Already, the government of Mexico has surgically implanted the chips, the size of a grain of rice, in the upper arms of staff at the attorney general’s office in Mexico City. The chips contain codes that, when read by scanners, allow access to a secure building, and prevent trespassing by drug lords.

In research published in the International Journal of Innovation and Sustainable Development, Taiwanese researchers postulate that the tags could help save lives in the aftermath of a major earthquake. “Office workers would have their identity badges embedded in their RFID tags, while visitors would be given temporary RFID tags when they enter the lobby,” they suggest. Similarly, identity tags for hospital staff and patients could embed RFID technology.

“Our world is becoming instrumented,” IBM’s chairman and CEO, Samuel J. Palmisano said at an industry conference last week. “Today, there are nearly a billion transistors per human, each one costing one ten-millionth of a cent. There are 30 billion radio RFID tags produced globally.”