Miniature Dot Puts Memory On The Spot

July 19, 2006
Grain-sized chip developed by HP can hold up to 4 Mbits of data, be attached to almost any object.

A miniature wireless chip could soon transform everyday objects like passports and driver’s licenses into carriers of up to 4 Mbits of data.

The experimental chip, developed by the Memory Spot research team at HP Labs in Bristol, England, is about the size of a grain of rice (2 to 4 mm square) and can be embedded in a sheet of paper or stuck to any surface (see Figure 1). It incorporates a built-in antenna and is completely self-contained—with no need for a battery or external electronics.

The Memory Spot’s storage capacity ranges from 256 kbits/s to 4 Mbits/s, with a 10-Mbit/s data-transfer rate. Unlike a traditional RFID tag, the Memory Spot lets users read and write data. Information is accessed by a read-write device, which powers the chip through inductive coupling.

Howard Taub, HP vice president and associate director of HP Labs, said the company is exploring a range of consumer applications for the Memory Spot, including embedding a chip with a patient’s medical records onto a hospital wristband (see Figure 2).

While Memory Spot tags may not become available commercially for a couple of years, Taub told CNET that they could cost as little as $0.10 each. The prototypes, which were manufactured at 180 nm, cost approximately $1 each.

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