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Alien CTO Joins Auto-ID Center

Roger Stewart will work on new specifications for EPC tags and offer consulting services on patent issues.
By Bob Violino
Tags: Standards
Dec 15, 2002Dec. 16, 2002 - Roger Stewart is one of those unsung heroes who designs the intricate circuits that make it possible to perform miracles with silicon. As CTO at Alien Technology, he helped create the Auto-ID Center's first specification for a low-cost chip that stores an electronic product code and Alien's first real product.

Stewart holds 84 U.S. and 60 international patents. He recently left Alien to work on new specifications and on a patent pool being proposed by the center. He is also consulting for companies that need help with either non-volatile memory chips or patent issues.

"I really wanted to get more engaged with the center," Stewart says. "I've been working with [Executive Director] Kevin Ashton and [Research Director] Sanjay Sarma for a year and a half. I've been interested in joining the organization for some time."

Stewart began his career at RCA Laboratories, which became Sarnoff Corp. As a lab director at Sarnoff, he worked on micro-display technology with Jeffery Jacobsen, senior VP of business development at Kopin Corp. The technology, based on Kopin's patented system of transferring silicon circuits to other surfaces, created a major new business for Kopin.

When Jacobsen became Alien's CEO in 1998, he recruited Stewart. Alien had technology for flowing very tiny microchips into prefabricated holes, but it had no products. Stewart formed a team and developed miniscule microchips for displays and later for RFID tags.

"At Alien, we developed circuits that were one to two orders of magnitude lower in power dissipation than anything in the industry," Stewart says. "That was important because we were originally making displays that had to run on a tiny battery for long periods of time. That same circuit proved critical in operating off beam power for an RFID chip."

Stewart worked closely with the researchers at the Auto-ID Center to develop the Auto-ID Center's spec. There was an immediate alliance of interests between the Morgan Hill, Calif., startup, and the center. The center needed a way to fabricate low-cost RFID tags and Alien needed a market for billions of very tiny chips.

The first Auto-ID Center chip specification, dubbed Class 1, is now complete and is in the final stages of being approved. Stewart is working on specifications for more advanced chips, which will have onboard memory and security features. He is also working with the center on the creation of a patent pool.

"I did patent strategy for Sarnoff, and I've done patent consulting for about six years now," he says. "I've gone through about 6,000 RFID patents. There is a lot of art out there, much more than people realize. When there are so many companies with patent portfolios, that is where industries typically use patent pools. I'm here to help make it a reality."

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