|From: Glenn Petersen||5/23/2015 5:52:46 PM|
NXP Semi: Up 643% Since IPO, the Story’s Not Over, Says Bernstein
By Tiernan Ray
May 12, 2015, 10:45 A.M. ET
Shares of chip maker NXP Semiconductor ( NXPI) are up $1.60, or 1.5%, at $101.97, after Bernstein Research’s Stacy Rasgon this morning initiated coverage of the name with an Outperform rating, and a $133 price target, writing that the stock has already been a “home run” since its IPO in 2010, but that there’s more to come as the company heads toward its merger with Freescale Semiconductor ( FSL).
“In short, we believe the story is not yet over,” he writes.
“Over the intervening 5 years or so [since IPO] the stock has returned more than seven-fold to investors, a ~50% compounded annual return over the time period, due to a combination of improvement in fundamentals, deleveraging, and multiple expansion,” notes Rasgon.
Rasgon sees a few reasons why there’s more upside left:
In particular, we believe the company can likely maintain their above-market revenue growth trajectory, due in large part to the structural benefits of automotive exposure and continued growth in mobile payments, with overall revenue diversification helping to at least partially mitigate downside from any one given market. We believe the forthcoming Freescale acquisition may hold more to it than meets the eye. And we believe (with $9-$10 in likely earnings power post-deal) that valuation is compelling.
Rasgon likes the profile of the part of the company that is “high-performance mixed-signal” chips, which makes up just under 75% of total company revenue.
Such “HPMS” chips go into the sensor hub that collects sensor data in Apple’s ( AAPL) iPhone, for example; and a lot of it goes into connected cars, and things such as digital identification for electronic passports.
Rasgon is very excited about the automative and the NFC transactions capabilities in mobile (such as Apple’s Apple Pay):
Automotive: ~25% of NXPI’s HPMS business, with a leadership position in audio entertainment, in- vehicle networking, and secure car access. Overall we are positive on the auto semiconductor market in general and believe trends around content increase can disproportionately benefit NXP. The company believes it can grow faster than the SAM of the auto markets they target (6-7%), with growth targets of 8-9%. The FSL acquisition will further solidify their presence in automotive in complementary markets. Secure Connected Devices: ~25% of HPMS, a bit of a hodgepodge of business that include multimarket microcontrollers, mobile audio/sensing, low-power RF/IoT, and silicon tuners. However, it also includes NXPI’s mobile transactions business (e.g. near-field communication), about ~$400-450MM currently and with the potential to drive very strong growth as we remain in the early days of mobile payments.
Of “secure ID” portion, including the government e-passport work, he writes “overall, this business is the most difficult to forecast due to lumpiness of government projects.”
The other 25% of company revenue is “standard products,” of which Rasgon writes, “This is primarily a discretes business, with lower growth and margins than HPMS. NXPI likes to say that it is the “best” discrete business out there (and they may be right); it is a candidate for sale if the company can ever drum up enough interest at the right price. In the meantime, it generates cash.”
Rasgon’s very positive on the pending Freescale deal:
We think the deal makes sense strategically, with a more complete product portfolio, cost synergy, and potential revenue synergy down the line. We believe cost synergies (~14% of current combined opex, as well as scale benefits) appear reasonable, and NXPI may be able to accelerate the leverage inherent in FSL’s current model […] Finally, there could be additional revenue and/or balance sheet synergies (including debt refinancing) that could drive more upside […] The combined company will hold more than $11B in annual revenues, making it the largest semiconductor supplier to the automotive and MCU markets, and one of the largest semiconductor companies overall […] Additionally, it is likely that NXPI can do positive things with FSL’s balance sheet, particularly given the latter is paying interest at a higher rate than the former. We also note that the sale of NXPI’s high-performance RF business (whatever it might sell for) should bring in additional cash that can be deployed to further de-lever the balance sheet.
