In Mexico many families are constantly living under the threat of being kidnapped. It is a scary but true reality. Kidnappings are up 317 percent in the past five years, according to a recent Mexican congressional report.
Wealthy and upper class Mexicans living in fear of being kidnapped are turning to GPS tracking devices as a precautionary measure. People are spending thousands of dollars to have GPS tracking-enabled RFID chips implanted under their skin and the skin of family members.
According to Xega, the Mexican company that sells the RFID chips and performs the implants, the chip is implanted in the tissue between the shoulder and elbow. It sends a signal to a GPS tracking device that the wearer carries. The chip relays a signal to an external Global Positioning System unit the size of a cellphone. If the owner is stripped of the GPS device in the event of an abduction, Xega can still track down its clients by sending radio signals to the implant.
The company says it has helped rescue 178 clients in the past decade. Company sales have increased 40 percent in the past two years.
However, according to the Post, it is very unlikely that the GPS tracking device actually works properly.
RFID researchers say that Xega’s claim that it can still find clients even if their external GPS unit has been lost is ludicrous. The technology that would allow remote tracking of RFID signals is still far off, they say. A Xega executive acknowledged that the implant would likely not work without the external GPS.
However, RFID researchers and engineers in the United States said a device that could communicate with satellites or a local cellular network would need a battery and antenna the size of a cellphone. A GPS tracking device would have to send a signal at regular intervals, which would quickly drain the battery, rendering the system useless, the Post reported. “It’s nonsense,” Mark Corner, an RFID researcher and computer science professor at the University of Massachusetts, told the Post.
Justin Patton, managing director of the University of Arkansas RFID Research Center, says developing such a device is far in the future. “There’s no way in the world something that size can communicate with a satellite,” Patton told the Post. “I have expensive systems with batteries on board, and even they can’t be read from a distance greater than a couple hundred meters, with no interference in the way.”
Nonetheless, Mexican companies such as Xega report implanting thousands of the devices for $2,000 and an annual fee of another $2,000. Other companies are selling GPS tracking devices that can fit on a key chain that have panic buttons, but experts also caution about their viability.