HP mini-chip breakthrough

New micro spots are faster, smaller than RFID - possible major impact on government processes.

An HP breakthrough could mean fundamental changes in government use of microchips in passports, tracking of goods, and identification systems. HP's new chip is as small as a pencil mark and can be embedded in virtually anything. The San Jose Mercury News reports:

This microchip has an adhesive back, so it can be pressed like a sticker to the surface of just about anything. Put it on a photo to carry a voice recording of the person featured in the 4-by-6 glossy print. Stick it on passports so officials can examine images of travelers' fingerprints and iris patterns. Add it to soldiers' dog tags and diabetics' medical-alert bracelets so emergency responders can view their full medical records and make life-saving decisions.

``What we're talking about is a way of bridging the physical and digital worlds,'' said Howard Taub, vice president and associate director of HP Labs.

The "memory spots" are like RFID chips but smarter and more secure - like "RFID on steroids" as a researcher put it. But HP sees the spots as complements not competitors to RFID.

The memory spot could easily replace the paper manual that comes with consumer goods, providing instructions that will never be misplaced. It could substitute for the pages of appendixes accompanying reports and legal documents -- and upstage any other printed materials that would be easier to view or listen to and update digitally.
The memory spot can transmit 10 megabits of data per second, which is as fast as a Wi-Fi Internet connection. Because the radio frequency it uses can move data faster than the one used by RFID tags, huge audio or video files can be transferred from a spot in a fraction of a second rather than many minutes. So while an RFID tag may give people a Web site address where they can find a multimedia presentation, the spot contains the presentation itself. The 256-kilobit memory spot can hold up to 15 seconds of video, and the 4-megabit 42 seconds. HP said future versions of the spot could have larger storage capacities.

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