S'pore RFID industry to get US$6 million boost

The island-state's leading researching institute A*STAR, will spread the money over three years to help partners execute proof-of-concept projects that use its technology.

SINGAPORE--The country's radio frequency identification (RFID) endeavors have received a shot in the arm with its top research agency's bid to invest S$10 million (US$6 million) to help execute proof-of-concept (POC) proposals.

Exploit Technologies, the commercialization arm for the Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR) will dish out the sum to its Singapore-based industry partners over three years with the aim to transform A*STAR's RFID intellectual property and know-how into commercial applications.

Emily Tan, senior vice president of Exploit's incubation and spin-of management division, said the company has received 25 to 30 POC proposals, of which nine have already been approved.

Speaking at a press conference held earlier today, Tan noted that Exploit Technologies is hoping the funds would encourage these companies to adopt A*STAR's RFID technology when they develop products for their customers, and "make a business out of it".

Local consumer electronics retailer BiG by Safe and Singapore's National Library Board (NLB) have already responded to Exploit's initiative, she said.

BiG by Safe is exploring the possibility of developing an RFID track-and-trace system for all items in its stores and warehouses, and the NLB is looking into creating a "smart shelf" system that can pinpoint the exact location of books using the radio-wave technology.

Exploit Technologies is also considering the development of tools for use in other areas, such as tamper-proof RFID tags for pharmaceutical and logistics supply chain management solutions.

Officials from the Institute of Microelectronics (IME), a member organization under A*STAR, also unveiled their latest innovation--an integrated RFID tag with on-chip antenna that has read/write data storage capabilities, using passive radio frequency (RF) power.

According to Rajinder Singh, IME's head of integrated circuits and systems laboratory, his research team found a way to fabricate the antenna on top of the RFID chip. This eliminates the need for a costly antenna printing and assembly process, used to develop a separate "off-chip" antenna that is many times larger than the chip itself, he said.

Conventional RFID tags usually measure a few square centimeters but the IME's new chip, offering both read-and-write memory capabilities with a non-volatile memory of 128 bits and a frequency of 2.45GHz, is considerably miniaturized at less than 1 square millimeters, Singh explained.

But most important, he noted, his team was able to reduce the cost of the chip to as low as 4 to 6 US cents. This could be good news to companies that want to implement RFID technology but still find the cost of tags prohibitive.

Because of its small size and low cost, the IME chip could be used to tag unconventional items such as paper documents, clothing and even paper currency, said Singh.