Five to get tiny implanted ID chips By Glenn Singer South Florida Sun-Sentinel As the world looks on, a Palm Beach County, Fla., family will become human guinea pigs Friday for a medical technology project that has attracted more media attention than its developers hoped for. ``It's overwhelming,'' said Scott Silverman, president of Applied Digital Solutions Inc. of Palm Beach, of the legions expected to watch miniature silicon chips being injected Friday morning into Jeffrey and Leslie Jacobs and their son, Derek. Friday afternoon, Alzheimer's patient Nate Isaacson, 83, will have a chip implanted at a doctor's office in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The chips' developers hope the technology will help identify people and provide rapid access to their medical histories, including health conditions and allergies. But despite the hoopla surrounding the so-called ``chipping'' procedures, no scanners are in place at area hospitals or on ambulances or rescue trucks to obtain health histories accessed through a code emitted by the chips. Nor are there any guarantees medical centers and public safety organizations will join the program. Moreover, the venture is being pushed by a company that lost $216 million in 2001 and has been threatened with delisting by Nasdaq. Friday's media attention might obscure all that. ``Ever since we announced the VeriChip, interest by the media has been growing rapidly,'' Silverman said. ``The whole world will be watching us.'' The chip implantation will be performed by surgeon David Wulkan in Boca Raton, Fla. NBC's ``Today Show'' will broadcast the event live. Applied Digital also expects ``Inside Edition,'' ``Fox News,'' the ``CBS Evening News,'' CNN, German TV and Telemundo to give coverage. The media will see a miniature device the size of a grain of rice. Implanted in the arm or back, it can't be seen or detected unless a handheld scanner is waved over it. When that occurs, a radio frequency energizes the chip and it emits a signal with an ID number. After getting that number from the scanner, a doctor, nurse, paramedic or police officer could plug it into an Applied Digital Internet site and obtain medical or other information about the individual. Those with the chips decide who gains access. A major goal of the program is to save lives, said Dr. Richard Seelig, an Applied Digital employee and a former New Jersey surgeon who is trying to interest hospitals in the scanners. Last month, Applied Digital promised to reveal the hospital network at the first ``chipping.'' But Seelig said this week he has nothing to reveal. No hospital has joined the program. ``I met with a majority of the hospitals in Palm Beach County,'' Seelig said. ``But each one has its own methodology of approval.'' The hospitals, first in Palm Beach County and later in Broward, Fla., will be offered free scanners. People who get chips are to pay $40 a year to keep their information on file at Applied Digital in what the company calls a system as secure as online sites that process credit cards. Scanners sold to hospitals and public safety departments are expected to cost between $1,000 and $3,000, Seelig said. Just how many hospitals agree to participate is a key test for the company. ``Before committing to installing a scanner, we need to resolve a lot of issues,'' said Betsy Whisman, a spokeswoman for Boca Raton Community Hospital. ``How can we ensure the patient information will remain confidential? Will information be updated?'' Seelig said patients update the information. Company officials said they received Food and Drug Administration guidance that the chip is not a medical device and does not require approval. Using chips for identification isn't new -- animals have had implants for years. For some, that's where the innovation should stop. Indeed, some people in the business wonder why humans need chips. ``Animals can't speak, and they lose their legbands and collars. But humans can speak, unless they're unconscious, and they can wear their identification with medical information,'' said Jean Anne Mayhall, president of Avid Microchip ID Systems in Louisiana. The publicity around VeriChip has boosted Applied Digital's stock as the company has shed subsidiaries to focus on this technology. Its price rose in April to the $2 range after languishing around 50 cents for months. The chipping event comes five days before a Nasdaq deadline for getting the stock price over $1 or face delisting. Applied Digital President Silverman said there was no connection between the timing of the procedure and the Nasdaq deadline.