New IC Design Promises to Enable Trillions of RFID Tags

Impinj calls its new integrated circuit process its most significant innovation since the release of its Monza chip in 2005; the new IC will enable a smaller, faster and more effective series of RFID chips that could fuel major advancement in the UHF RAIN RFID industry.
Published: March 28, 2019

Internet of Things (IoT) technology company Impinj has developed new technologies for integrated circuits (ICs) that will lead to a series of smaller, more functional RAIN RFID chips. Ultimately, the company reports, the new chips will enable its technology partners to make tags and labels featuring significantly improved read distance, reliability and speed.

The new offerings will result in a series of chips known as the Impinj M700 endpoint IC series, the company indicates. The firm says it is working with a select group of RFID technology partners to test, validate and ensure the availability of RFID inlays containing the new ICs as new products are announced. Impinj will demonstrate the chips’ functionality at the RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, taking place next week in Phoenix, Ariz.

Jeff Dossett

“What we’re introducing are technology innovations upon which a new series of Impinj M700 chips will be developed and released,” says Jeff Dossett, Impinj’s executive VP, sales and marketing. The new design enables significant shrinking of the size of the ICs, which Dossett says will be able to accomplish more than predecessor models.

The new process, leveraging recent semiconductor advancements, follows Moore’s Law—the theory that integrated circuit size reduces by half every two years. Impinj has been able to shrink the logic area of the chip, Dossett explains, enabling it to deliver a next-generation IC with better capabilities, and to do so in a smaller form factor.

This technology shift is the culmination of a decade of innovation, Dossett says, and represents Impinj’s most significant announcement since its first EPC UHF RFID product, the Monza chip, was released in 2005. The M700 series will be the first built using this new design. The company expects the new ICs to enable small, effective and lower-cost tags that could be applied to everyday items, including small, inexpensive consumer goods, for the purposes of brand authentication, loss prevention or other applications.

With regard to size, the new design enables Impinj to make what it calls its endpoint ICs, using 300-millimeter silicon wafers that contain twice as many ICs per wafer as any other wafer of that size, and more than four times as many as any 200-millimeter wafer. This technology unlocks a new wave of digital capabilities for RFID tags, Dossett says. For instance, he explains, by shrinking the chip’s digital logic area, “We enable the addition of new features in that chip without having to increase the silicon area, which would otherwise increase cost.”

Therefore, products from the M700 series could come with new functionality intended to more seamlessly enable such applications as item authentication, loss prevention and point-of-sale transactions. Those additional features will not compromise performance, Dossett says; in fact, he claims, performance will be superior to that of existing RFID ICs.

Thanks to the increased read distance, reliability and speed, Dossett reports, Impinj’s partners are expected to begin creating tags that will enable more accurate tag reads for their customers. Release of the M700 series products is slated to begin later this year, he adds, and to then increase incrementally. “Over time,” he states, “we will be able to add features to meet evolving requirements in use cases.”

The company has already begun working with RFID ecosystem partners to ensure they are operationally ready for the new ICs. “Our approach to product rollout is deliberate and thoughtful,” Dossett says. “Our partner ecosystem needs to be ready to take full advantage of these new innovative features.”

Once the M700 chips become available, Dossett predicts companies will be ready to create smaller inlays than those previously available. “They’re very excited about the technology innovations in the Impinj M700 series,” he says. At that point, he adds, Impinj expects to commence production of the ICs in large volumes so that tag makers will be ready to scale to meet the demands for hundreds of millions—or billions—of new products.

In fact, Dossett expects that tags will eventually be applied to trillions of everyday items. Impinj’s new design, he says, “enables the entire RAIN industry to better serve a broader range of items, deliver better value and raise opportunity for the entire marketplace.” This new design and resulting IC series are the culmination of more than a decade of engineering for the technology company, Dossett states, adding, “This is a milestone for Impinj, for the industry, and the foundation of innovation that we will bring to market.”