in an age of uberveillance,” Proc. IEEE, vol. 98, no. 9, pp. 1663-1671, 2010.

[21] K.R. Foster and J. Jaeger, “RFID inside: The murky ethics of implanted chips,” IEEE Spectrum, pp. 24-29, Mar. 2007; Fall2013/handouts/spectrum07_rfid_ethics .pdf, accessed Aug. 29, 2017.

[22] K. Michael, “A conversation with Lazar Puhalo,” IEEE Technology and Society Mag., vol. 34, mo. 3, pp. 25-28, Dec. 17, 2014; document/7270450/, accessed Aug. 29, 2017.

[23] A. Friggieri, K. Michael and M.G. Michael, “The legal ramifications of microchipping people in the United States of America- A state legislative comparison,” in Proc. IEEE Int. Symposium on Technology and Society (Tempe: AZ, U.S.A.), May 18-20, 2009, pp. 1-8.

[24] M. Aslander, “At the Singularity Summit in Amsterdam, Peter Diamandis gets an NFC implant,” Singularity Summit, Nov. 20, 2014;, accessed Aug. 29, 2017.

[25] K. Lachance Shandrow, “Swallow This ‘Password’ pill to unlock your digital devices,” Entrepreneur, Feb. 3, 2014; https://www, accessed Sept. 4, 2017.

[26] VICE Staff, “VICE Motherboard covers Project UKI (now Vivokey),” Motherboard, Oct. 17, 2016; watch?v=GSv0hb0GeBQ, accessed Sept. 4, 2017.

[27] K. Michael, “RFID/NFC implants for bitcoin transactions,” IEEE Consumer Electronics Mag., vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 103-106, 2016.

[28] Vice Staff, “Experimenting with biochip implants,” Motherboard, Oct. 31, 2013; v=clIiP1H3Opw, accessed Sept. 4, 2017.

[29] T. Johnson, “Dawn of the bionic age: Body hackers let chips get under their skin,” SecurityInfoWatch, Aug. 7, 2017;, accessed Sept. 4, 2017.

[30] R. Troup Buchanan, “Swedish firm microchips employees,” The Independent, Feb. 27, 2015; http://www.independent, accessed Sept. 4, 2017.

[31] H. Sjoblad, “The coming Age of Human Augmentation,” TEDxBerlin, Nov. 22, 2016; EmxFrf8vMnE, accessed Sept. 4, 2017.

[32] SIME, “Sime Stockholm 2014: Corporate Innovation, Anne Nahkala, Patrick Mesterton,” presented at SIME Conf., 2014; 5GceQHYYotA, accessed Sept. 4, 2017.

[33] DeusEx, “Deus Ex: Mankind Divided presents Human by Design,” DeusEx, April 24, 2015; videos/81526366, accessed Sept. 4, 2017.

[34] S. Stevens and S. Korporaal,, Sept. 6, 2017; https://chipmylife .io/, accessed Sept. 4, 2017.

[35] A. Sjöström, “Boarding a flight with an NFC implant,” Sogeti, Jan. 8, 2016; https://, accessed Sept. 4, 2017.

[36] M. Astor, “Microchip implants for employees? One company says yes,” NYTimes, July 25, 2017; https://www microchips-wisconsin-company-employees .html, accessed Sept. 4, 2017.

[37] C. Weller, “A Swedish rail line now scans microchip implants in addition to accepting paper tickets,” Business Insider, June 20, 2017; https://www.businessinsider, accessed Sept. 4, 2017.

[38] N. Dole, “Sydney man has Opal card implanted into hand to make catching public transport easier,” ABC, June 27, 2017; 06- 27/sydney-bio-hacker-has-opal-travelcard-implanted-into-hand/8656174, accessed Sept. 11, 2017.

[39] C. Swedberg, “Wisconsin company plans NFC chip implant party,” RFID J., July 27, 2013; articles/view?16407, accessed Sept. 4, 2017.

[40] K. Michael, A. Aloudat, M.G. Michael, and C. Perakslis, “You want to do what with RFID?: Perceptions of radio-frequency identification implants for employee identification in the workplace,” IEEE Consumer Electronics Mag., vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 111-117, July 2017.

[41] S.R. Bradley Munn, K. Michael, and M.G. Michael, “The social phenomenon of body-modifying in a world of technological change: past, present, future,” in Proc. 2016 IEEE Conf. on Norbert Wiener in the 21st Century (21CW), Melbourne, Australia, July 13-16, 2016; http://ieeexplore

[42] K. Michael, “Implantable medical device tells all: Uberveillance gets to the heart of the matter,” IEEE Consumer Electronics Mag., vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 107-115, Oct. 2017.

[43] E. Hinchliffe, “This made-for-iPhone cochlear implant is a big deal for the deaf community,” Mashable, July 27, 2017;, accessed Sept. 4, 2017.

[44] K. Michael, “Microchipping people,” TEDxUWollongong, May 5, 2012; https://, accessed Sept. 4, 2017.

[45] M.G. Michael and K. Michael, “Toward a state of Überveillance,” IEEE Technology and Society Mag., vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 9-16, 2010; .org/document/5475070/.

[46] K. Michael and R. Clarke, “Location and tracking of mobile devices: Überveillance stalks the streets,” Computer Law and Security Rev., vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 216-228, 2013.

[47] T. Ong, “KFC in China tests letting people pay by smiling: Pay using your face and cellphone number,” The Verge, Sept. 4, 2017; https://www.theverge .com/2017/9/4/16251304/kfc-china-alipayant-financial-smile-to-pay, accessed Sept. 5, 2017.

[48] A. Hawkins, “KFC China is using facial recognition tech to serve customers – but are they buying it?,” The Guardian, Jan. 11, 2017; https://www.theguardian .com/ technology/2017/jan/11/china-beijingfirst-smart-restaurant-kfc-facial-recognition, accessed Sept. 11, 2017.

[49] C. Perakslis and R. Wolk, “Social acceptance of RFID as a biometric security method,” in Proc. 2005 Int. Symp. Technology and Society, Weapons and Wires: Prevention and Safety in a Time of Fear, pp. 79-87.

[50] K. Johnston, K. Michael, and M.G. Michael, “Consumer awareness in Australia on the prospect of humancentric RFID Implants for personalised applications,” presented at. ICMB ’07 (Toronto, Canada), 2007; kmichael/149/.

[51] EDRI-gram, “Survey on chip implants in Germany,” Digital Civil Rights in Europe, Mar. 10, 2010; edrigram/number8.5/study-human-chipsgermany.

[52] A. Donoghue “CeBIT: Quarter Of Germans happy to have chip implants,” Silicon, Mar. 10, 2010; http://www.silicon by=59a906c7671db8300a8b46f4, accessed Sept. 1, 2017.

[53] K. Michael and M.G. Michael, Survey conducted Jan. 2013; results not yet analyzed.

[54] K. Michael, and M.G. Michael, Survey conducted Oct. 2013; results not yet published.

[55] R. Boden, “Half of Brits expect to replace cash with new technologies,” NFC World, Aug. 28, 2015; https://www.nfcworld .com/2015/08/28/337345/half-of-britsexpect-to-replace-cash-with-new-technologies/, accessed Sept. 1, 2017.

[56] PWC, “Workforce of the future: The competing forces shaping 2030,” PWC’s People and Organisation Practice, http://www, accessed Sept. 1, 2017.

[57] E. Hannan and S. Fox Koob, “Worker chip implants ‘only matter of time’,” The Australian, .au/business/technology/worker-chip-implantsonly-matter-of-time/news-story/1f9f9317cc 84f365410a089566153f51, accessed Sept. 1, 2017.

[58] D. Powell, “Two thirds of workers open to “physical and mental augmentations” like microchips, but are there ethical issues?” Smartcompany, Aug. 4, 2017;

[59] C. Warzel, “I put a payment chip in my hand to replace my wallet,” BuzzFeed: The Future of Money, May. 21, 2016; continue=3&v=hTBJ6OIGkzc, accessed Nov. 20, 2017.

[60] M.G. Michael and K. Michael, “Resistance is not futile, nil desperandum,” IEEE Technology and Society Mag., pp. 10-13, Sept. 2015; stamp.jsp?arnumber=7270446.

[61] K. Michael, C. Perakslis, and M.G. Michael, “Microchip implants for employees in the workplace: Findings from a multicountry survey of small business owners,” in Surveillance in Everyday Life, Gavin Smith, Ed. University of Sydney, Feb. 20, 2012.

[62] C. Perakslis, K. Michael, M.G. Michael, and R. Gable, “Perceived barriers for implanting microchips in humans,” in Proc. 2014 IEEE Conf. on Norbert Wiener in the 21st Century (21CW), 2014.

[63] A. Heber, “A quarter of Australians are OK having a chip implanted in them to pay for stuff,” Business Insider, May 26, 2015; au/a-quarter-of-australians-are-ok-having-a-chipimplanted-in-them-to-pay-for-stuff-2015-5, accessed Nov 20, 2017.

Citation: Katina Michael, 2017, "Go “Get Chipped”: A Brief Overview of Non-Medical Implants between 2013-2017 (Part 2) ", IEEE Technology & Society  Magazine,, Vol. 36, No. 4,  pp. 6-12.


Go Get Chipped - Part 1

For over 20 years, MG Michael and I have been researching the social implications of microchipping people. In 1996 as part of a final year major project in my Bachelor of Information Technology degree at the University of Technology, Sydney, I researched the potential for government identifiers to be implanted in the human body, with supervisor Prof. Jenny Edwards [1].


Influenced greatly by the early works of Roger Clarke [2] and Simon Davies [3] in Australia, I became especially interested in “where to next?” A single image I had come across in the Library of Andersen Consulting headquarters in North Sydney while in my cooperative employment semester in April 1996, has stuck with me ever since. Depicted in a cartoon figure was the body of a man, with a computer “head.” No eyes, no ears, just a blank cathode ray tube (CRT). The headline of that report read: “The Human Metaphor” [4]. In December of that year I found myself working as a graduate engineer at Nortel Networks.

In 1997 Eduardo Kac became the first human to implant himself with a non-medical device in the performance art work titled “Time Capsule” [5]. After injecting an implant above his left ankle, Kac went on to register himself on a pet database. This performance piece was streamed live on the Internet. One year later in 1998 the company I worked for sponsored the Cyborg 1.0 project at the University of Reading and continued support for Cyborg 2.0, alongside Tumbleweed Communications, Computer Associates, and Fujitsu [6]. I learned of this cyborg project through the company's global hardcopy newspaper. I remember sitting at my desk turning to the back page and reading a short column about how implantables were destined to be our future. At the time I had begun a Ph.D. on the topic of “Smart Card Innovation in Government Applications,” but quickly redirected my focus to holistically study major automatic identification innovations, inclusive of chip implants. Dr. Ellen McGee and Dr. Gerald Q. Maguire, Jr., had begun to research ethical and policy issues around implantable brain chips as early as 2001, but I was more preoccupied in how this technology could be used for everyday banking and telecommunications applications as a blackbox implantable in the arm or upper torso.

Prof. Kevin Warwick had become the first academic to be implanted with a cylindrical transponder that not only identified him but also located him in his building [7]. After rigging up the corridors of the Cybernetics Department at the University of Reading, an interactive map would locate Warwick as he walked throughout the building. His office was also rigged up with readers, so that his presence was somewhat ambient — as he walked into the room, the lights would switch on and his computer would turn on to his favorite webpage. In 1999 British Telecom's Peter Cochrane wrote Tips for Time Travellers in which he described a microchip implant akin to something he noted would be a “soul catcher chip” [8]. The year Cochrane's monograph was published, the Auto-ID Center consortium at M.I.T. formally began research on the “Internet of Things,” a term coined by former Procter and Gamble assistant brand manager, Kevin Ashton [9]. Cyborg 2.0 followed on March 14, 2002, when Warwick had a one hundred electrode array surgically implanted into the median nerve fibers of his left arm [10]. Here Warwick showed the potential of brain-to-computer interfaces (BCI) but also the potential of brain-to-brain interfaces (BBI). During this whole period, I was busy working on projects related to telecommunications deregulation across Asia, seeing firsthand the right angle turn from voice to data, and the explosion of mobile telephony and later 3G mobile infrastructure. The world was changing rapidly and I knew I had to finish my Ph.D. as soon as possible. As chance would have it, I headed for academia.

