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Kovio Set to Commercialize Printed RFID Tags

Kovio, which is developing printed RFID tag technology, announced it will begin shipping test quantities by the end of the year and expects to go into full production by June, 2009. The 13.56 MHz read-only tags will initially be priced between five and ten cents.
Oct 22, 2008This article was originally published by RFID Update.

October 22, 2008—Kovio will begin shipping RFID tags produced by printing silicon ink by the end of the year for customers to test, and expects to begin volume production by mid-2009, the Silicon Valley startup announced last week.

Creating RFID tags by printing instead of traditional production techniques has the potential to reduce manufacturing costs substantially, resulting in lower tag prices. Printed RFID proponents and some industry analysts say the technology could be a catalyst that leads to greater RFID adoption, particularly for item-level tagging applications.

In March, NanoMarkets predicted only $21.8 million worth of printed RFID tags would be sold this year, but sales would double annually through 2015 (see Printed RFID Nearing Commercialization, Study Says). At the time, NanoMarkets analyst Lawrence Gasman told RFID Update the leading obstacles to printed RFID fulfilling its promise were materials costs, production techniques and product functionality.

Kovio's first printed RFID tags will be read-only high frequency (13.56 MHz) tags with 128 bits of user memory. They will cost between five and ten cents, and prices are expected to stay near that price level for at least a year, a company spokesperson told RFID Update. Kovio did not disclose the number of tags that will be produced for testing this year or its expected full production capacity.

Kovio's technology is attracting interest for brand authentication and promotion, asset management, ticketing and retail loss prevention, the company's Vik Pavate told RFID Update.

Pavate said "numerous" customers have committed to testing Kovio's tags, including Toppan Forms, the Tokyo-headquartered provider of business forms, printing, data processing and other services with $2.3 billion (¥228.6 billion yen) in annual revenue, and Cubic Transportation Systems, which develops automatic fare collection systems. Kovio said it is also working with systems integrators, solution providers and media converters to distribute its products.

Toppan is one of Kovio's investors. Kovio has attracted investment from 15 firms around the world, including Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers, the legendary Silicon Valley venture capital firm.

Raghu Das, CEO of IDTechEx which follows the printed electronics and RFID industries, said Kovio's technology developed sooner than expected. He views it as a positive development for RFID adoption.

Kovio's announcement comes more than a year after PolyIC demonstrated its 13.56 MHz tags printed from organic materials at a conference (see Organic Growth: Conference Tries Printed RFID Tags) and announced they were available in quantities of up to 100,000 for trials. Pavate said PolyIC's organic materials have speed and other performance limitations that don't apply to Kovio's silicon ink-based tags.
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