A picture shared on Facebook claims to show a tiny chip, invented by Hitachi which has GPS capabilities and can be absorbed through human skin after being sprayed onto people, ingested through food or drink, or injected.
A Google reverse image search reveals many versions of the same image alongside very similar text, dating back several years. These chips, alongside other very small devices measuring just fractions of a millimetre across, are sometimes known as “smart dust”, due to their resemblance to a speck of dust.
It is true that the pictures show radio frequency identification (RFID) chips, which appear to have been promoted by Hitachi in 2003. In this announcement Hitachi said the chip, known as a µ chip, had a built-in antenna to permit contactless communications within very close proximity, and set out a number of different uses including identification in documents such as vouchers to prevent counterfeiting and traceability in agricultural products. There is no mention of GPS tracking capabilities in this release.
These earlier chips were 0.4mm square, but in 2006 Hitachi announced that they had developed a new version, which were the smallest and thinnest RFID chips in the world measuring just 0.15mm squared. The 2006 release stated that Hitachi had reduced the distance over which the wireless communication could occur, and said it could be “utilized in a broad range of applications such as security, transportation, amusement, traceability and logistics”, but still made no mention of any GPS capabilities.
Full Fact couldn’t find any evidence that the Hitachi chip could be absorbed through skin, injected, or would remain functional after being ingested with food and drink. However, more recently scientists have announced the development of tiny chips that could be implanted in the body—though these appear to be primarily targeted towards tracking body processes rather than geographical position via GPS.
In a short question-and-answer article published by RFID Journal, the website’s founder and editor said Hitachi’s µ chip would not be a good choice for injection into a person, as it would not be possible to read the chip under a layer of skin.