Post the crash, we were all shocked by scenes such as those of September 11, 2001. It did not take long for people to emphasize the importance of security, and how to address risk on a large scale. Companies like Applied Digital Solutions [11], and later VeriChip Corporation [12] and Positive ID [13], described the potentiality of a unique ID being embedded in the right tricep. This was no myth. Applied Digital Solutions received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for a personal health record identifier in 2004 [14]. The CEO of the VeriChip Corporation (and later PositiveID), Scott Silverman, pointed to the many benefits of such an implantable. He noted the possibility of such a device being tethered to an electronic bracelet being able to help first responders get out of hopeless situations, like a burning tower that was about to collapse. There were 2996 people killed and more than 6000 others wounded in the September 11 attacks. Silverman emphasized the potential for saving people who were incapacitated and could not tell first responders about their condition [15]. Situations could range from people having an allergy to penicillin, diabetics requiring insulin, or even wander alerts for those suffering from dementia. VeriChip was successful in some high profile chippings, such as New Mexico's Attorney General Rafael Macedo and some of his staff [16], in addition to the Baja Beach club chain in both Rotterdam and Barcelona [17], and later in the small number of voluntary employee chippings at [18].

Apart from my thesis in 2003 [19], numerous papers written by academics became available on the chipping phenomenon in 2004 [20], and 2005 [21], including a landmark monograph titled SpyChips [22] written by Dr. Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre. There were several attempts to chip Alzheimer's patients at aged care facilities in 2007, which did not go ahead en masse [23]. Christine Perakslis and the late Robert Wolk wrote pioneering papers on microchipping humans after the VeriChip was FDA approved [24]. In the same year, the EU Opinion N° 20 on “Ethical Aspects of ICT Implants in the Human Body” was published, written by The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE) chaired by the Swedish philosopher, Göran Hermerén, and adopted on March 16, 2005 [25]. Among the Group were Professors Rafael Capurro and the late Stefano Rodotà.

For the greater part of the mid 2000s and later, we observed a growing number of biohackers who chose to dabble in “DIY” (do-it-yourself) implantable technology. The Tagged Forum was set up to accommodate fellow tinkerers at the beginning 2006, which became the “go” to” place for learning about how to tinker with RFID implants and what applications to build with them. The Forum soon attracted more attention than it cared for, and was targeted with posts proclaiming members were heralding in the “mark of the beast.” As a result, The Tagged went underground, so they could be left alone to continue tinkering. Building on cross-disciplinary study from as far back as the 1980s [26], MG Michael coined the term “uberveillence” in 2006 denoting embedded surveillance devices, while teaching at the University of Wollongong [27]. An entry on uberveillance later appeared in the Macquarie Dictionary in 2008 [28], proliferating quickly across the web including in The New York Times [29]. In that same year, Pawel Rotter et al. published their paper titled: “RFID implants: Opportunities and challenges for identifying people” in IEEE Technology and Society Magazine (vol. 27, no. 2).

In 2007 M.G. Michael interviewed Professor Kevin Warwick [30], and biomedical device expert Professor Christopher Toumazou, Director of the Biomedical Institute at Imperial College London [31]. Among the popular implantees of that time were Amal Graafstra, Jonathan Oxer and Mikey Skylar. Graafstra was the author of RFID Toys, and was featured in an IEEE Spectrum issue in 2007 [32]. We invited him as a speaker to the IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society in 2010 [33] which was dedicated to implantables, and co-wrote a paper on implants published in the Proceedings of the conference [34]. An excellent debate on the future of microchipping people using RFID was chaired at ISTAS'10 by William A. Herbert [45]. Months prior to ISTAS'10, I interviewed both the IT Manager responsible for creating the e-payment application at Baja Beach Club [35], and the consultant to [36]. These primary interviews formed key foundations into the larger inquiry. By 2009 [37] and 2014 [38], Michael and Michael had authored and co-edited large reference volumes on the social implications of chip implants and dozens of peer reviewed research papers with colleagues and students at UOW (e.g., [39]). In between these two studies, Dr. Mark Gasson had also co-edited and excellent Springer publication in 2012, on Human ICT Implants: Technical, Legal and Ethical Considerations [40]. He was the General Chair of ISTAS'10 at the University of Wollongong, and presented a paper on the potential for humans bearing implants to become infected with a computer virus [41]. At this time, it was clear that IEEE SSIT was drawing in specialists not just in cross-disciplinary fields, but also encouraging proponents of the technology to consider the sociotechnical implications.

In mid-August 2017, I returned from the outstanding IEEE Sections Congress 2017 that was hosted in the International Convention Center in Sydney. I cannot speak highly enough of this event. I presented as part of a panel chaired by SSIT Past President Greg Adamson on “Addressing Social Challenges to Technology” and spoke on the attention that non-medical implantables have received in recent times when compared with the previous decade. Out of the 50+ people present in the room only 4 people raised their hands when I asked the question “would anyone in this room get chipped” [42]? It is important to note that all of the people present were tech-savvy, many of them were entrepreneurs, working in industry or in academia. I contrasted this figure with the very unbelievable figures cited in The Australian that said a survey of 10 000 Pricewater-houseCoopers employees across major economies found 70 per cent would consider using “treatments to enhance their brain and body if this improved their employment prospects” [43]. I made the point that we need to challenge such “claims.” I also made the point that IEEE SSIT has been working in the emerging technology domain asking critical questions since its creation and has had much to do with the study of medical and non-medical embedded devices. That for us as SSIT members, speaking on emerging technologies is not new, and researching them using a plethora of approaches is something we are entirely comfortable with — legal, technical, societal, economic, etc. [44]. I urged people in the room to become members of SSIT, to bring their expertise to such urgent subject areas, to discuss the pros and cons, and add know-how where it was needed — e.g. spectrum, regulatory, health, business, etc. In the December 2017 issue of T&S Magazine, I will continue with a Part 2 to this editorial covering progress in the implantables domain since 2013 urging members to construct projects that will further interrogate the complexities of our technological trajectory.

We should remember and celebrate the contributions of our members and non-members to our Magazine, our annual conference and workshops, specific projects, and papers. Please search our corpus of outcomes on our upgraded web site which now contains a lot of free material, cite them in the future, and challenge people when they tell you that “x” or “y” is “brand new” or “has never been researched before.” It is a golden opportunity to connect people to SSIT, and bring in new expertise and volunteers to focus on our Five Pillars. We must know ourselves better, if we are to expect others to know who we are and what we stand for.


1. K. Michael, The future of government identifiers, Sydney, Australia:School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, University of Technology, Nov. 1996.
2. R. Clarke, "Information technology and dataveillance", Commun. ACM, vol. 31, no. 5, pp. 498-512, 1988.
3. S. Davies, Big Brother: Australia's Growing Web of Surveillance, East Roseville, NSW:Simon & Schuster, 1992.
4. R. Tren, "Trends in the cards industry", Andersen Consulting, pp. 1-99, 1995.
5. E. Kac, "Event in which a microchip (identification transponder tag) was implanted in the artist's left ankle" in Time Capsule, São Paulo, Brazil:Casa das Rosas Cultural Center, 1997, [online] Available:
6. K. Warwick, M. Gasson, B. Hutt et al., "The application of implant technology for cybernetic systems", Arch Neurol., vol. 60, no. 10, pp. 1369-1373, 2003.
7. K. Michael, E. Lawrence, J. Lawrence, S. Newton, S. Dann, B. Corbitt, T. Thanasankit, "The automatic identification trajectory" in Internet Commerce: Digital Models for Business, Australia:Wiley, pp. 131-134, 2002.
8. P. Cochrane, Tips for Time Travelers, McGraw-Hill, pp. 7-57, 1999.
9. About the lab, Auto-ID Labs, [online] Available:
10. Kevin Warwick, Project Cyborg 2.0: The next step towards true Cyborgs?, [online] Available:
11. J. Lettice, "First people injected with ID chips sales drive kicks off", The Register, [online] Available:
12. K. Albrecht, "Implantable RFID chips: Human branding", CASPIAN, [online] Available:
13. Positive ID, Wikipedia, [online] Available:
14. Medical devices; general hospital and personal use devices; Classification of implantable radiofrequency transponder system for patient identification and health information, Department of Health and Human Services: FDA, [online] Available:
15. "Implantable personal verification systems", ADSX, [online] Available:
16. Mexican officials get chipped, Wired, [online] Available:
17. K. Michael, M.G. Michael, "The diffusion of RFID implants for access control and epayments: A case study on Baja Beach Club in Barcelona", Proc. IEEE Int. Symp. Technology and Society, pp. 242-252, 2010.
18. K. Michael, MG Michael, "The future prospects of embedded microchips in humans as unique identifiers: The risks versus the rewards", Media Culture and Society, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 78-86, 2013.
19. K. Michael, The technological trajectory of the automatic identification industry: the application of the systems of innovation (SI) framework for the characterisation and prediction of the auto-ID industry, 2003.
20. K. Michael, MG Michael, "Microchipping people: The rise of the electrophorus", Quadrant, vol. 49, no. 3, pp. 22-33, Mar. 2005.
21. K. Michael, A. Masters, "Applications of human transponder implants in mobile commerce", Proc. 8th World Multiconterence on Systemics Cybernetics and Informatics, pp. 505-512, Jul. 2004.
 Show Context  
22. K. Albrecht, L. McIntyre, "Spychips: How major corporations and government plan to track your every purchase and watch your every move" in Nelson Current, Nashville, TN:, 2005.
23. "Alzheimer's patients lining up for microchip", ABC News, [online] Available:
24. C. Perakslis, R. Wolk, "Social acceptance of RFID as a biometric security method", Proc. Int. Symp. Technology and Society, pp. 79-87, 2005.
25. Ethical aspects of ICT implants in the human body: Opinion presented to the Commission by the European Group on Ethics, [online] Available:
26. M.G. Michael, "Demystifying the number of the beast in the Book of Revelation: Examples of ancient cryptology and the interpretation of the “666” conundrum", Proc. IEEE Int. Symp. Technology and Society, pp. 23-41, 2010.
27. M.G. Michael, "On the virth of Uberveillance",, [online] Available:
28. M.G. Michael, K. Michael, S. Butler, "Uberveillance" in Fifth Edition of the Macquarie Dictionary, Australia's National Dictionary, Sydney University, pp. 1094, 2009.
29. Schott's Vocab, Uberveillance, The New York Times, [online] Available:
30. M.G. Michael, Kevin Warwick, The Professor who has touched the future, Feb. 2007, [online] Available:
31. M.G. Michael, Christofer Toumazou, The biomedical pioneer, Oct. 2006, [online] Available:
32. A. Graafstra, "Hands on - How RFID and I got personal", IEEE Spectrum, [online] Available:
33. A. Graafstra, Invited Presentation on RFID Implants IEEE ISTAS '10, [online] Available: https.//
34. A. Graafstra, K. Michael, M.G. Michael, K. Michael, "Social-technical issues facing the humancentric RFID implantee sub-culture through the eyes of Amal Graafstra", Proc. IEEE Symp. on Technology and Society, pp. 498-516, 2010.
35. K. Michael, Serafin Vilaplana, The Baja Beach Club IT Manager;, [online] Available:
36. K. Michael, Gary Retherford, The microchip implant consultant, [online] Available:
37. K. Michael, M.G. Michael, Innovative Automatic Identification and Location-Based Services: From Bar Codes to Chip Implants., Hershey, PA: IGI, 2009.
38. M.G. Michael, K. Michael, Uberveillance and the Social Implications of Microchip Implants: Emerging Technologies., Hershey, PA:IGI, 2013.
39. A. Friggieri, K. Michael, M.G. Michael, "The legal ramifications of micro-chipping people in the United States of America-A state legislative comparison", Proc. IEEE Int. Symp. Technology and Society, pp. 1-8, 2009.
40. M.N. Gasson, E. Kosta, D.M. Bowman, Human ICT Implants: Technical Legal and Ethical Considerations, The Hague, The Netherlands: Springer, 2012.
41. M.N. Gasson, "Human enhancement: Could you become infected with a computer virus?", Proc. IEEE Int. Symp. Technology and Society, pp. 61-68, 2010.
42. K. Michael, "The pros and cons of implantables", IEEE Sections Congress 2017, Aug. 2017, [online] Available:
43. E. Hannan, S. Fox Koob, "Worker chip implants ‘only matter of time’", theaustralian com, Aug. 2017, [online] Available:
44. Jeremy Pitt, This Pervasive Day: The Potential and Perils of Pervasive Computing, London, U.K.:World Scientific, 2012.
45. "The debate over microchipping people with ICT implants", IEEE ISTAS 2010 @ UOW - Panel Discussion YouTube, Mar. 2011, [online] Available:


implants, Radiofrequency identification, Mobile communication, National security, Surveillance, Integrated circuits

Citation: Katina Michael, 2017, "Go Get Chipped?: A Brief Overview of Non-Medical Implants between 1997-2013 (Part 1)", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 36(3), pp. 6-9.

