Hewlett-Packard demonstrated a new chip this week which they suggest will be the smarter alternative to RFID. The memory chip is smaller than a grain of rice, but may store up to half a megabyte (four megabits) of information. The chip also has wireless capabilities and features a built-in antenna in that tiny size. The Memory Spot is powered by inductive coupling; an electromagnetic field generated by a reader within close range powers the chip itself.
The 1.4 millimeter-square prototype chip stores only 32 kilobytes (256 megabits) of information, but HP officials pointed out that a fully-loaded chip could store far more than the current RFID technology allows. Four megabits is enough for video and sounds in addition to text, and is 256 times more than most RFID tags store (2 kilobytes). One aspect of the new chips which is inferior to RFID is range: the new chips must be very close to the reader, or even touching it, while RFID chips can be powered and read from a much greater distance, up to twenty feet for UHF tags.
On the other hand, the Memory Spot is smaller, has far greater capacity, and can transmit data wireless at up to ten megabits per second. That's less than half a second to transmit the full contents of the chip. The small size means that the Memory Spot can be used in applications for which RFID chips are unsuited, like photo albums, paintings, medicine bottles, digital postcards, jewelry, business cards, and more.
The chips contain a processor, which could allow for greater data security than existing RFID technology, as well as open up many possibilities for use. HP executives suggested that cell phones would make excellent readers, though that would require engineering efforts by cell phone manufacturers, which they will need to decide if they want to do.
Another important feature of the new chips is that they can be both read from and written to, and therefore reused, though they need to by physically touched in order for that to work, by design.
Manufactured in volume, the new chips are eventually expected to cost only ten cents, though prices will likely be closer to one dollar each at first. HP did not suggest exactly when they would be available, but said that they are a couple of years away from market.