And NXP stock is a good value considering the earnings power of the combined companies, he writes:
NXPI’s current valuation appears fair. However, valuation for the combined company significantly improves once taking into account appropriate cost synergies. – In particular, the combined company (on a pro-forma basis) would likely be trading at ~10-11x P/FE, extremely attractively valued. On an EV/sales or EV/EBITDA basis, the company trades in line to slightly below peers on the same basis, for substantially higher growth potential. Hence, we view valuation as compelling. The standalone company has been trading at ~14x NTM EPS for the last year prior to the deal announcement; we believe such a valuation on the combined company is fair as well. On a potential $9-$10 in normalized combined EPS, this would correspond to a ~$133 target price.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||5/28/2015 5:49:57 PM|
|The system uses Near Field Communication technology, which is already embedded in most Android phones. A growing number of store-payment terminals include NFC technology; Google Wallet service worked on some of these, although the process was more cumbersome.|
Google Unveils Apple Pay Rival
Android Pay uses technology already embedded in most Android phones
By Alistair Barr
The Wall Street Journal
Updated May 28, 2015 3:42 p.m. ET
Google Inc. GOOG -0.00 % revised its mobile-payment service Thursday with new partners--including wireless providers, payment networks, retailers and banks--stepping up competition with Apple Inc. AAPL -0.20 % in an area with big promise and multiple challenges.
Android Pay software is included in the new version of the Android mobile-operating system, showcased at Google’s I/O conference in San Francisco. Google said the payment service will be available in coming months and will work with previous versions of Android, beginning with KitKat, which came out in 2013.
Android Pay doesn't need a separate app to work on Android phones, unlike Google’s previous troubled mobile-payment efforts under the Google Wallet name. Users will be able to load their credit, debit and loyalty cards onto the phone, unlock their device with their existing password and tap to pay at more than 700,000 physical stores in the U.S., the company said.
Participating retailers include McDonald’s, Macy’s, Best Buy, Walgreen and Whole Foods, Google said.
The system uses Near Field Communication technology, which is already embedded in most Android phones. A growing number of store-payment terminals include NFC technology; Google Wallet service worked on some of these, although the process was more cumbersome.
The new Android operating system will support fingerprint scans to unlock phones and authorize payments, much as Apple has done with its iPhones and Apple Pay service. Google said phones with fingerprint readers will be available later this year.
Like Apple and other tech companies, Google sees payments as a way to embed itself more deeply in users’ lives. Google also hopes mobile payments in stores will help it gather more information about users’ purchases, which may show the effectiveness of Google ads.
Mobile payments have struggled to catch on with consumers because swiping a credit card in a store is already quick and easy. Apple Pay, which began late last year, began to change that view and has proved popular with some consumers. It also sparked other technology companies to update their payment offerings.
Apple gets paid for its payment service through a cut of transactions from the issuing bank of the credit card being used, or a flat fee on debit cards.
It isn’t clear how Google will get paid for the Android Pay service. An executive and a spokeswoman at the company said Thursday that the goal is to make Android phones more useful. The spokeswoman declined to comment further.
Google is using similar security technology as Apple, called tokenization, to protect users’ credit-card information. The technology replaces card numbers with one-time random codes, so if payment details are stolen they are un-useable.
Google said Android Pay will work through the Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover payment networks.
Big bank card issuers in the U.S., including J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Capital One, are planning to take part in Android Pay, according to a person familiar with the service.
Android Pay also will work within certain bank apps, and USAA’s banking division is an early partner, Google said.
Google said new Android phones from Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile will include Android Pay.
Write to Alistair Barr at firstname.lastname@example.org
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|From: John Andry||6/4/2015 5:41:07 AM|
Nice info here but i want more to know something about RFID devices how the radio frequencies are work i did'nt experience that kind of tracking devices, i just want to get first time i have a Business in USA and i need that kind of tracking devices for my Business, which track my assets, file and document easily that's why i'm looking for some best reliable and also affordable RFID Services Providing Company and i need more help from you guys if anyone experienced that kind of tracking Services Providing Company so please refer me suggest me and i also found some websites who Provide RFID Tracking Services in USA, again i need more help from you guys compare that sites and select the best one for me... thanks in Advance to All :)
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|From: Glenn Petersen||3/23/2016 3:28:01 PM|
|Chip-Card Payment System Delays Frustrate Retailers|
By RACHEL ABRAMS
New York Times
MARCH 22, 2016
Avi Kaner, co-owner of Morton Williams supermarkets in New York, with a stack of chargebacks from credit and debit card companies that he says he is required to pay even though the chain spent $700,000 to update terminals to accept embedded digital chip cards. Credit Danny Ghitis for The New York Times
Avi Kaner, a co-owner of the Morton Williams supermarket chain in New York, has spent about $700,000 to update the payment terminals at his stores.
Trouble is, he cannot turn them on.