Novel NFC Applications

Novel NFC Applications to Enrich Our Connections

The NFC Forum Innovation Awards


One of the greatest judging experiences I have had the good fortune of being a part of was for the Near-Field Communication (NFC) Forum Innovation Award in its inaugural year [1]. (I was representing the IEEE Council on Radio-Frequency Identification.) The NFC Forum’s ( mission is to advance the use of NFC technology by developing specifications, ensuring interoperability among devices and services, and educating the market about NFC technology.

The forum’s global member companies are currently developing specifications for a modular NFC device architecture and protocols for interoperable data exchange and device-independent service delivery, device discovery, and device capability. Unsurprisingly, sponsors of the NFC Forum are tech giants like Apple, Broadcom Corporation, Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd., Google, Intel, MasterCard Worldwide, NXP Semiconductors, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony Corporation, STMicroelectronics, and Visa. NFC is being viewed as a key piece of the Internet of Things puzzle. Versatile and easy to implement, estimates are that it will be a US$21.8 billion industry by 2020, on the conservative side [2], with exponential growth expected by 2050 into an industry worth trillions of dollars.

The forum had a large contingent of international entrants for a variety of categories, including “Most Innovative NFC Product, Service, or Implementation,” “Best Mobile App,” and “Best NFC Startup” (see “The NFC Forum Innovation Award Winners by Category”). There were nine judges in all, including Allied Business Intelligence Senior Analyst Phil Sealy, Groupe Speciale Mobile (GSM) Association Terminals Director Paul Gosden, and The Smart Card Alliance Executive Director Randy Vanderhoof, and we all went through several rounds of judging.

Top honors went to Speech Code’s “Talking Labels,” Khushi Baby’s “Mobile Medical App,” and Dimple’s “Customizable Mobile Button Stickers” at the NFC Forum awards ceremony in Las Vegas, Nevada, on 14 March 2017. Entries were judged on their innovation, commercial potential, and usability as well as on the quality of design and implementation. The beauty of this competition from a judge’s eyes was that every entrant was so different in aim and objectives, design, implementation, and final product. In most cases, NFC was being described as a part of a larger process, a single component of a system acting as the key enabler.

There were entrants touting NFC in novel agricultural applications, factory or manufacturing automation, or services driven with consumer information access as the primary goal. Submissions ranged across a broad set of industries from the connected home, smart health, smart consumer, and automotive to Internet of Things, gaming, connected retail, and transportation. In one case study, an entrant pointed to the tens of thousands of end users of its implementation in the transportation industry, demonstrating not only that take-up has been well established but that NFC has been around for longer than people might think. The value in such competitions is that they pull members of the economic knowledge infrastructure closer together toward collaborative opportunities and common standardization that should see an emerging technology with enough support mechanisms to reach its full potential in the market [3].

According to the chair of the NFC Forum, Koichi Tagawa, “In today’s increasingly connected world, NFC offers a tap-based experience that simplifies, enriches, and improves our daily lives. Since it is easy to implement, developers and product designers are turning to NFC to enable the Internet of Things and deliver compelling, personalized user experiences.” This does beg the question whether or not there are any limits to NFC development and deployment.

It is such a versatile technology and integratable to just about anything. I have, though, been the first to question its application in certain market segments, including the financial sector, given the lack of emphasis being applied by the credit card industry at large to security of current tap-and-go solutions plaguing some local merchants. Yet, it is a sign of the times, perhaps, when embeddable NFC in humans for Bitcoin transactions is a legitimate registered entrant in a competition such as this one. We should be ready to witness anything imaginable to the free mind to enter the market. End users seem to like the ease of conducting transactions with NFC, even if they do not fully understand the implications of doing so.

Most Innovative NFC Product, Service or Implementation

The first-place winner in the “Most Innovative NFC Product, Service, or Implementation” category was Speech Code GmbH (Austria) (Figure 1) for its NFC talking labels, which enable up to 30 min of recorded speech in over 40 languages from stickers adhered to signage, food and beverage packaging, and retail products. Using NFC tags to enable speech output, the talking labels make it easy for people with disabilities, retail shoppers, or tourists to use their NFC-enabled phones to get important product information, such as food allergy and nutrition facts, as well as identification information for the visually impaired. This Austria-based company has won a string of past awards and has a vibrant female chief executive officer, Barbara Operschall, who is passionate about the tourism sector.

Figure 1. Speech Code GmbH (Austria) submitted a device that uses NFC tags to enable speech output, making it easy for people with disabilities, retail shoppers, or tourists to use their NFC-enabled phones to get important product information. (Image courtesy of Speech Code and NFC Forum.)

Best Mobile App

The first-place winner in the “Best Mobile App” category was Khushi Baby, Inc. (United States) for its NFC wearable health mobile application, which uses NFC mobile technology to enable health workers in India to interface with infant medical data through an NFC-tag-enabled digital necklace (Figure 2). Unlike paper immunization records that are difficult to maintain and access, clinicians can use NFC-enabled mobile devices and the Khushi Baby, or happy baby, mobile app to read the infant’s wearable necklace, identify which vaccinations are needed, upload the vaccine data into the cloud, and monitor the infant in real time. Modeled after amulet necklaces frequently worn by babies in this region, the waterproof, battery-free, digital necklace is ideal for use in rural communities, using low-power wireless technology for its operation.

It is easy to see how this mobile app might well be implemented for MedicAlert-style bracelets of various types in different kinds of markets. But underlying care applications are always the dominant factor of control. Stringent guidelines must ensure that the data gathered by the wearable device are not used retrospectively in nonmedical contexts. There also need to be regulatory guidelines introduced on how long the device is worn by infants and how the gathered data will be archived and who has access to the information and for how long.

If the Aadhaar multimodal biometric system is anything to judge by, emerging technologies in India are often deployed before the commensurate consumer protections are The beauty of this competition from a judge’s eyes was that every entrant was so different in aim and objectives, design, implementation, and final product. Of course, Khushi Baby has the best interests of children at heart, their care and hope for a better life, supporting health workers in their aims, but it is amazing how scope creep can easily pervade emerging technologies. Placing chips in bracelets or just about any other common fashion item can be a temptation for product developers who see potential for even greater functional applications [4]. Still, I am inspired by how daring Indian innovators are in pushing next-generation cell phone applications out to the public. Having traveled through India several times in the last few years, I have seen the vibrant tech sector, which is definitely thinking outside the box. But I am admittedly cautious with any application of technology that can be used to sort groups of people, independent of age, gender, and market. I would much prefer to see Indian innovators create their own mobile applications for their own communities in the longer term.

Figure 2. The device created by Khushi Baby, Inc. (United States) enables health workers in India to interface with infant medical data through an NFC-tag-enabled digital necklace. (Images courtesy of Khushi Baby, Inc.)

Best NFC Startup

The first-place winner in the “Best NFC Startup” category was Dimple, Inc. (Latvia) for its NFC-tag-based programmable buttons that personalize and streamline a user’s daily tasks (Figure 3). The highly customizable NFC sticker comes with two or four shortcut buttons that can be adhered to the back of an NFC-enabled device. From speed dialing, launching a flashlight, or other most-used apps, to creating an extra play button or controlling smart home controls, Dimple offers endless personalized options using the phone’s own energy. Now, that is innovative stuff!

Let’s try and make next year’s competition even bigger, better, and stronger. I urge more companies to enter into as many categories as they are eligible. Do not rush the process or rehash your ready-made marketing materials, but spend time to address the various NFC Forum criteria. The entrants who were clearly ahead of the game were those that had a fully functional system/app with real end users and could convey the social benefits with tangible evidence. I was personally struck by the effort of startups to get going in this growing market. Many hundreds of hours of energy were exerted, and the passion came through. Keep up the great work, and remember to remain customer focused. The returns will follow with time. Congratulations to all those who participated in the competition.


1. NFC industry customer experience and product design leaders share 2017 outlook and predictions on NFC technology, Dec. 2016, [online] Available:

2. Near field communication market worth 21.84 billion USD by 2020, Mar. 2017, [online] Available:

3. K. Michael, M. G. Michael, Innovative Automatic Identification and Location-Based Services: From Bar Codes to Chip Implants, Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2009.
4. Back to Undithal Khushi Baby, July 2014, [online] Available:


Awards, Mobile communication, Speech coding, Technological innovation

Citation: Katina Michael, "Novel NFC Applications to Enrich Our Connections", IEEE Consumer Electronics Magazine, July, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp. 118-121, 2017.

Not So Fast (book review)


Not So Fast: Thinking Twice about Technology. By Doug Hill. Univ. of Georgia Press, Oct. 15, 2016, 240 pp.

In 2014, I had the good fortune of meeting Doug Hill in the flesh at the first IEEE Conference on Norbert Wiener in the 21st Century ( It was one of the highlights of the conference for me. I was attracted to Doug because of his outward simplicity but at the same time deep inner profundity. It did not take long for us to get talking of our mutual interests. For instance, we've both been influenced greatly by the French philosopher, sociologist and lay theologian Jacques Ellul [1], popularly known for The Technological Society (1964) [2], [3]. Hill is an investigative journalist by training, an award winning writer [4], with a specialization on the philosophy of technology.

In Not So Fast, Hill wastes no time in getting his point across. Chapter 1 opens: “Let me begin by stating the obvious: We live in an era of technological enthusiasm.” In his book, Hill attempts the impossible and pulls it off. He hits us with the hard facts, one after the other. And we can either take his word for it, or refute him page after page, until we realize, that the evidence is overwhelmingly stacked against us. In effect, Hill tells us “where we are at” with all this techno-deluge, even if we don't wish to admit it. He makes a point of highlighting the technological utopianism we have begun to believe and dream about, only to bring us down crashing the very next moment with the startling realities.

“Lively, fast moving, always entertaining,’Not So Fas’ offers a grand overview of the extravagant hopes and dire warnings that accompany the arrival of powerful new technologies. Blending the key ideas of classic and contemporary thinkers, Doug Hill explores the aspirations of those who strive for the heavens of artifice and those who find the whole enterprise a fool’s errand. This is the most engaging, readable work on the great debates in technology criticism now available and a solid contribution to that crucial yet unsettling tradition.”

—Langdon Winner, author of Autonomous Technology: Technics-out-of-Control as a Theme in Political Thought; Professor, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

The book contains quotes from people we all look up to in the tech and business world, representing thousands of hours of research to craftily support the central thesis: “not so fast.” Hill proclaims in no uncertain words, that we have lost control over the very creations we have built to make life better for us. Somewhere along the way we have become emotionally attached to our technologies; rather than being extensions of us, it seems we have become extensions of them.

