A Sydney man who made headlines last week for implanting a public transport card into his hand has revealed that despite the objections of authorities, there is a simple reason why they have been unable to cancel it.
Meow-Ludo Meow-Meow, founder of biotech incubator BioFoundry, became an instant sensation last week after burying the chip of an Opal contactless transport card under the skin on his left hand.
“Customers that are caught tampering with their Opal card may have their card cancelled,” the authority last week.
A week of cat-and-mouse games with transit officers has followed – and the implanted chip still works. But Transport for NSW cancelled Meow Meow’s other Opal card, which was not tampered with, in relation.
“It is still in my hand and they haven’t cancelled the one in my hand yet, because it’s unregistered,” he told Business Insider.
“The second they heard what I was doing, they cancelled my card – and they would have done it to the one in my hand if [it was registered].”
Opal cards can be purchased then registered with the user’s details so that they can be tied to a bank account and lost cards can be returned or cancelled. But Sydneysiders also have the option to buy anonymous unregistered Opal cards that are topped up with value at vending machines, with the risk that the card can’t be tracked back if they’re lost or stolen.
“I’ve had legal advice today that they can’t forcibly restrain my hand,” he said.
“The whole thing is just ridiculous. I am surprised it’s had this much response. I have bodily sovereignty – I can put stuff in my body if I want.”
Meow Meow said he plans to leave the chip in his hand for a year.
“It’s pretty small… I don’t even notice it. Honestly, on my hand you can’t even see the stitches,” he said.
The “biohacker”, while acknowledging the solution is not for everyone, was motivated to perform the dramatic experiment to raise awareness of how “deep tech” can help traditional industries – like transport – innovate.
“I understand it’s controversial. I don’t think it would be adopted widescale immediately but if it did [eventually] I wouldn’t be disappointed,” he said.
“I think it represents some exciting opportunities for startups to think about.”
Meow-Meow’s implant is not unprecedented. In 2015, a Russian man implanted the chip of Moscow’s Troika card into his hand, citing a desire not to lose “an expensive season ticket”. Last month Swedish transport operator SJ started a scheme to allow commuters to buy their tickets as a hand implant, although early reports suggested that, upon scanning, for some people their LinkedIn profiles appeared rather than their train ticket.
BioFoundry, founded in 2014, is hosted in Cicada Innovations’ deep-tech co-working facilities at Australian Technology Park in inner city Sydney.
Meow Meow ran in last year’s federal election in the seat of Grayndler as a candidate for the Science Party, picking up 1.32% of the primary vote.