The new terminals can accept credit and debit cards with embedded digital chips, a security feature intended to reduce the number of fraudulent purchases.
But before the payment systems can work, they must be certified, a process that Mr. Kaner and many retailers around the country are waiting to happen. In the case of Morton Williams, the holdup has lasted several months.
The cost of waiting, retailers say, is piling up. Until recently, banks covered much of the cost of fraudulent purchases. Since Oct. 1, though, merchants that cannot accept chip cards have had to shoulder the cost of fraud, and banks have not been shy about passing along the bill.
“It’s been very frustrating,” Mr. Kaner said in an interview last week at his office in the Bronx, the home of his family-owned business. He bought most of the equipment he needed before Oct. 1, he said, and has been waiting months to get it certified. The delay, he said, pointing to a tall pile of paperwork, has cost him thousands of dollars in payments for fraudulent purchases.
“There’s no recourse,” Mr. Kaner said.
The long delays are just the latest black eye for the deployment of the new systems. Some consumers have not yet received new cards. Many merchants have not bought the updated equipment. And even when the cards and the terminals have been updated, they have generated confusion and slow lines.
Many of the complications were widely predicted, but the certification system has added an unexpected wrinkle — and lots of finger-pointing.
Banks say that retailers waited till the last minute to update their terminals. Retailers point to financial ties between the banks and the companies that provide certification, saying there is no motivation to move faster.
“I think there are merchants who should have been prepared and aren’t,” said Thad Peterson, a senior analyst with the research firm Aite Group. “I think there are merchants who thought they were prepared but aren’t.”
For years, retailers have argued that the technology, commonly referred to as E.M.V., which stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, the technology’s early advocates, mainly protected banks. Mr. Peterson estimated that only 40 to 50 percent of retailers are capable of accepting chip cards.
A credit card with an E.M.V. chip being scanned at a Walmart Supercenter in North Bergen, N.J. Credit Bryan Anselm for The New York Times
Each part of a transaction must be certified, including the payment hardware and each payment network, like Visa or MasterCard, that merchants accept. To get certified, businesses work with payment processors like First Data and Vantiv.
The whole process, even when it goes smoothly, can take weeks or months.
It is hard to say exactly how many retailers are affected by the delays. First Data, one of the country’s largest payment processors, said that about 20 percent of the four million American merchants it works with are in the process of being certified.
Complaints have been widespread among midsize businesses — not as small as a mom-and-pop corner store but smaller than a big-box chain.
Midsize merchants have more specialized needs than a store with a single location, for example, as a bigger business often needs payment software tailored to specific loyalty programs, inventory or other systems. Those tailored systems can complicate the approval process.
That’s something Mr. Kaner has learned the hard way.
“They’ve delayed month after month of providing certification,” Mr. Kaner said of Vantiv. “I asked to speak to their legal department, and their legal department basically told me tough luck.”
Mr. Kaner said it was difficult to know exactly what was holding up the process, because Vantiv must also work with a merchant’s software vendors and payment hardware manufacturers.
In a statement, Vantiv said that “the conversion to E.M.V. is highly dependent on the business priorities and timelines of the many other parties involved in the complex integration process, as was the case in this instance.”
Retailers have also pointed to the financial ties between banks and processors, raising questions about whether the companies are inclined to work slowly.
Fifth Third Bank owns about 18 percent of Vantiv, for example. Some of the largest card issuers, like JPMorgan Chase, even have their own payment processing units. Bank of America’s processing arm, Bank of America Merchant Services, is a joint venture between the bank and First Data.
Payment processors “don’t have any incentive to hurry the certification along,” said Patrick J. Coughlin, a lawyer for retailers in a recent lawsuit that accuses the major card networks of deliberately creating impossible requirements for merchants. “They’re not the ones paying the fraud charges.”
Visa and MasterCard said they were reviewing the lawsuit. American Express said that it believed the charges lacked merit and that it planned to “defend the case vigorously.”
Cedit card chargebacks. Since Oct. 1, merchants that cannot accept chip cards have had to shoulder the cost of fraud. Credit Danny Ghitis for The New York Times
MasterCard’s president of North America, Craig Vosburg, said that the company continued to “work with parties across the industry” to help the transition.
Trish Wexler, a spokeswoman for JPMorgan Chase, said, “If it’s our fault that our merchant is delayed in getting a compliant terminal, then we absorb chargebacks for card-present fraud during that time period.” A spokesman for Bank of America Merchant Services declined to comment.