But for Hill. it's not all about the bling, and high-tech gadgetry. For Hill, it is more than being enslaved into a life of upgrades, although he does question the practices of Silicon Valley - the preoccupation of building the ultimate immortal man who can live forever through AI and some sort of fantastical Singularity [5], [6]. Hill doesn't just stop there. He looks for the underlying causes to why our climate has changed so detrimentally, the very processes that didn't begin with the introduction of smartphones or social media, but of events from hundreds of years ago. Indirectly, Hill entices the reader to scratch beneath the surface and think about the “how” and “why.”

In a somewhat prophetic voice, Hill arrives at the conclusion that if we are going to reverse things that we might as well begin now. What he's really talking about is the mystery of technology. Hill doesn't shun its value but he declares that we have to put it in its place, before it puts us in a place of no return. His is a voice of one crying in the wilderness, but he is not alone. The reader, no sooner reads a few more of Hill's chapters, and finds herself admitting what she's always known: “Technology doesn't always mean progress. In fact, sometimes it has some very ugly intended and unintended consequences.” In short, we gotta be alert and awake. But even more than that!

Hill digs deep and unravels the inherent qualities of technology, and proceeds to make us aware of the happenings around us [7]. Readers will be all the more enlightened to learn about some of Hill's conclusions, through practical examples in everyday life:

  1. The technological imperative. “Our entire way of life - the social fabric in which we live - is utterly, completely dependent on technology,” says Hill. “To free ourselves of that dependence would be so disruptive that economic and social chaos would result.”

  2. Technological momentum. “There's a simpler reason technologies become intractable: it's too hard to change them. We're stuck with the infrastructure we have,” Hill says. “For example, it's not easy to replace a city's sewer system from scratch.”

  3. Convergence and diffusion. “Technologies are communicable; they spread like viruses. They converge with other technologies and diffuse into unexpected areas,” says Hill. “Bronze casting methods first used to make church bells were soon used to make canons, for example. Today automation techniques - robots - are diffusing daily into ever-more industries and applications, from assembly of everything from cars and smartphones to the handling of banking transactions.”

  4. Speed. “Regulation is slow; technologies are fast,” says Hill. “So it is that governments are frequently unable to effectively control technological development. Hundreds of companies today are feverishly working to exploit the commercial potential of nanotechnology and synthetic biology, for example, despite the fact that no one is certain either technology is safe.”


“This is the technology criticism I’ve been waiting for - aware of the history of technology criticism and the history of changing attitudes toward technology, and at the same time attuned to contemporary developments. Not So Fast is readable, meticulously sourced, and, above all - nuanced. I recommend it for technology critics and enthusiasts alike.”

—Howard Rheingold, Internet pioneer and author of Tools for Thought, The Virtual Community, Smart Mobs, and “Net Smart”

In his conclusion, Hill isn't very optimistic about where we are at and he certainly doesn't give us any tangible or pragmatic ways to combat the predicament that society finds itself in. And yet, perhaps that has left the door open to a sequel, possibly about a resurgence in technology assessment, about the importance of resistance, and breaking with the belief that technology can do no evil.

Is the path we are on, really that irreversible? Are we headed down a road of inevitabilities, locked-in on auto-pilot? Or are there strategies we might be able to employ right now, as interlinked local communities that make up a collective global consciousness? We have the power, are we willing participants? How much do we care about the future to get involved?

Hill warns: “There's more to turning off machines than hitting a switch… We are deeply, intimately tied to our technologies, in all sorts of practical and emotional ways. To give them up would be literally life-threatening. That's why many experts believe our technologies have become'autonomous.’”

I give this book 5 stars not only because it is masterfully written - the reader feels like they have known Hill for years, a faint voice in the back of their head reaffirming truisms - but because it reveals socio-technical patterns and trends happening all round us. Hill also makes observations about things that others would at best say to leave alone.

“Doug Hill’s insights into technology are both original and profound. I’ve travelled in the highest reaches of the tech world for more than twenty years, and I still learned much from this book. He will be recognized as a leading thinker on technology and its impact on our world. In an industry that too seldom stops to think through the implications of the products we produce, his is a voice we need to hear.”

—Allen Noren, vice president of online, O’Reilly Media

It's time for those brave conversations, about technology in our homes and our schools, about technology in our industrial and military sectors, about what we should be pooling our resources into to ensure environmental sustainability, and about what should be better left alone. Whether hype or hope, we've embraced a pseudo-truth, that our human salvation will come from technology, abandoning myths 2000 years old.

And while Hill does not make reference to this specifically, I think we are unashamedly worshipping at the foot of technology, believing this will be our ultimate destiny, our chance to live forever on earth. And yet, our sensibilities should tell us that eternal life on earth, would be not unlike living in an endless loop, and as spiritual beings, get us nowhere. I return back to those fundamental human principles, are we bettering ourselves, our nature, because we are surrounded by so much technology, or are we just becoming less able to discern the good from the bad, the useful from the useless. And who or what is behind that wheel driving us to our destinies? It's time to get back in control.

Citation: Katina Michael, 2017, Book Review on Doug Hill's "Not So Fast", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 36(2), pp. 24-26.

Socio-Ethical Implications of Implantable Technologies in the Military Sector


The military sector has been investing in nanotechnology solutions since their inception. Internal assessment committees in defense programmatically determine to what degree complex technologies will be diffused into the Armed Forces. The broad term nanotechnology is used in this Special Issue of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine to encompass a variety of innovations, from special paint markers that can determine unique identity, to RFID implants in humans. With the purported demand for these new materials, we have seen the development of a fabrication process that has catapulted a suite of advanced technologies in the military marketplace. These technologies were once the stuff of science fiction. Now we have everything from exoskeletons, to wearable headsets with accelerated night vision, to armaments that have increased in durability in rugged conditions along with the ability for central command without human intervention. Is this the emergence of the so-called supersoldier, a type of Iron Man?

Nanotechnology in the Military Sector

The military sector has been investing in nanotechnology solutions since their inception. Internal assessment committees in defense programmatically determine to what degree complex technologies will be diffused into the Armed Forces. The broad term nanotechnology is used in this Special Issue of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine to encompass a variety of innovations, from special paint markers that can determine unique Identity, to RFID implants in humans. With the purported demand for these new materials, we have seen the development of a fabrication process that has catapulted a suite of advanced technologies in the military marketplace. These technologies were once the stuff of science fiction. Now we have everything from exoskeletons, to wearable headsets with accelerated night vision, to armaments that have increased in durability in rugged conditions along with the ability for central command without human intervention. Is this the emergence of the so-called super-soldier, a type of Iron Man?

Social Implications: Key Questions

This special issue is predominantly based on proceedings coming from the 9th Workshop on the Social Implications of National Security, co-convened by the authors of this guest editorial. The workshop focused specifically on human-centric implantable technologies in the military sector. Key questions the workshop sought to address with respect to implants included:

  • What are the social implications of new proposed security technologies?
  • What are the rights of soldiers who are contracted to the defense forces in relation to the adoption of the new technologies?
  • Does local military law override rights provided under the rule of law in a given jurisdiction, and 1 what are the legal implications?
  • What might be some of the side effects experienced by personnel in using nanotechnology devices that have not yet been tested under conditions of war and conflict?
  • How pervasive are nanotechnologies and microelectronics (e.g., implantable technologies) in society at large?

Recommended Reading

More broadly the workshop sought to examine socio-ethical implications with respect to citizenry, the social contract formed with the individual soldier, and other stakeholders such as industry suppliers to government, government agencies, and the Armed Forces [1].

  • F. Allhoff, P. Lin, D. Moore, What is Nanotechnology and why does it matter? From Science to Ethics, West Sussex, Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
  • S.J. Florczyk and S. Saha, “Ethical issues in nanotechnology,” J. Long-Term Effects of Medical Implants, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 107-113,2007.
  • A. Krishnan, Military Neuroscience and the Coming of Neurowarfare, London, Routledge, 2017.
  • K. Michael, “Socio-ethical Implications of the Bionic Era”, Academy of Science in Australia,, Shine Dome, Canberra, 25/05/17.
  • R.A. Miranda, W.D. Casebeer, A.M. Hein, J.W. Judy, E.P. Krotkov, T.L. Laabs, J.E. Manzo, K.G. Pankratz, G.A. Pratt, J.C. Sanchez, D.J. Weber, T.L. Wheeler, G.S.F. Ling, “DARPA-funded efforts in the development of novel brain-computer interface technologies,” Journal of Neuroscience Methods, vol. 244,, 2015.
  • M. Murphy, “The US Military Is Developing Brain Implants to Boost Memory and Heal PTSD,” Defense One, 2015;, 17/11/15.
  • M. Orcutt, “DARPA's New Neural Implant Has a Sneaky Way of Getting Inside Heads,” M.I.T. Tech. Rev., 2016;, 09/02/16.
  • D. Ratner, M. Ratner, New Weapons for New Wars: Nanotechnology and Homeland Security, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 2004.
  • P.S. Saha and S. Saha, “Clinical trials of medical devices and implants: Ethical concerns,” IEEE Eng. Med. & Biol. Mag., vol. 7, pp. 86–87, 1988.
  • S. Saha and P. Saha, “Biomedical ethics and the biomedical engineer: A review,” Critical Reviews in Biomedical Eng., vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 163–201, 1988.
  • P. Tucker, “The Military Is Building Brain Chips to Treat PTSD,” The Atlantic, 2014;, 29/05/2014.

DARPA's RAM Project

In 2012, the U.S. military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) confirmed plans to create nanosensors to monitor the health of soldiers on battlefields [2]. In 2014, ExtremeTech [3] reported on a 2013 DARPA project titled the “Restoring Active Memory (RAM) Project.” Ultimately the aim of RAM was:

“to develop a prototype implantable neural device that enables recovery of memory in a human clinical population. Additionally, the program encompasses the development of quantitative models of complex, hierarchical memories and exploration of neurobiological and behavioral distinctions between memory function using the implantable device versus natural learning and training” [4].

Several months later, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) published on their web site an article on how DARPA was developing wireless implantable brain prostheses for service members and veterans who had suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI) memory loss [5]. Quoting here from the article:

“Called neuroprotheses, the implant would help declarative memory, which consciously recalls basic knowledge such as events, times and places…”
“these neuroprosthetics will be designed to bridge the gaps in the injured brain to help restore that memory function… Our vision is to develop neuroprosthetics for memory recovery in patients living with brain injury and dysfunction.”
“The neuroprosthetics developed and tested over the next four years would be as a wireless, fully implantable neural-interface medical device for human clinical use.”

The U.S. DOD also noted that traumatic brain injury has affected about 270 000 U.S. service members since 2000, and another 1.7 million civilians. The DOD said that they would begin to focus their attention on service members first [6]. Essentially the program is meant to help military personnel with psychiatric disorders, using electronic devices implanted in the brain. Treated disorders range from depression, to anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder [7]. The bulk of the15 million) and the University of Pennsylvania ($22.5 million), in collaboration with the Minneapolis-based biomedical device company Medtronic [8].

More Information

Visual proceedings of the 9th Workshop on the Social Implications of National Security, including powerpoint presentations, are available [9]. The workshop was held during the 2016 IEEE Norbert Wiener Conference, at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Several DARPA-funded neurologists from the Vascular Bionics Laboratory at the University of Melbourne were invited to present at the workshop, including a team led by Thomas Oxley, M.D. [10]. (Oxley did not personally appear as he was in the U.S. on a training course related to intensive neurosurgical training.)

The military implantable technologies field at large is fraught with bioethical implications. Many of these issues were raised at the Workshop, and remain unanswered. If there is going to be a significant investment in advancing new technologies for soldiers suffering from depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the military, there needs to be commensurate funding invested to address unforeseen challenges. In fact, it is still unclear whether U.S. service members must accept participation in experimental brain research if asked, or if they can decline in place of other nonintrusive medical help.


