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Thanks for the Memory

Taking advantage of memory-rich tags.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Dec 01, 2006—It's been two years since the Gen 2 protocol became a standard, and end users think it's time to use the tags as more than just license plates for tracking products and assets. To meet their needs, Impinj, NXP, STMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments are making Gen 2 chips that hold from 64 to 224 bits of user-programmable memory, in addition to an Electronic Product Code. RF IDentics and RSI ID are among the vendors that are converting these chips into tags.

CHEP is one of the first companies to take advantage of these memory-rich tags. The container company is attaching rugged RF IDentics Gen 2 tags, which use Impinj's Monaco/64 chip, to some of its shipping containers and pallets. Companies that rent the containers can save data to the tag's memory, such as time stamps to monitor shipping and receiving times.

Manufacturers could use the extra memory for a unique, unalterable identifier code that could be burned into the chip when it was made and used to authenticate the product to which the tag would be attached. If counterfeiters start to add Gen 2 tags with EPCs to their products, the missing identifiers would expose them as knockoffs.

Some applications may require tags with even more memory. Last year, Boeing asked chipmaker Intelleflex for a passive tag chip that could hold not just 64 bits but 64,000 bits of user-programmable memory, for tracking the maintenance history of aircraft parts going into its upcoming Dreamliner planes. Converters are due to have those chips turned into 64-kilobit passive tags by early next year. They will be available in a number of sizes and in various housings, some quite rugged.
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