Jason Oxman, chief executive of the Electronic Transactions Association, a trade group representing the payments industry, dismissed the idea that processors might benefit from delaying certification.
He said he had not heard of widespread certification delays, and added that merchants were given plenty of time to prepare for the shift to E.M.V. The transition has been in the works for several years, and some of the new payment terminals have long been widely available.
Some merchants also deliberately waited until after Oct. 1 to begin updating their equipment, arguing that the deadline was just before the busy holiday shopping season.
Now, they may just be paying the price.
“Merchants are starting to see counterfeit liability appear on their statements that they’ve never seen before,” Mr. Oxman said. “And I do think that may be creating some frustration.”
But Mallory Duncan, general counsel at the National Retail Federation, a trade group, said that the payments industry was unprepared to handle the flood of requests that came in around the Oct. 1 deadline.
“They didn’t allow for enough time or people to perform this certification,” Mr. Duncan said. “Merchants have gotten slammed because they weren’t able to get certified, because the networks failed to provide the necessary resources to do that.”
Mr. Kaner, of Morton Williams, said that since Oct. 1, customers who have contested charges made with E.M.V.-enabled cards have succeeded in getting many transactions reversed — at Morton Williams’s expense.
Mr. Kaner worries that some customers may be using the Oct. 1 liability shift to get out of paying for legitimate purchases. The number of chargebacks, he said, has risen sharply.
“It started out as a trickle, and now it’s turning into a flood,” he said. “In the first couple months, it might have been a few hundred dollars a month. Now, it’s thousands a month.”
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|From: Glenn Petersen||4/19/2016 9:50:36 AM|
|Exclusive: Internet of Clothing Is Coming Through Huge Label Deal|
by David Meyer
April 18, 2016, 5:29 AM EDT
Evrythng's vision of "smarter shoes" with digital identities. Evrythng Deal between Avery Dennison and Evrythng will see 10 billion pieces of apparel “born digital.”
Your clothes are going online.
Avery Dennison AVY 1.10% , a packaging and labelling giant that puts labels onto products from brands like Nike NKE 0.12% , Adidas ADDYY 2.72% and Hugo Boss BOSSY 5.18% , has struck a deal with “Facebook for things” firm Evrythng to create unique web identities for at least 10 billion pieces of apparel over the next three years.
Evrythng manages the digital identities of items, from packaging to smart lightbulbs, in much the same way as a social network manages the identities of people — keeping track of their latest “status” and ultimately helping to connect them. The deal with Avery Dennison will see these identities assigned to apparel, shoes and various accessories at the point of manufacture, creating use cases beyond the point of sale.
“This is probably the biggest deal the [Internet of things] industry has had,” Niall Murphy, the CEO of Cisco CSCO 1.04% and Samsung-backed SSNLF 5.00% Evrythng, told Fortune. “It’s a program we’ve been working on for quite a long time.”
Avery Dennison already adds basic individual identities to millions of products for supply-chain purposes, but this new arrangement, based on Avery Dennison’s new Evrythng-powered Janela “smart products” platform, creates opportunities for various kinds of interactions between consumers and those products.
You’ll be able to do things such as check the authenticity or manufacturing history of that shirt you just bought, participate in various after-sales loyalty schemes or recycling programs, connect with third-party apps, see exclusive smartphone content, and re-order products you like.
Meanwhile, the retailer will also be able to use the items’ identities for things like detecting fraudulently returned products.
Evrythng has been working with individual brands for some time, on various experiments to do with giving items of apparel their own digital identities. However, doing this by default at the point of manufacture means the brands don’t need to weigh up the benefits before deciding how to integrate the functionality.
“The digital capability is there, and it’s about figuring out how to use it most effectively,” said Murphy. “Products are able to be born digital.”
Evrythng’s main relationship here is with Avery Dennison, but it may also establish an ongoing relationship with the brands themselves, depending on what they need to do with those digital identities in the future.
Technologically speaking, things will start simple in most cases, with printed QR codes that the customer can scan with their smartphone to access a service or identify the piece of apparel.
However, that depends on the type of apparel, and tiny wireless chips using NFC or RFID technology will also often be part of the mix — for one thing, they would allow the product to generate extra data (think of Nike’s smart training shoes), and they clearly have implications for stock control.