1. K. Michael, "Mental Health Implantables and Side Effects", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 5-17.

2. B. Unruh, "U.S. Military Developing Spychips for Soldiers", WND, [online] Available:

3. S. Anthony, "US military begins work on brain implants that can restore lost memories experiences", ExtremeTech, [online] Available:

4. "Restoring Active Memory (RAM)", [online] Available:

5. T. M. Cronk, DARPA Developing Implants to Help with TBI Memory Loss, US Department of Defense.

6. T. M. Cronk, DARPA Developing Implants to Help with TBI Memory Loss, US Department of Defense.

7. John Hamilton, "Military Plans To Test Brain Implants To Fight Mental Disorders",, [online] Available:

8. Tanya Lewis, "US Military Developing Brain Implants to Restore Memory", LiveScience, [online] Available:

9. K. Michael, M.G. Michael, J.C. Galliot, R. Nicholls, "The Socio-Ethical Implications of Implantable Technologies in the Military Sector", The Ninth Workshop on the Social Implications of National Security (SINS16).

 10. "Minimally Invasive “Stentrode” Shows Potential as Neural Interface for Brain: Implantable device repurposes stent technology to enable direct recording from neurons",, [online] Available:


Citation: Katina Michael, M.G. Michael, Jai C. Galliot, Rob Nicholls, "Socio-Ethical Implications of Implantable Technologies in the Military Sector", 15 March 2017, Vol. 36, No. 1, pp. 7-9, 10.1109/MTS.2017.2670219.

IEEE Keywords: Special issues and sections, Military communication, Military technology, Implantable biomedical devices, Nanotechnology

INSPEC: ethical aspects, nanofabrication, night vision, radiofrequency identification, social sciences, implantable technologies socio-ethical implication, military sector, nanotechnology, internal assessment committee, RFID implant, fabrication process, military marketplace, night vision,durability, super-soldier

Gone Fishing

 Figure 1. Packing for a full month away. Everything but the kitchen sink.

Figure 1. Packing for a full month away. Everything but the kitchen sink.

On the 9th of December in 2015, I set out for a camping trip with my three young children to the Sapphire Coast of Australia, toward the New South Wales and Victorian border (Figure 1). The last time I had driven through this stunning part of the world, was when my parents decided to take their four children across country in a Ford Cortina station wagon to visit their first cousins on apricot and citrus farms in South Australia.

I turned eight years of age over that summer, and the memories of that trip are etched into our hearts. We've laughed countless times over events on that holiday, all of which were borne from a “lack of access” to technology, resulting in “close-ess” and “togetherness.” Loxton, South Australia, only had two television channels back then-the ABC news, and 5A which showed endless games and replays of cricket. While we grew to love cricket — we had no choice - we welcomed every opportunity to physically help our cousins gather fruit using nothing but ladders and our bare hands.

It was the festive season, and I remember lots and lots of family gatherings, parties, and outdoor lamb-spit barbecues. We gathered to eat, and dance, and our elders reminisced over what life was like in the village in Greece, and tell us funny stories about growing up with hardly any material possessions. Highlights included: when a photographer visited the village once every other year to take pictures with his humungous boxed contraption, which he would hide behind; the memory of the first time a car was spotted trying to come into the village; walking to school one hour away with shoes made out of goat skin (if not barefoot); and the harsh unheated winters and boiling hot summers over scenic Sparta.

It was a kind of celebration of life when I think back. It was so carefree, clean and pure, and joyous! Everyone lived in the moment. No one took pictures of their food to post to Instagram, no one had their head buried in front of a screen watching YouTube on demand, and we were outside in the fresh air awestruck by the beauty of the glistening stars that shone so bright in the night sky (and getting bitten by mosquitos while doing so). It was a kind of SnapChat without the “Snap.” On that trip I gained an appreciation for the land, and its importance in sustaining us as human beings.

As I reflect on that time, we travelled through remote parts of Australia with nothing but ourselves. We were too poor to stay at hotels, so dad ingeniously turned our station-wagon into a caravan, or so it seemed to us when the back seat folded forward and the travelling bags were placed on the roof rack secured with a blue tarpaulin.

 Figure 2. The great Australian outdoor toilet, proverbially known as a “dunny” Used in one camp site the kids endearingly nicknamed “Kalaru Poo.”

Figure 2. The great Australian outdoor toilet, proverbially known as a “dunny” Used in one camp site the kids endearingly nicknamed “Kalaru Poo.”

We had no mobile phone in the car, no portable wifi-enabled tablet, no gaming DS, and certainly no down-screen DVD player or in-car navigation system to interrupt the ebb and flow of a family confined to a small space for six weeks. Mum would put on a few Greek cassettes for us to sing along to (Dad's “best ofs” which he had dubbed from the radio), and we paid particular attention to the landscape and wildlife. Mum would tell stories nostalgically about the time before we were born and how she left her homeland at seventeen on her own. And dad would talk about the struggles of losing his mother just before the start of World War II, and how his schooling was interrupted in third class as towns were burned to the crisp by the invaders, and how lucky we were to have a chance at education in a peaceful nation. All the while my brother Arthur was pointing at how far we had driven with his AO mapliterally thousands of kilometres-which gave me a great sense of space and time that has stayed with me to this day. And of course, I do recollect the unforgettable chant of my little sister and big sister in near unison, “are we there yet?”

Last December 2015, after a demanding year in my various roles that included bi-monthly long-haul travel, I was determined to “shut down” the outside world, and give my children what my parents had given me, in all the same simplicity (Figure 2). I somehow needed to give my children my full attention for a four-week duration without a laptop in tow, ensuring that my body and mind would recover from the year that was. I knew I was drifting into overload in September 2015, when on one occasion, I found myself asking my husband which side of the road I should be driving on, even when I was in my home town.

 Figure 3. The most spectacular and secluded Nelson Beach down the trail of Nelson Lake Rd near Mogareeka, NSW.

Figure 3. The most spectacular and secluded Nelson Beach down the trail of Nelson Lake Rd near Mogareeka, NSW.

 Figure 4. My youngest walking near the most spectacular Wallagoot Gap. We spent the day out at this magical place, swimming with the fish.

Figure 4. My youngest walking near the most spectacular Wallagoot Gap. We spent the day out at this magical place, swimming with the fish.

When one loves life and what they do, it is easy to feel so energized that you don't feel the need to stop… but “stop” I did. I wanted to reconnect with the natural environment in a big way, with my kids, and my inner self. I found myself asking those deep questions about creation - who, what, when, how? What an incredible world we live in! How does it all work and hang together as it does? I felt so thankful. Thankful for my family, my friends, my work, nature, life, Australia. It is so easy to take it for granted.

Each day, we'd choose a different place to visit, not excluding unsealed roads that led to secluded beaches, lakes, and inlets (Figures 3 and 4). Every morning we were awakened by the birdlife - a strange creature would call out at 4:30 a.m. for about 15 minutes straight, and then give it a rest; spotted lizards a few meters long on the road, and lots of kangaroos coming out of hiding at dusk to socialize. While we swam we could see the fish in the sea (with and without snorkels), and we got to speak with complete strangers, feeling like we had all the time in the world to do so.

At historical places, we learned about indigenous people like “King Billy” of the Yuin clan who would often be seen walking unheard distances in the 1950s in the dense shrub between Jervis Bay and Eden − 300 km (Figure 5).


 Figure 5. The Yuin people (aka Thurga) are the Australian Aborigines from the South Coast of New South Wales. At top are images of legendary “King Billy” as he was nicknamed.

Figure 5. The Yuin people (aka Thurga) are the Australian Aborigines from the South Coast of New South Wales. At top are images of legendary “King Billy” as he was nicknamed.

My kids began to make comments about how resourceful the aborigines would have been, catching fresh fish, making new walking tracks, and being blessed to live in a pristine world before the built environment changed it so radically (Figure 5). It was not difficult for me to imagine throwing in my current lifestyle for the serenity, peace, and tranquillity of the bush. The kids and I would be outside under the sun for at least 12 hours each day, and it was effortless and filled with activities, and so very much fulfilling (Figure 6).

  Figure 6.  The sun setting on New Year's Eve celebrations in 2015 in Merimbula, NSW

Figure 6. The sun setting on New Year's Eve celebrations in 2015 in Merimbula, NSW

 Figure 7. Pre-bedtime entertainment in our tent. Another game of Snakes & Ladders anyone?

Figure 7. Pre-bedtime entertainment in our tent. Another game of Snakes & Ladders anyone?

The kids didn't watch any television on this trip even though they had access to it in one camp spot (Figure 7). I spoke on the cell phone only a handful of times, and on some days I did not use electricity (they were my favorite days). Many times we did not have any cell phone coverage for large parts of the day. I learnt some important things about each of my children on this trip and about myself and the world we live in (Figure 8). And I'd love to do it all again, sooner than later.

We've been sold the idea that technology provides security for us but I am of the opinion that at least psychologically it leads to insecurity (1). It is a paradox. My eldest kept asking what we would do if we got a flat tire or engine trouble deep down a dirt road where we had no connectivity, or what we'd do in the event of a bushfire (Figure 9). Good questions I thought, and answered them by driving more slowly and carefully, avoiding sharp rocks and potholes, and more than anything, turning to prayer “God, keep me and my children safe. Help us not to panic at a time of trouble, and to know what to do. Help us not to be harmed. And help us not to have fear.” For all intense and purposes, technology which has been sold to us for security, breeds a false sense of security and even greater fear. We have learned to rely on mobile phones or the Internet, even when we don't need them. It has become a knee-jerk reaction, even if we have the stored information at hand readily available.


 Figure 8. The kids posing for a photo with a big snail at Merimbula's Main Beach. Such a great opportunity for all of us to bond even closer together.

Figure 8. The kids posing for a photo with a big snail at Merimbula's Main Beach. Such a great opportunity for all of us to bond even closer together.

I am thankful I turned to art on this trip - a decision I made a few days before I left my home (see cover image of this issue). I loved speaking to real people, in person, and asking them to participate (2). Being able to hear their laughs, and see the expressions on their faces, and listen to their respective stories was so satisfying. On a few occasions I embraced people I met after opening my heart to life matters, challenges, joys, and sorrows. The cool thing? I met lots of people that reminded me of my mum and dad; lots of people who had three or four or more (or no) children - and felt connected more than ever before to the big family we call “society.” We'd sit around at the beach, at the rock pool, or the camp site, listening and learning from one another, and somehow indirectly encouraging one another onwards. We soon realized these were shared experiences and there was a solidarity, a “oneness,” an empathy between us.

 Figure 9. Going down a steep and narrow unsealed road with lots of potholes at Mimosa Rocks National Park. One way down and only one way up.

Figure 9. Going down a steep and narrow unsealed road with lots of potholes at Mimosa Rocks National Park. One way down and only one way up.

We returned home a few days early due to heavy rains, and unexpectedly I did not feel the drive to return to my email trove that I figured had grown substantially in size. The thought crossed my mind that I could get heavily depressed over the thousands of messages I had missed. But I controlled that temptation. The last thing I wanted at that point was to get bogged down again in the rhythm of the digital world. Friends and colleagues might have been shocked that I did as I said I would do - utterly disconnect - but I learned something very fundamental… time away from the screen makes us more human as it inevitably brings us closer together, closer to nature, and also brings things into perspective.

Depending on our work, we can feel captive behind the screen at times, or at least to the thousands of messages that grace our laptops and mobile phones. They make us even more digital and mechanical - in intonation, action, even movement and thought. Breaking with this feeling and regaining even a little bit of control back is imperative every so often, lest we become machine-like ourselves. It is healthy to be “Just human,” without the extensions and the programs. In fact, it is essential to revitalize us and help us find our place in the world, as sometimes technology leads us too quickly ahead of even ourselves.

While it is an intuitive thing to do, you might find yourself having to work that little bit harder to make the unplugged time happen. But breaking free of all the tech (and associated expectations) occasionally, reinforces what it once meant to be human.


1. M. Lacy, "Cities of panic and siege psychosis" in Security Technology and Global Politics: Thinking with Virilio, New York, NY:Routledge, pp. 69f, 2014.

