RFID 'Powder' - World's Smallest
By Bill Christensen
Published in technovelgy.com on February 14, 2007
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The world's smallest and thinnest RFID tags were introduced yesterday
by Hitachi. Tiny miracles of miniaturization, these RFID chips (Radio
Frequency IDentification (2)
chips) measure just 0.05 x 0.05 millimeters.
The previous record-holder, the Hitachi mu-chip, is just 0.4 x 0.4
millimeters. Take a look at the size of the mu-chip RFID tag on a human
Hitachi mu-chip tiny RFID tag (3)
Now, compare that with the new RFID tags. The "powder type" tags are
some sixty times smaller.
Powder RFID chips next to a human hair (4)
The new RFID chips have a 128-bit ROM for storing a unique 38 digit
number, like their predecessor. Hitachi used semiconductor
miniaturization technology and electron beams to write data on the chip
substrates to achieve the new, smaller size.
Hitachi's mu-chips are already in production; they were used to prevent
ticket forgery at last year's Aichi international technology
exposition. RFID 'powder,' on the other hand, is so much smaller that
it can easily be incorporated into thin paper, like that used in paper
currency and gift certificates.
Science fiction fans will have a field day with this new technology. In
his 1998 novel Distraction, Bruce Sterling referred to bugged
always played poker with European cash. There was American cash around,
flimsy plastic stuff, but most people wouldn't take American cash
anymore. It was hard to take American cash seriously when it was no
longer convertible outside U.S. borders. Besides, all the bigger bills
were bugged. (Read more about bugged money: (5))
These tiny RFID tags could be worked into any product; combined with
RFID readers (6)
built into doorways, theft of consumer goods would be practically
impossible. It's not clear from the references provided, but even if
this chip needs an external antenna, the attached antenna would be a
tiny ribbon of wire more narrow than a human hair and only a fraction
of an inch long.
How far away could you be, and still read the information from this
"powder RFID?" The source article is very thin; however, the mu-chip
mentioned earlier is readable from a distance of 25 centimeters (about
ten inches) with an external antenna like the one mentioned in the
preceding paragraph. This doesn't sound like much, but it's certainly
enough to read people going through doorways, for example.
These devices could also be used to identify and track people. For
example, suppose you participated in some sort of protest or other
organized activity. If police agencies sprinkled these tags around,
every individual could be tracked and later identified at leisure, with
powerful enough tag scanners.
To put it in the context of popular culture, see the picture below,
which was taken from the 1996 movie Mission Impossible. One of the IMF
operatives places a tracking tag on the shoulder of a computer
programmer. Pretty clunky-looking tag...
Tracking and ID tag from Mission Impossible movie (7)
Take a look at these earlier stories related to RFID, and consider how
much easier it will be with tinier chips: RFID Sensor Tag Shower For
(gentle rain of RFID), RFID-Maki: Easy Payment Sushi (9) (just tag the sushi
directly, then scan customer's stomach [no joke, see digestible tags (10)]) and VeriChip Chairman
Proposes RFID Chips For Immigrants (11) (just dust the border).
Via Pink Tentacle (12).
Also, read more about the mu-chip (13).
(1) Source: http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News.asp?NewsNum=939
Retrieved on March 14, 2022;
Publised in the original site in Feb 14, 2007
The following links, as provided in the Source:
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