“In the past, when we look at some of the technologies, QR codes and so forth, they were more for generic interactions,” Mitchell Butier, the CEO of Avery Dennison, told Fortune. “Consumers want a more personal relationship — they want to have product suggestions from the retailer based on what they personally want.”
With this kind of personal link, could we not end up with a lot of pieces of clothing that help track the wearer? What about the privacy implications?
“It’s clearly a fundamental concern,” said Murphy. “I think brands have an increasingly important responsibility to be transparent with the uses of the data that they’re providing. And clearly part of our role at Evrythng, managing very large amounts of information, is to provide the infrastructural integrity to ensure this data is well protected.”
Murphy added that no-one should be tracked without their consent. “Brands have to nurture trust with the consumer,” he said.
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|To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (1657)||6/3/2016 11:59:44 AM|
|Our adjusted EBITDA was $4.9 million and $4.8 million for 2014 and 2015, respectively RAIN spectrum is freely available in 78 countries representing roughly 96.5% of the world’s GDP and the RAIN They can just about buy one decent house in West Los Angeles. The Rain is the problem we ain't got any. |
We sell our products and platform to retailers They should have a conference with Macy's CFO nettailers seem to be the future.
we have invested more than $160 million developing our platform. They should of bought houses in Vancouver sold today who needs an IPO.
Risks Related to Our Business and Industry
RAIN market adoption is uncertain. If RAIN market adoption does not continue to develop, or develops more slowly than we expect, our business will suffer. you have a little hope you are located in Seattle and it does get wet up there.
The RAIN market is relatively new and, to a large extent, unproven. RAIN technology and product adoption, including that of the Impinj Platform and Item Intelligence, will depend on numerous factors, including:
whether end users embrace the benefits we believe RAIN offers, and if so whether RAIN will achieve and sustain high demand and market adoption; The demand is there in CA the supply is not.
whether end users perceive that the benefits of RAIN adoption outweigh the cost and time to install or replace their existing systems and processes; and
True there is a surplus of urinals going to be interesting as non gender bathrooms increase. Standing room only good luck girls.
whether the technological capabilities of RAIN products and applications meet end users’ current or anticipated needs. Current is not the problem aniticipated can include frozen called snow.
We do not own or operate manufacturing facilities. Currently, all our tag ICs are manufactured by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited, or TSMC, and primarily post-processed by our subcontractor Stars Microelectronics (Thailand) Public Company Limited, or Stars; all our reader ICs are manufactured by Tower Semiconductors Ltd., or TowerJazz; and all our readers and gateways are manufactured by Plexus Corp., or Plexus, or Western Corporation. We also use subcontractors for post-processing, assembly and testing. We do not control our manufacturers’ or subcontractors’ ability or willingness to meet our supply requirements.
Currently, we do not have long-term supply contracts with TSMC, TowerJazz, Plexus or Western Corporation, and neither they nor our subcontractors are required to supply us with products for any specific period or in any specific quantity. Suppliers can allocate production capacity to other companies’ and re
We do contribute enormous sums to the politcal parties of our manufactures and subcontractors nations come to think of it that might of affected are bottom line adversely. There is a risk clause in this too.
To late for me to get in guess they are over subscribed Heavy use of the big R word in the entire S-1
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|To: Ahda who wrote (1658)||6/3/2016 11:22:49 PM|
|The balance sheet to me is not excellent been in business about six years and cash flow now would be in the issue. The RFID technology is not unique but perhaps they might find a niche no one else has. |
I am limited in tech but the Rain technology is very interesting to me and in certain cases perhaps could act as increased security. it seems it deposits pieces of information all over the place so it is not easy to walk in a grab and entire file.
I suppose that takes me to the robot field Walmart and counting inventory where the brain has to be small enough but the signal strong enough to be picked up quickly.
Rain and it's ability to sprinkle data might be a bonus for the medical field.
The financial end which I am more comfortable with is without a doubt risky.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||6/12/2016 10:07:48 AM|
|Under My Skin: The New Frontier Of Digital Implants|
"Biohackers" are putting microchips and magnets in their bodies for everything from unlocking the front door to detecting moon earthquakes.
Amal Graafstra's Hands
[Photo: courtesy of Amal Graafstra]
06.11.16 6:00 AM
Tim Shank can guarantee he’ll never leave home without his keys. Why? His house keys are located inside his body.