2. K. Michael, "Unintended consequences 1–100", [online] Available:

Citation: Katina Michael, "Gone Fishing: Breaking with the Biometric Rhythm of Tech-Centricism", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine ( Volume: 35, Issue: 4, Dec. 2016 ), pp. 6 - 9, Date of Publication: 19 December 2016, DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2016.2618738.

Unintended Consequences: A Study Guide



Now that you've immersed yourself in some of the challenges and paradoxes we face as a society (as our cities, businesses, governments, and personal lives become more digitized), it is time to reflect on everything you've read.

As much as we hope you've enjoyed this collection of articles, we really want you to find value in the discussions and debates that come from it. We have included some questions to get you started. Remember, there often isn't one right answer. These issues are complex. Sometimes the best answer to a challenging question is simply to ask more questions; to interrogate the issues at hand, using a multidisciplinary lens. So consider these questions a launch pad that will inspire you to ask your own questions, too. Share your questions with your peers in small groups and seek to brainstorm together on what possible future directions you can take to ensure these matters are integrated into development frameworks.

We thank the authors in this issue for assistance in drawing out these major themes.

“Valuations and Human Values (A.K.A. the Irony of Granola Bar Economics)”

  1. Why did people throw rocks at the Google bus? Were the people on the buses really the targets of their animosity?
  2. According to Rushkoff, growth is the prevalent feature of the digital economy. What impact does that have on companies? What impact does that have on workers? What impact does that have on neighborhoods and communities?
  3. Is there a way to keep the possibilities that digital tools afford, without the commensurate detrimental effects? What solutions are there?

“Let's Protest: Surprises in Communicating against Repression”

  1. Select a social networking application (e.g., Snapchat). What are its strengths and weaknesses for serving ordinary users and nonviolent campaigners?
  2. Suppose you are put in charge of a country's technology policy today. What communication technology would you promote to ensure that a dictator could never come to power? Explain your reasoning.
  3. Imagine that you want to assist some foreign friends who live under an authoritarian government. You can mainly help by using the Internet. What skills do you think are most important for you to learn? You might reflect on the possibilities of learning foreign languages' encryption, Web design, data collection, data verification, organizing denial-of-service attacks, and hacking. How will these skills help your friends specifically?

“Predictive Policing and Civilian Oversight”

  1. Would you trust software more than you would a law enforcement officer?

  2. Who should be held responsible when the software described in the article by Hirsh makes a mistake or is in error?

  3. Should there be limits to how police use technology?

  4. What do you think is required to balance the needs of policing and the needs of privacy?

“The Converging Veillances: Border Crossings in an Interconnected World”

  1. List the consequences of the converging veillances. What are additional sociocultural consequences of these risks not addressed by the authors?
  2. What existing controls are in place to address the risks you have identified? How effective are these controls in the design and operation phases of development?
  3. What are responsible, reasonable, and appropriate strategies to reduce the prevalence of the risks you have identified?

“Privacy in Public”

  1. Describe the concept of “über-veillance” or omnipresent surveillance. How does it differ from “regular” surveillance?
  2. What is the “mosaic” theory of privacy? Explain why such a theory is necessary today.
  3. Taking one of your regular school or work days as an example, list in chronological order all of your encounters with cameras as you go about your day. Are you surprised by how many you can count? Why or why not?
  4. Thinking about the example of the interface created by Google to allow people to request the removal of their personal information, list similar privacy-protective technological measures that are avail-able on social media, such as Facebook.
  5. Do you agree that people in a public space should have a right to privacy and anonymity, or do they give up such rights once they enter the public sphere?

“Privacy in the Age of the Smartphone”

  1. What do you share with others online? Do you have a Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, or other account?
  2. What parts of the information that you share with others is beyond your control? For example, who has access to your Facebook page—just your friends on Facebook, or is it public? What other sharing do you engage in that can be accessed by people you don't know?
  3. Smartphones have become much more powerful in the last few years. How has your data footprint grown over the last two to three years?
  4. What new services are you using today that you were not using in your first year of university? Has the volume of data and content that you share increased significantly? Do you feel you can still keep track of and manage that data?

“Paradoxes in Information Security”

  1. Think of your everyday life. In what ways do information security procedures interrupt you on a daily basis?
  2. In terms of information systems that you use, who and what define what security is?
  3. Any incremental additional function, including information security, to an information system increases its complexity but also adds new ways of using and exploiting it. Can complexities that are constantly changing be controlled in any way?

“International Council on Global Privacy and Security”

  1. Why is it important that we abandon zero-sum paradigms if we intend to preserve our privacy and freedom?
  2. Beyond privacy concerns, what impact does state surveillance have on innovation and prosperity, at a societal level?
  3. Why is it important that artificial intelligence and machine learning have privacy embedded into the algorithms used, by design?

“Problems with Moral Intuitions Regarding Technologies”

  1. How often do you stop and think about the moral implications of the technologies you use?
  2. Have you ever experienced a technology feeling wrong or right?
  3. Are for-profit corporations the ideal developers and suppliers of technology?
  4. Should the ones who know how it does work think more about how it should or should not work?
  5. Is technology neutral? Can it be moral or immoral?

IEEE Keywords: Technological innovation, Technology forecasting, Social implications of technology, Social factors, Human factors, Ethics, Privacy

INSPEC: social sciences, human values, unintended consequences, study guide, repression, civilian oversight

Citation: Ramona Pringle, Katina Michael, M.G. Michael, 2015, IEEE Potentials, Volume: 35, Issue: 5, Sept.-Oct. 2016, pp. 47 - 48, Date of Publication: 08 September 2016, DOI: 10.1109/MPOT.2016.2569758

Can Good Standards Propel Unethical Technologies?

Between 2010 and 2016 I accepted a voluntary post representing the Consumers Federation of Australia (CFA) on the standardization of the forensic analysis process [1]. The CFA represents most major Australian national consumer organizations that work together to represent consumer rights.

The committee I was on was Standards Australia's “CH041 — Forensic Analysis” focused on the collection, analysis, and storage of materials as well as interpretation and reporting of results for forensic purposes (Figure 1). The Committee's scope included digital forensics, DNA, soil examination, toxicology, document examination, audio and video analysis, drug analysis, blood alcohol examination, chemical trace evidence, clandestine laboratory investigations, fire and explosion investigation, ballistics, forensic biology, forensic botany, crime scene investigation, fingerprint identification, vehicle examination, shoe and tire impressions, toolmarks, evidence recovery, exhibit storage, bloodstain pattern interpretation, forensic anthropology, forensic entomology, forensic odontology, and forensic pathology. Over a period of six years, six standards were created in the Australia and New Zealand landscape [2] (Table 1).

 Figure 1. Bus drivers across the West Midlands were equipped with mini DNA kits in 2012 to help police track anyone who spit at them or fellow passengers.“Spit kits”—which feature swabs, gloves and hermetically sealed bags—allow staff to take saliva samples and protect them from contamination before being sent for forensic analysis. Samples are stored in a refrigerator before being sent for forensics analysis, with arrest plans put in place should returning DNA results point to a suspect already known to police.Date: Nov. 23, 2012, 16:03. Courtesy of Palnatoke, West Midlands Police.

Figure 1. Bus drivers across the West Midlands were equipped with mini DNA kits in 2012 to help police track anyone who spit at them or fellow passengers.“Spit kits”—which feature swabs, gloves and hermetically sealed bags—allow staff to take saliva samples and protect them from contamination before being sent for forensic analysis. Samples are stored in a refrigerator before being sent for forensics analysis, with arrest plans put in place should returning DNA results point to a suspect already known to police.Date: Nov. 23, 2012, 16:03. Courtesy of Palnatoke, West Midlands Police.

All of the meetings I attended were very well organized, and provided adequate materials with enough time to digest documentation. Queries were dealt with in a very professional manner both via email and in person. The location of these standards meetings happened at the Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency (ANZPAA) in Melbourne Victoria — perhaps a non-neutral location, but regardless important as a hub for our gatherings. There was adequate funding provided to allow people to come together several times a year to discuss the development of the standards and the rest was achieved via email correspondence. Of course, there were a number of eminent leaders in the group with a discernible agenda that dominated discussions, but for all intents and purposes, these folks were well-meaning, fair, and willing to listen. It was obvious that the standardization process was paramount to those using forensic data on a day-to-day basis.

Representatives who served on that committee had diverse backgrounds: police officers, analysts from forensic laboratories, lawyers, statisticians, consumer representatives, and academics in the broad area. I never felt like I was ever asking a redundant question, people spent time explaining things no matter how technical or scientific the content. Members of the committee were willing to hear about consumer perspectives when key points had to be raised, but for some the importance of the topic was circumvented by the need to get the forensics right in order for criminals to be brought to justice.

In March of 2010, I graduated with my Masters of Transnational Crime Prevention degree in the Faculty of Law at the University of Wollongong. My major project was a study of the European Court of Human Rights ruling S. and Marper v. The United Kingdom [3], under the supervision of former British law enforcement officer, Associate Professor Clive Harfield. The European Court of Human Rights sitting as a Grand Chamber was led by President Jean-Paul Costa. S. and Marper complained under Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights [4] that the authorities had continued to retain their fingerprints and cellular samples and DNA profiles after the criminal proceedings against them had ended with an acquittal or had been discontinued. Both applicants had asked for their fingerprints and DNA samples to be destroyed, but in both cases the police refused [5]. My involvement in the enactment of forensic standards in the Australian landscape was to ensure that Australia did not end up with blanket coverage surveillance of the populace, as has happened in the United Kingdom where about 6 million people (1 in 11) have their DNA stored on the national DNA database (NDNA), and over 37% of black ethnic minorities (BEM) are registered on the database with indefinite DNA retention of samples or profiles [6].

I learned a lot about standards setting through the Forensic Analysis project. Although I had studied the theoretical importance of standards in the process of innovation, and I had spent some time in an engineering organization during a peak period of telecommunications standards and protocol developments, I never quite realized that a standard could propel a particular product or process further than was ever intended. Of course the outcome of the BETAMAX versus VHS war has gone down in engineering folklore [7], but when standards have human rights implications, they take on a far greater importance.

Although international standards usually take a long time to bring into existence (at least 2 years), at the national level if there is monetary backing, and a large enough number of the right kind of people in a room with significant commercial or government drivers, a standard can be defined in a fairly straightforward manner within about 1 year. No matter the query, issues can usually be addressed or abated by industry representatives if you can spend the time necessary on problem solving and troubleshooting. Consumer representatives on standards panels, however, unlike paid professionals, have very limited resources and bandwidth when it comes to innovation. They usually have competing interests; a life outside the standards environment that they are contributing to, and thus fall short from the full impact they could make in any committee that they serve if there was financial support. In the commercial world, the greater the opportunity cost of forgoing the development of a standard, the greater the driver to fulfil the original intent.

And thus, I was asked at the completion of my CFA role by the convenor Regina Godfredson, Standards Co-ordinator of the CFA Standards Projects, whether or not I had any thoughts about future standards because “standards” were one thing that the CFA received funding for, in terms of the voluntary contributions of its representatives and membership being seconded to standards committees.

 Table 1. Forensic analysis — Australian standards.

Table 1. Forensic analysis — Australian standards.

As Regina and I brainstormed, I described a few projects pertaining to emerging technologies that required urgent attention from the consumer perspective. But the one that stuck out in my mind as requiring standardization was non-medical implants in humans (Figure 2). I kept thinking about the event report I cited in 2007 published on the MAUDE database of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) web site, for the “removal of an implant” that acted as a personal health record (PHR) unique ID [8]. In 2004, the company VeriChip had an implant device approved by the FDA for use in humans [9]. The device was to be inserted in the right tricep, but as applications for access control and electronic payment were trialled, the device soon found itself in people's wrists and hands for usability [10]. Still that event report had got me thinking. How could a company (or for that matter a government administration) be so inept in creating a device for implantation with no removal process? Of course, had the VeriChip device not been related to any health application, it would not have required any FDA approval whatsoever, which is equally problematic when ethical questions are considered.


Figure 2.

