Chicken Implants Would Warn of Avian Flu Fever
The Bio-Thermo chip.
Credit: Digital Angel

Digital Angel, which manufactures microchips for implantation in animals, has proposed using biothermal RFID chips in chickens as an early warning system for the avian flu.

This week, Digital Angel introduced their Bio-Thermo temperature-sensing implantable RFID microchip and identity system.

"Our decision to target the poultry markets is an extension of the success we've had in implantable microchips in Asia and elsewhere..." Kevin McGrath, President and CEO of Digital Angel said. "As the only provider of temperature sensing RFID microchips in the world for livestock, the detection of elevated temperatures in avian populations represents a new yet natural application of our technology. Since early detection of temperature increases could be important to identifying and controlling bird flu outbreaks, our Bio-Thermo identity system may prove instrumental in dealing with the disease in a cost effective manner within the confines of a poultry farm."

Although the company admits that avian flu is not the only reason for an elevated temperature in a monitored chicken, if a representative sampling of tagged birds spiked a fever, it could indicate trouble. McGrath proposes tagging every 250th bird in a flock. Entire flocks could be checked quickly using an RFID reader that activates the chip in each bird, triggering it to send the temperature reading as well as the identification number of each chicken. Health ministries in Asia have expressed an interest in the chips.

Early adopters of the implantable sensing microchip idea in the science fiction field include William Gibson, who wrote about them in his 1984 novel Neuromancer. In the novel, it is not merely temperature that can be read at a distance; the entire physical sensorium can be monitored, which Case does remotely from his computer deck:

...Check Molly. He hit the simstim and flipped into her sensorium...

He could feel the micropore tape across her ribcage, feel the flat little units under it; the radio, the simstim unit, and the scrambler... It took him a few seconds to realize that the peculiar sensation at the tips of her fingers was caused by the blades as they were partially extruded, then retracted.
(Read more about simstim)

Digital Angel biothermal chips can be implanted in a single inoculation, just like their RFID chips for animal identification, and their VeriChips for human identification (see VeriChip Patient Implant Badges Now FDA Approved.

Of course, if we could just get to the point where sf writer Frank Herbert's pseudoflesh or H. Beam Piper's carniculture vats are available, we wouldn't need live chickens to get meat. If that seems farfetched, read Cultured Meat Straight From The Vat, a real-world application of this idea.

Read the Digital Angel press release or Could Chips in Chickens track Avian Flu?

(This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission from Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction.)