Shank, the president of the Minneapolis futurist group TwinCities+, has a chip installed in his hand that can communicate electronically with his front door and tell it to unlock itself. His wife has one, too.
"You have mental checklists as you’re coming and going out of your home," Shank says. "One of those things is my wallet, keys, all those things I have with me. Once you start to eliminate all those things, you start to see all the mind space it actually clears not to have to worry about them."
In fact, Shank has several chips in his hand, including a near field communication (NFC) chip like the ones used in Apple Pay and similar systems, which stores a virtual business card with contact information for TwinCities+. "[For] people with Android phones, I can just tap their phone with my hand, right over the chip, and it will send that information to their phone," he says. In the past, he’s also used a chip to store a bitcoin wallet.
Shank is one of a growing number of "biohackers" who implant hardware ranging from microchips to magnets inside their bodies.
Some biohackers use their implants in experimental art projects. Others who have disabilities or medical conditions use them to improve their quality of life, while still others use the chips to extend the limits of human perception. Shank, for instance, has experimented with a portable distance sensor that vibrates a magnet in his hand; it's like a sonar system that lets him sense how far away obstacles are. He also considered installing a chip that would track his body temperature. But not every use case is so ambitious—for some, the chips are merely convenient ways to store data and unlock doors.
Experts sometimes caution that the long-term health risks of the practice are still unknown. But many biohackers claim that, if done right, implants can be no more dangerous than getting a piercing or tattoo. In fact, professional body piercers are frequently the ones tasked with installing these implants, given that they possess the training and sterilization equipment necessary to break people’s skin safely.
"When you talk about things like risk, things like putting it in your body, the reality is the risk of having one of these installed is extremely low—it’s even lower than an ear piercing," claims Amal Graafstra, the founder of Dangerous Things, a biohacking supply company.
Graafstra, who is also the author of the book RFID Toys, says he first had an RFID chip installed in his hand in 2005, which allowed him to unlock doors without a key. When the maker movement took off a few years later, and as more hackers began to explore what they could put inside their bodies, he founded Dangerous Things with the aim of ensuring these procedures were done safely.
"I decided maybe it’s time to wrap a business model around this and make sure that the things people are trying to put in their bodies are safe," he says. The company works with a network of trained body piercers and offers online manuals and videos for piercers looking to get up to speed on the biohacking movement.
At present, these chips are capable of verifying users’ identities and opening doors. And according to Graafstra, a next-generation chip will have enough on-board cryptographic power to potentially work with credit card terminals securely.
"The technology is there—we can definitely talk to payment terminals with it—but we don’t have the agreements in place with banks [and companies like] MasterCard to make that happen," he says.
Paying for goods with an implantable chip might sound unusual for consumers and risky for banks, but Graafstra thinks the practice will one day become commonplace. He points to a survey released by Visa last year that found that 25% of Australians are "at least slightly interested" in paying for purchases through a chip implanted in their bodies.
"It’s on the minds of people," he says. "It just needs to be brought to fruition."
Other implantable technology has more of an aesthetic focus: Pittsburgh biohacking company Grindhouse Wetware offers a below-the-skin, star-shaped array of LED lights called Northstar. While the product was inspired by the on-board lamps of a device called Circadia that Grindhouse founder Tim Cannon implanted to send his body temperature to a smartphone, the commercially available Northstar features only the lights and is designed to resemble natural bioluminescence.
Grindhouse founder Tim Cannon with his Northstar implant looking out over the skyline of Pittsburgh from Mt. WashingtonPhoto: Ryan O'Shea
"This particular device is mainly aesthetic," says Grindhouse spokesman Ryan O’Shea. "It can backlight tattoos or be used in any kind of interpretive dance, or artists can use it in various ways."
The lights activate in the presence of a magnetic field—one that is often provided by magnets already implanted in the same user's fingertips. Which brings up another increasingly common piece of bio-hardware: magnetic finger implants. Hackers say these small magnets allow users to sense the presence of electromagnetic fields, to diagnose electrical problems like faulty wiring, and even to pull small metal objects like paper clips and bottle caps toward you, making you into something of a low-rent Magneto. Despite the power of these implants, they're fortunately not strong enough to trip metal detectors, wipe hard drives, or interfere with MRI scans.