A surgeon implants British scientist Dr. Mark Gasson in his left hand with an RFID microchip (Mar. 16, 2009). Mark's Ph.D. scholarship with Prof. Kevin Warwick was sponsored by the author's former employer Nortel Networks. Photo taken: March 16, 2009, 14:44:22. Photo courtesy of Paul Hughes.

The questions that stem from this mini case are numerous. But perhaps the most important one is: does a standard set by a standards or regulatory body open the floodgates to propelling a given innovation forward, even if that innovation is controversial or even viewed as risky or unethical by the community at large? I had to ask myself the pros and cons of spearheading such a standard into Australia and New Zealand. Standards at the local level begin to gather momentum when they are recognized by the Australian Standards organization, but more so when they are picked up and highlighted by the International Standards Organisation (ISO). There are also no commensurate “ethics applications” accompanying the submission of human augmentation devices, as noted by Joe Carvalko, a U.S.-based patent attorney and implant recipient [11].

Did I really wish to be involved in such a process when I believe deeply, for anything other than therapeutics and prosthesis, there should not be a standard? Do I think this is the future of e-payments being sold to us? There have been countless campaigns by VISA to show us the “mini-Visa” [12] or the contactless VISA “tap and go” system or the VISA embedded in our phone or e-wallet or even smartwatch. Do I think we should believe the companies pushing this next phase? No, I do not. As consumers we do have a choice of whether or not to adopt. As a technology professional do I wish to be the one to propel this forward? Absolutely not. Does it mean it will never happen? No, it doesn't.

As I continued my conversation with Regina Godfredson, I realized deeply, that while CFA would get some major attention in funding for being leaders in this space, the negative would be that we would also be heavily responsible and accountable for what would come out of the group as we would be the driving force behind it. The consumer side of me says “get in there quick to contribute to the discussion and push the importance of ethics within an information technology implant scenario.” The academic side of me says sit back and let someone else do it, but make sure to be ready for when this may take place (and it is taking place right now). Just yesterday, I received a telephone call from one of Japan's leading games suppliers who wants to integrate the human augmentation scenario into Deus Ex's, “Mankind Divided” game, to be launched in Australia in the last week of August with an implants shopfront.

The conversation with the publicist went something like this: “Hello Katina. I note you are one of the leading researchers on the topic of the socio-legal-ethical implications of implants. Look, I want to know, if there are any legal issues with us launching a campaign for our new game that includes an implantation shop. I've rung everyone I can think of, and everyone keeps passing me on to someone else and cannot give me a direct answer. I've tried the Therapeutic Goods Administration here, but they say they don't care because it is not a medical device. I've looked up laws, and I can't seem to find anything on implants for non-medical applications. I've spoken to police, and ditto they don't seem to care. So what do you think?” It goes without saying that that 50 minute conversation ended up being one of the most stimulating non-academic discussions I've had on the topic. But also, I finished by saying read Katherine Albrecht's Bodily Integrity Act in draft since 2007. The publicist kept stating: “I hope from this engagement to put forward a framework allowing for human implants.”

My concern with going forward has naught to do with my ability to answer very complex biomedical ethical questions as I've thought about them for over 20 years. My concern has much to do with whether or not we should even be dabbling with all of this, knowing what we know of the probable uberveillance trajectory. I am sure I could create some very good standards to some very unethical value-laden technologies.

I will not say much about what is an ethical or unethical technology. I will simply say that pervasive technologies have an intentionality, and they have inherent qualities that can be used positively or negatively. Talking to social shaping of technology experts, I would be labeled as a follower of the technological determinist school of thought. But clearly here, when we investigate the piercing of the skin, we have a complexity that we've never before faced in the non-medical commercial space. It crosses the boundaries of negligence, consent, and human rights, which we cannot ignore or treat as just another run-of-the-mill technological innovation.


1. Consumers Federation of Australia, [online] Available:

2. CH-041 - Forensic Analysis, [online] Available:

3. Case of S. and Marper v. The United Kingdom, 2008, [online] Available:

4. Article 8 ECHR, 2016, [online] Available: http//echr-online.into/article-8-echr/.

5. K. Michael, , "The road from S and Marper to the Prum Treaty and the implications on human rights" in Cross-Border Law Enforcement: Regional Law Enforcement Cooperation - European Australian and Asia-Pacific Perspectives, Routledge, pp. 243-258, 2012.

6. K. Michael, "The legal social and ethical controversy of the collection and storage of fingerprint profiles and DNA samples in forensic science", pp. 48-60, 2010.

7. A.R. Dennis, B.A. Reinicke, "Beta versus VHS and the acceptance of electronic brainstorming technology", MIS Quart, vol. 28, pp. 1-20, 2004.

8. MAUDE Adverse Event Report VeriChip Corporation - VeriMed Patient Identificator - VeriChip Implant, July 2007, [online] Available:

9. 21 CFR Part 880 [Docket No. 2004N-0477] Medical Devices; General Hospital and Personal Use Devices; Classification of Implantable Radiofrequency Transponder System for Patient Identification and Health Information, [online] Available:

10. A. Masters, K. Michael, "Lend me your arms: The use and implications of humancentric RFID", Electronic Commerce Research and Applications, vol. 6, pp. 29-39, 2007.

11. J. Carvalko, K. Michael, "Crossing The Evolutionary Gap", Joseph Carvalko Speaks With Katina MichaelOn His Fiction Piece, July 2016, [online] Available: https//

12. "Visa introduces contactless mini card making payments faster and more convenient than ever", Business Wire, Aug. 2006, [online] Available:

Citation: Katina Michael, Can Good Standards Propel Unethical Technologies? IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Volume: 35, Issue: 3, Sept. 2016, pp. 6 - 9.

Smart Toys that are the Stuff of Nightmares


At the top of some children's Christmas present wish list in 2015 would have been the new Hello Barbie doll [1]. Mattel's latest doll connects to the Internet via Wi-Fi and uses interactive voice response (IVR) to effectively converse with children [2]. When the doll's belt button is pushed, conversations are recorded and uploaded to servers operated by Mattel's partner, ToyTalk [3].

Hello Barbie tries to engage with children in intelligible and freeflowing conversation by asking and responding to questions, as well as being able to learn about its users over time [4]. As Mattel's website says [1]: “Just like a real friend, Hello Barbie doll listens and adapts to the user's likes and dislikes” [5].

But is Barbie the Friend She Promises to be?

Some might welcome Hello Barbie, and similar talking dolls such as My Friend Cayla [6], as a fun and novel development in smart toys that will keep children occupied. Others have voiced concerns, such as the #HellNoBarbie [7] from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood [8].

As one reporter found, Hello Barbie prompts those conversing with her to divulge information about themselves, but when the focus is on her she quickly changes the subject to invariably gender-normative subjects and fashion [9]. “Hello Barbie: Let's get serious and talk about something really important: fashion.”

She mines children for personal details but gives little in return, other than vacuous compliments and fashion advice. Her friend credentials come further into question as she routinely discloses all the information gathered to ToyTalk, who operate the speech processing services for Hello Barbie.

What's in the Privacy Statement?

As with many products, the detail that really matters is in the fine print. In this instance the fine print is in ToyTalk's Hello Barbie privacy statement, so there are a few important points to consider before wrapping her up and putting her under a Christmas tree [10].

ToyTalk outlines that it may:

“[…] use, store, process, convert, transcribe, analyze or review Recordings in order to provide, maintain, analyze and improve the functioning of the Services, to develop, test or improve speech recognition technology and artificial intelligence algorithms, or for other research and development and data analysis purposes.”

Essentially it can use the information gathered from the child, or anyone who converses with Hello Barbie, for any purpose that it chooses under the vague wording “data analysis purposes.” ToyTalk will also share recordings with unknown “vendors, consultants, and other service providers” as well as “responding to lawful subpoenas, warrants, or court orders.” Has Hello Barbie become a sophisticated surveillance device masquerading as an innocuous child's toy [11]?

In England, the draft Investigatory Powers Bill introduced “equipment interference,” which allows security and intelligence agencies to interfere with electronic equipment in order to obtain data, such as communications from a device [12]. This would mean that government agencies could lawfully take over children's toys and use them to monitor suspects.

These data collection practices are significant, as they reach much deeper than marketing practices that collect information about children's likes and preferences. In conversing with toys, such as Hello Barbie, children reveal their innermost thoughts and private play conversations, details of which are intended for no one else to hear. Once a child has developed a friendship with Hello Barbie, it might not be so easy to take her away.

Security Risks

ToyTalk does recognize that “no security measures are perfect” and that no method of data transmission can ever be “guaranteed against any interception or other type of misuse.” Just last month the toy maker VTech reported 11.6 million accounts were compromised in a cyberattack, including those of 6.3 million children [13]. Photos of children and parents, audio files, chat logs, and the name, gender, and birthdate of children were accessed by the hackers [14].

It's not just toys that are at risk [15]. There are ongoing reports of baby monitors being hacked so that outsiders can view live footage of children (and family), talk to the infant, and even control the camera remotely [16].

Smart toys are going to be tempting propositions for hackers, with some already proving that they could make My Friend Cayla swear [17], to more usual targets such as hacking credit card details [18].

Barbie has also been in hot water before [19]. The Barbie Video Girl [20] has a camera lens embedded in the doll's chest disguised as a pendant which prompted the FBI to issue a warning that it could be used to make child pornography [21].

The Internet of Things provides direct access to children and their spaces through an increasing array of products and gizmos [22]. Such security breaches not only act as a stark reminder of the vulnerability of children's high-tech toys, but also lead us to reflect on other risks that the trend in so-called smart toys might be introducing into children's lives.

An Invasion of Play

But Hello Barbie doesn't just reveal a child's private conversations to large corporations, and potentially law enforcement agencies. She also tells tales much closer to home - to parents. A smartphone app enables parents to listen to the conversations between their child and their Hello Barbie. They can also receive alerts when new recordings become available, and can access and review the audio files. Anyone with access to the parent account can also choose to share recordings and other content via Facebook. Twitter, or You-Tube. While some may see this as a novel feature, it is important to consider the potential loss of privacy to the child.

Play is an important part of the way children learn about the world. A key part of this is the opportunity for private spaces to engage in creative play without concerns about adults intruding. It looks like Hello Barbie's dream to be a fashion-setter might just come true as she pioneers a new trend for smart and connected toys. In turn, the child loses out on both a trusted toy and on the spaces where they can lose themselves in other worlds without worrying about who's listening in.


This article is adapted from an article published in The Conversation titled “Hello Barbie, hello hackers: Accessing personal data will be child's play,” on Dec. 16, 2015. Read the original article


1. "Hello Barbie™ Doll - Blonde Hair", Mattel Shop, 2016, [online] Available:

2. K. Michael, A. Hayes, "High-tech child's play in the Cloud", IEEE Consumer Electronics Mag., vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 123-128, 2015.

3. "About us", Toy Talk, 2016, [online] Available:

4. "Hello Barbie is world's first interactive Barbie Doll", YouTube, Feb. 2015, [online] Available:

5. "CNET News - Saying hello to Hello Barbie", YouTube, Sept. 2015, [online] Available: 

6. My Friend Cayla, 2014, [online] Available:

7. "Hell no Barbie: 8 reasons to leave Hello Barbie on the shelf", Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, 2015, [online] Available:

8. 2016, [online] Available:

9. Z. Jason, "Hello Barbie: Fashion-obsessed talking doll thinks I'm amazing — Or so she said", The Guardian, Dec. 2015, [online] Available:

10. "Privacy policy", Toy Talk, Jan. 2016, [online] Available:

11. "Hello Barbie ‘creepy eavesdropping doll’ at New York Toy Fair violates privacy", YouTube, Mar. 2015, [online] Available:

12. Draft Investigatory Powers Bill U.K. Parliament, 2015, [online] Available:

13. "FAQ about cyber attack on VTech Learning Lodge", vtech, Feb. 2016, [online] Available:

14. D. Goodin, "Internet-connected Hello Barbie doll gets bitten by nasty POODLE crypto bug", The Guardian, Dec. 2015, [online] Available:

15. P. Timms, "Hello Barbie: Wi-fi enabled doll labelled a bedroom security risk", ABC News (Australia), Nov. 2015, [online] Available:

16. K. Albrecht, L. Mcintyre, "Privacy nightmare: When baby monitors go bad", IEEE Technology & Society Mag., Sept. 2015, [online] Available:

17. K. Munro, "Making children's toys swear",, Jan. 2015, [online] Available:

18. R. Hackett, "Hello Barbie Doll vulnerable to hackers", Fortune, Dec. 2015, [online] Available:

19. K. Michael, "The FBI's cybercrime alert on Mattel's Barbie Video Girl: A possible method for the production of child pornography or just another point of view".

