Security company gets under skin with embedded access chips

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Saturday, April 1, 2006

CINCINNATI--Three employees from CityWatcher.com, a security firm that provides cameras and Internet monitoring, had silicon chips from VeriChip embedded into their arms, in February, for access to a server room where data and images are kept for clients. According to reports, this surveillance company is the first in the United States to use the technology in living humans.
The company decided to use embedded chip technology because it was having problems with access-control card use for restricted areas, not because of any celebrity status it would gain when the mainstream media found out it was the first to use this technology.
"This is a very small company," said Gary Retherford of Six Sigma Security, a consultant for CityWatcher.com. "It may be controlled better at other companies, but at the end of the day you still have the issue that one person may take a card and give it to someone else. Here it wasn't the issue of giving the card to someone else, it was the issue of losing the card."
Retherford said Sean Darks, chief executive officer at CityWatcher.com, took this opportunity because the technology complements its "forward-thinking" security business and also because he simply doesn't have to worry about the card-control issue anymore.
"What we see here in Cincinnati is becoming an option that security-minded customers and businesses can look for," said John Procter, spokesman for VeriChip.
Already sectors throughout the world have implemented the technology to secure assets. In 2004, the Mexico attorney general's organized crime unit used the RFID chips in employees to restrict access to secure areas.
For CityWatcher.com, the VeriGuard technology suite, which works like a typical proximity card with a reader outside the access point, will be used to control access to a server room that stores video images from streets and businesses. The company has contracts with six cities to provide cameras and Internet monitoring.
The application, one reader at the server entrance, was a seamless integration into the company's existing access control application, Retherford said.
Procter said that CityWatcher.com's employees and the others that use the technology are "certainly not required to get the chip." Procter said the system has an encapsulated keychain, which a person could use to get into the restricted facility, if they didn't want the implant. The implant is an easy process, noted Procter. A physician embeds the chip in the forearm just under the surface of the skin. "It is very important to VeriChip that [the procedure] remains a voluntary option or technology as in the case of Cincinnati."
Retherford agreed that the people who have been chipped are "at the end of the day, still private individuals." Adding that, "some people who have the key chain have come back and said, 'I'd like to get chipped.'"
When asked what happens to the chipped employees if they leave the company, Darks said if someone leaves it is their option to have the chip removed. "We would simply remove you from our access system so your chip would be useless at our facility."
When compared to the typical access control tools like proximity and smart cards, Procter said, "The chip is under the skin, you can't lose it. It can't be forgotten at home, and very likely it can not be taken away from you without someone being extremely motivated."