Forget banks. One bitcoin user decided the best place to keep his stash of digital currency was skin deep.
Martijn Wismeijer, a Dutch entrepreneur and bitcoin enthusiast, has taken the concept of “cold storage” — the practice of keeping important information off of an-internet connected device in order to protect if from being hacked — to the extreme, according to ARS Technica. Wismeijer implanted two near-field communication chips into the fleshy gap between his thumbs and first fingers on both hands.
Wismeijer got the NFC implants installed during a “biohacking session” and “the largest NFC human tag implant session done in a single day so far” in the basement of an old toothpaste factory, by a tattoo and piercing specialist. “Forget #Applepay, the future is p2p, NFC and subdermal. Best of all, the technology is available today,” Wismeijer’s company said in a YouTube post.
Wismeijer, the CEO of Mr. Bitcoin, an Amsterdam-based firm that sets up bitcoin ATMs in the Netherlands and Belgium, says he frequently needs to stock bitcoins on those machines and using a subdermal chip shrinks the risk with transferring the data.
“We minimize our risk by storing most of them in cold storage and only when we see a lot of happening, do we transfer [to a hot wallet],” he said. The embedded chip concept embraces a cryptographic technique of splitting a secret amongst different people — called Shamir’s Secret Sharing — which forces users to provide several private keys to unlock a master cold storage wallet.
In the case of Mr. Bitcoin, Wismeiher told ARS Technica they can either scan the NFC tags with a USB dongle, or from an NFC-enabled phone.
“To transfer funds to our network, we have to scan our tags, including my hand, which provides part of an encrypted private key, and then only then the phone will transfer to the hot wallet,” he said. “If you had a will, and everyone would have a will, you could create a shared secret and you could use that to execute the will. You can’t find such a solution, there’s no notary involved, it will revolutionize asset management.”
Wismeijer purchased the tiny glass capsule — an “NFC Type 2 compliant NTAG216 RFID chipset” — as a pre-loaded syringes sold in a $99 kit from DangerousThings.com, a Washington state-based website that sells to hobbyists and biohackers. The injected chip only holds 880 bytes of data, but that is more than enough for a cold storage wallet.
“I use it for cold storage, but it’s not cold because it’s 37 degrees Celsius inside my body,” Wismeijer said. “My doctor doesn’t like it.”
“It hurts more than a normal injection,” he said, adding “it’s like a drip line in a hospital—it looks painful but it’s not that painful. He said he can’t feel any difference when the chip is scanned.
More bitcoin enthusiasts may follow suit as the digital currency gains steam. A Spanish bank broke trend Monday by becoming one of the first banks in the world to invest directly in a bitcoin startup, Coinffeine. And Coinbase, a company that lets people store Bitcoin via non-flesh embedded means, is in the process of raising a giant new investment that will value it around $400 million, according to Re/Code.
“These NFC tags can be used for a variety of purposes but at Mr. Bitcoin we like to see them as subdermal Bitcoin Wallets that enables one to securely store digital cash under one’s skin,” the company said on the YouTube post. You can watch Wismeijer get his injections in the Mr. Bitcoin video below; then take our poll about whether you would do something similar.