20. "Barbie® Video Girl™ Doll", Mattel Fisher Price, 2015, [online] Available:

21. L. Goode, "FBI: Video Barbie could hold evidence in child abuse cases", WSJ, Dec. 2010, [online] Available:

22. K. Albrecht, K. Michael, "Connected: To everyone and everything", IEEE Technology & Society Mag., vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 31-34, 2013.

Keywords: security of data, smart toys, data transmission, ToyTalk, Hello Barbie, security measures

Citation: Emmeline Taylor ; Katina Michael, Smart Toys that are the Stuff of Nightmares, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, (Volume: 35, Issue: 1, March 2016), pp. 8 - 10, Date of Publication: 10 March 2016, DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2016.2527078

Reflecting on the Contribution of T&S Magazine to the IEEE


It's always important to stop, take a breath, and reflect on the activities one is engaged in. Sometimes we do this reflection willingly, and at other times there are formal structures within which we have to work that trigger the requirement periodically. It is always a good sign when a Committee knocks on your door asking for certain bits of data, and you are more than willing to share your learnings, with enthusiasm, and not just for the sake of the least amount of effort required to respond to a standard pro-forma.

This March, the IEEE Periodicals Review and Advisory Committee (PRAC) requested detailed data about the periodicals of the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology (IEEE-SSIT), providing three months for a written report to be submitted. The PRAC Review happens every five years and is an opportunity for IEEE to consider the contribution and validity of all its periodicals. For the Society in question, it is a chance to receive valuable feedback from experienced colleagues, look for areas to improve, consolidate, or expand, consider what was done well, and brainstorm on the opportunities that lie ahead.

The PRAC report that was submitted to IEEE in Fall 2015 was about 50 pages long. Katina Michael, Terri Bookman, Joe Herkert (by teleconference), Greg Adamson, and Lew and Bobbi Terman met with the PRAC Committee in New Jersey. We managed all the questions put to us by PRAC, and later received written feedback on our report, and responded accordingly to queries and clarifications.

It is now time to look at the next five years of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, but before doing so let us celebrate the milestones we've achieved together, and also spell out what we need to do better to keep growing and developing, as well as some of the measures we've put in place to overcome some significant issues as we've gone through a rapid expansion phase.


 Figure 1. Concept map of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine article headings (March 2010–July 2015) generated using Leximancer.

Figure 1. Concept map of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine article headings (March 2010–July 2015) generated using Leximancer.

The first thing we would like to do is thank all the authors who have published their research with us in the last five years. It is such a privilege to work with professionals who sincerely care about how technology is impacting the world around them. We conducted a content analysis of paper titles since 2010 and generated the concept map in Figure 1. It is so encouraging to see diagrammatically that we are fulfilling the mission of our Society, with papers published in humanitarian engineering, engineering education, engineering ethics, sustainability, social implications, the interplay between technology and society, the role of government, and the development of systems to enrich our everyday lives with adequate energy. Privacy, security, and trust are prevalent themes also addressed in the digital data age of the Internet, as is acceptable use and user behavior with respect to smart applications.

Articles and Authors

During the study period, 272 individual articles were published with 452 author instances. Popular entry types included peer-reviewed articles (131), Commentaries (13), Book Reviews (35), Leading Edge columns (14), Opinion pieces (13), Viewpoint columns (5), Editorials (16) and Guest Editorials (6), as well as interviews, fiction, letters to the editor, news, policy and trends, Memoria, and Last Word columns. For a magazine that publishes only four times a year on a limited page budget, most recently of 80 pages per issue, we have really maximized space well. Particularly encouraging is the work toward internationalization that Keith Miller spearheaded and is still going strong. There has been a visible redistribution of author region location as can be seen in the pie chart in Figure 2, although we still require further expansion and outreach activities in Canada and Central/South America.

 Figure 2. Authors by region IEEE-TSM 2010-2015.

Figure 2. Authors by region IEEE-TSM 2010-2015.

The caliber of our author affiliations are exceptional. A representative list of affiliations include: Arizona State University, Australian National University, Carnegie Mellon University, Copenhagen Business School, Cornell University, Delft University of Technology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, ESADE, ETH Zurich, Harvard University, Imperial College London, Kyoto University, M.I.T. Media Lab, Stanford University, Georgia Institute of Technology, The Pennsylvania State University, Tilburg University, University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales, Nanjing University, University of Sydney, University of Tokyo, University of Toronto, Virginia Tech, Zhejiang University.

Equally impressive are entries that have been affiliated with a variety of stakeholders, not just academia. These included for example:

  1. Applied industry submissions by employees of large technology corporations such as, Google, Accenture, Siemens Corporate Technology, Toshiba Research, Tata Consultancy, InfoSys Technologies, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research, Telecom ParisTech, Acconite Solutions, Vodafone, and IBM.
  2. Applied government and defence submissions by employees of various international ministries and commissions both in defence and non-defence institutions such as the Defence Science and Technology Corporation (DSTO), European Commission, Virginia Military Institute, West Point Military Academy, Ontario Privacy Commissioners Office, and Greek Ministry of Economy and Finance.
  3. Small-to-medium company submissions such as BRP Renaud & Partner, KVC Consultancy, Illuminating Concepts, Xylem Technologies, Modern Combatives, StartPage, Oxford Systematics, Xamax Consultancy, Trans Technology Group, Salinger Privacy, Lockstep Consulting, Iran Nanotechnology Business Network, Orica Mining Chemicals, and Socca INC.
  4. Non-government organizational submissions such as from the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Australian Privacy Foundation.


IEEE-SSIT's Technology and Society Magazine is the only periodical that specializes in the social implications of technology – and on the interplay of technology and societal implications – from the perspective of a technical engineering society.

In the international publishing arena Technology and Society Magazine is considered as follows:

  1. an engineering periodical with a focus on societal implications of technology (privacy, security, affective, addictive, predictive, anticipatory, pervasive, invasive, ubiquitous, access, universal obligation, equity, borders, convenience, openness, value proposition, control, care, prosthetic, robotic, adaptive, surveillance, enforcement, employment, consumerism, innovation, human rights, gender, sustainability, and freedom and choice)
  2. a multidisciplinary periodical that includes perspectives from a variety of disciplines (legal, regulatory, philosophical, ethical, theological, cultural, anthropological, sociological, new media, economic, environmental, technological, scientific, health, medical, and policing)
  3. a diverse stakeholder reaching periodical that is relevant to entities along an upstream and downstream supply/value chain (business, raw material producers, designers, makers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, content providers, handset/wearable providers, operators and service providers, industry bodies, standards-setting organizations, non-government organizations, advocates, and users).

Table 1. Thematic “Technology” snapshot by volume and issue

Table 2. Thematic “Society” snapshot by volume and issue.


Breadth of Topic Coverage

The content we have received for publication is mostly two-pronged. On the one hand are the organizational and/or societal issues raised by each paper, and on the other hand is the technology that overcomes those stated problems. In addition, from the interplay of technology and society come positive and negative socio-economic impacts, social implications, and technical shortcomings that are important to discuss.

Special Sections and Special Issues

We have continued to host an annual special issue on select papers emanating from SSIT's International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS). In 2015 we also published a special issue on Norbert Wiener. Special section themes have also served as the basis for dialogue around emerging technologies. Some of these have included: the “Social Impacts of National Security Technologies” (vol. 31, no. 1), “Privacy in the Information Age” (vol. 31, no. 4), “Smart Grids and Social Networks” (vol. 33, no. 1), “Technology for Collective Action” (vol. 33, no. 3), “Social and Economic Sustainability” (vol. 34, no. 1). Co-locating like themed material has provided a richness for enjoying a single issue as a whole unit of evidence to ponder. At times articles submitted for review may “jump the queue” if they are immediately relevant to a socio-technical matter being addressed in that given issue, or in the media more broadly.

Online Social Media

As well as the IEEE Technology and Society Magazine there are several other ways to publish content relevant to the SSIT. These include the IEEE SSIT E-Newsletter (email, and several social media portals listed here:

  1. IEEESSIT Facebook (4991 members) that can be found here:
  2. IEEE-SSIT LinkedIN (3610 members)
  3. IEEESSIT Twitter (515 followers)

What's New??

Two major changes recently have been made to IEEE T&S Magazine: the way the Magazine looks in terms of creative design; and how articles are submitted to the editor for review. A lot of effort was expended by the Publications Committee around these two items, and when prospective funding became available, we responded accordingly.

New Format Creative Design

The Magazine has a new look and feel – everything from presentation, to the way that content is laid out, to the spacing and accompanying images. We have defined “new entry” types and enhanced existing ones. A stronger emphasis on varying stylistic contributions has been adopted to ensure a mixture of peer review and non-peer review perspectives—from Opinion, to Leading Edge technology insights, to Interviews, Commentaries and Last Word columns.

Acquiring and Implementing a New Workflow in Scholarone's Manuscript Central

We have acquired the IEEE standard for submission of Magazine/Journal manuscripts. This meant that an online workflow had to be defined for T&S Magazine that would align with ScholarOne. By year-end we will have reduced our accepted article backlog to include only outstanding Book Reviews. Beginning in 2016, our review time will decrease substantially, as will time until the final result for accept, major revision, minor revision, or reject status. We are confident with this measure, given the streamlining we have implemented. It is important to underscore however, that our goals do also hinge on the availability of reviewers and their timely feedback.


As T&S Magazine continues to grow, there are any number of opportunities we could investigate as future options. So far we are doing a solid job with our online downloads for articles published with 48 K papers being downloaded in 2014, placing us at about a 150/338 rank for IEEE publications.

Our impact factor is at the highest it has been over the last five years, at 0.56 which is so very encouraging. Although we are not solely about impact factor, we are widely considered the number 1 publication outlet for the specific overlap of technology and society. When we consider that IEEE Spectrum's impact factor is 0.22, Emerald Insight's IT & People is 0.530, Elsevier's Technology in Society is 0.271, John Hopkins University's Technology and Culture is 0.321, and Ethics and Information Technology is 0.520, it is exceptional that with merely 24–28 peer reviewed papers per year we are increasing our citations, and more. We are also not heavy on self-citations in our Magazine of our own contributors, but I would encourage more of us to cite IEEE Technology and Society Magazine articles in other outlets.

We would like to spread the word about the recent excellent results and development of IEEE T&S Magazine. We would like to do this by creating a new and enhanced user-friendly T&S Magazine front end website portal that may drive more traffic to paid elements of the Magazine, but also to contributors and reviewers, with additional multimedia content. We expect this new site will help drive increased membership in our Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT) and T&S subscriptions. The new portal also will allow more interactive feedback from readers. A reminder also, that T&S Magazine is still available in print medium.

As the reputation of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine grows, we will need to recruit more reviewers, invite key contributions from major stakeholders, and enlist more full-time and associate members from regions like South America and Africa as well as key representatives from government, all while assuring gender balance.


Katina Michael would like to thank Terri Bookman, Managing Editor, and Joe Herkert, Publications Chair, for their edits and additions to this editorial and their support throughout her editorship. She would also like to acknowledge the work of Keith Miller when he was editor for his foresight and vision.

Citations: Katina Michael, "Reflecting on the Contribution of T&S Magazine to the IEEE", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Volume: 34, Issue: 4, Dec. 2015, pp. 9 - 14, DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2015.2494238