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Alien Founder Joins Reader Maker

Jeffrey Jacobsen, founder of Alien Technology, plans to bring innovative technology to AWID.
Feb 25, 2003Feb. 26, 2003 - Applied Wireless Identification Group (AWID), a Monsey, NY-based manufacturer of RFID readers, named Jacobsen, founder of Alien Technology, the company's new President. Donny Lee, who remains Applied’s CEO, says the addition of Jacobsen positions Applied for rapid expansion.

"I spoke to Jeff and said, Why don't you join us and do for reader technology what you did for low-cost RFID chips?" says Lee. "We're very pleased that he decided to join Applied."
Circuits on flexible materials could transform RFID readers

In 1998, Jacobsen took over an obscure company called Beckman Displays, rewrote the business plan, raised new funding and launched Alien Technology. He positioned the company at the center of the Auto-ID Center's quest to create low-cost RFID tags (see Alien NanoBlocks Will Reshape RFID), eventually raising more than $90 million.

Last September, Alien's board brought in a new CEO, Stav Prodromou, because Prodromou had more experience running manufacturing operations. Jacobsen stayed on for several months, mainly to close the deal under which The Gillette Co. will purchase up to 500 million RFID tags from Alien.

After leaving Alien on Jan. 10, Jacobsen says he was seriously considering starting a new low-cost RFID reader company, based on technology he originally developed for the US military. The technology involves transferring CMOS or gallium arsenide circuits -- typically less than one micron thick -- from the surface of industry standard foundry silicon wafers to large surface materials like plastics, polymers and metal foils, enabling very high-performance, low-cost flexible antennas (see photo).

The technology will enable Applied to put down improved RFID transmission and reception circuitry (amplifiers, small digital signal processors, filters and so on) on large area plastic antenna arrays using low-cost, high-speed roll-to-roll manufacturing, Jacobsen says.

"This technology will drastically lower the cost of shelf and wall tag readers, producing a paper thin shelf-paper-like antenna that can be retrofitted to conventional retail, warehouse and transportation surfaces," he says. "Basically, part of the RFID reader is distributed over the antenna itself. Applied’s roll-to-roll antenna assembly process will have as much impact on high-performance, low-cost RFID readers as Alien's Fluidic Self Assembly has demonstrated on the low-cost RFID tag industry."

Applied has been developing a multi-protocol reader in a PCMCIA card for delivery this May. Applied’s reader card will provide PDAs using either Palm OS or Windows CE 3.0 operating systems with full multi-protocol RFID reader capability, including the Auto-ID Center’s EPC protocol.

Jacobsen will establish facilities on the West Coast, where the company will do research and development of reader chipsets and next generation plastic reader antennas. "Donny has done a fantastic job with Applied," says Jacobsen. "Applied is already a profitable company. Now we're going to add some new technology, expand our marketing and sales, and broaden our customer service."

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