Tim Cannon's hand (right) minutes after implant with Justin Worst's healed Northstar implantPhoto: Ryan O'Shea
"Most [Northstar clients] already have the magnets," says Zack Watson, a piercer who installs implants for Grindhouse. "The magnets are kind of like a baby step into the heavy mod community. It’s not so much visible as it is modifying the body to get that magnetic vision, and then the byproduct is that you’re able to activate the implant."
According to O'Shea, a second-generation Northstar will include a Bluetooth transmitter and gesture-recognition sensors, which will let it communicate with a smartphone to control Internet of Things-type technology. That's not the only reason many early adopters may eventually choose to upgrade their implants. Another has to do with the limited battery life.
"[The device] will die, much like a pacemaker will die," he says. "When a pacemaker does die, it is removed in a procedure and is completely replaced with a new unit. That is similar to what will happen with Northstar."
Luckily for users, the Northstar can be inserted or replaced in about 15 minutes by a skilled piercer, says O'Shea.
"It’s just a small incision, usually in the side of the hand," he adds. "The skin is separated from the hand there, and the device is just inserted, and the skin is stitched up."
As long as they're inserted properly, the implants leave minimal scarring, says Watson. He has magnets in his hand that let him do "little parlor tricks" and pick up needles while he works. "My kids are convinced I have a magic finger," he says. Meanwhile, an RFID chip in his hand lets him unlock his phone and automatically load his Instagram portfolio for potential customers to see.
"My phone has a reader in it, and you’re able to use that reader to scan my hand," Watson says. "It’s a cool way to show off your work."
Grindhouse is also working on an enhanced version of the Circadia device that tracks founder Cannon’s body temperature. Cannon says that in the future, Circadia could potentially track other vital signs like blood oxygen, heart rate, and blood glucose. That, however, could pose tricky regulatory challenges for the company, he acknowledges, potentially bringing the device closer to medical sensors regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
The line between medical devices and personal electronics has already begun to grow fuzzier. In recent months, the FDA has tentatively said it doesn’t want to impose the same red tape on "low-risk devices" like fitness trackers that it would impose on medical equipment. Even the White House has weighed in, saying it's exploring options to bridge the gap between expensive, regulated hearing aids and cheaper amplification or tracking tools technically not certified for medical use.
Grindhouse’s foray into blood sugar tracking would follow projects like the Open Artificial Pancreas System, which lets diabetes patients build their own automatic blood sugar regulation tools using a Raspberry Pi computer to talk to an insulin pump and a glucose monitor. Some in the biohacking community have already used custom-built tools to overcome other disabilities or limitations. Artist Neil Harbisson, for instance, who was born color blind, used an implanted antenna to translate colors into audible sounds.
O’Shea says Grindhouse isn’t at all opposed to regulation: The company already does extensive testing to make sure its products are safe and won’t break down in the body—not even after physical trauma—and would welcome regulations that ensure people don’t unwittingly put something toxic or otherwise dangerous into their bodies.
"With Northstar right now, if there’s something that you encounter that’s going to destroy the Northstar in your body, you’re probably already dead at that point," he asserts.
What the company doesn’t want to see, O'Shea says, is the same full-on regulation of medical devices brought to bear on implantable products like the Circadia, which could make them impractical for startups and hackers to develop and prohibitively expensive for many potential users.
Photo: Flickr user Yagmur Adam
"The issue with FDA regulations is not only does it take an expensive amount of time and money that many bootstrapped companies do not have access to, but it also limits the people who can do these procedures," O'Shea says. "We want these augmentative devices to be open to as many people as possible for as cheap as possible, so there aren’t people who can’t have access to this technology."
In the meantime, with implants essentially flying under the regulatory radar, hackers are exploring how they can use the devices to manipulate and receive input from the world around them without a great deal of scrutiny from government bodies.
One of these hackers is artist, dancer, and self-proclaimed cyborg Moon Ribas, who has an Internet-connected implant in her arm that vibrates to alert her to earthquakes around the world—information she can incorporate into her choreographed routines.
She hopes to add additional, more precise implants that would communicate the continent where the earthquake took place, and perhaps another that reports quakes on the moon.
"This would allow me to be here and be in space in the same time," she says.
Ribas is also working on a commercial implant that would let users feel a vibration when they face due north, potentially training them to develop a directional sense similar to some animals. That's a far cry from Tim Shank's comparatively unambitious door-unlocking implant.
"I like things that are related to nature, space, or animals," she says. "Everyone has his own interests—it’s just that it doesn’t fulfill me as much to think about having an implant to open a door."
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