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Kovio Unveils Printed-Silicon HF RFID, Chip Tag

The low-cost chip complies with the ISO 14443A standard and can contain 128 bits of factory-encoded data; commercial products should be available in 2009.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Interest for using printed RFID tags on products to enable consumer applications—such as the Coke demonstration offered at the conference—is particularly strong in the Japanese market, Pavate says. In the future, he adds, the chips will also be designed to work as part of Near-Field Communications (NFC) applications, whereby cell phones or other mobile devices would read the tags to access product information, special promotions and other data.

But another major thrust for Kovio's research and design efforts is to print an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) chip that could operate in an EPC infrastructure as part of an EPC system. Mashkoori told attendees that Kovio is interested in working closely with the EPCglobal community to determine tag requirements. Kovio, he says, currently has the ability to print a chip for a passive UHF tag, but would first need to determine which protocols within the Gen 2 standard such a chip would require. Additionally, the firm would need to design its UHF chip to follow a reader-talk-first communication scheme so it could work with Gen 2 readers, rather than the tag-talk-first scheme employed by the HF chip.

According to Mashkoori, Kovio chose to make its first product an HF chip because the existing market for passive HF tags is much larger than for UHF tags. "We want to take advantage of technology that is already in place as we come to market," he states.

Conference attendees deemed the Kovio platform impressive, and Mashkoori made a point of stressing that the printed HF tag would perform well on consumer products containing liquids and metals, referencing a statement made by Ann Dozier, a Coca-Cola VP, in an earlier session: "We hope someone is going to come to us with a great new tag that will solve the [liquids and metals] problem for us." Kovio believes it can do this, while also making item-level tags cost-effective.

"The people in the EPC community who weren't taking us seriously last year," Pavate says, "are taking us seriously now."

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