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Last month, HP announced a new tiny chip — dubbed “Memory Spot” — that can be attached to nearly any object, making content available across a wide range of commercial and consumer products. Sounds a bit like RFID? You’ve got it. So what’s the big deal?

What makes the Memory Spot is size. Not just the physical size of the chip, which is considerably smaller than a typical RFID. The chip incorporates a processor, memory and a wireless receiver, all bundled together in a device 2-4 mm2. Memory Spot has small physical dimensions, but more importantly, it has greater memory capacity and data access speed. And, becuase the tiny chip can be attached to or embedded in almost any object, resulting products could be exponentially more compelling than RFID-attached units.

The research done to design and build the chip was done in Hewlett-Packard’s laborotory in Bristol.

Hewlett-Packard says that the chip is so small that it can be built into almost any object, and have proposed several possible uses. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Ensuring that drugs have not been counterfeited
  • Tagging patients’ wristbands in hospitals
  • Adding multimedia to postcards
  • Incorporation into books

HP claims that once the units are in mass-production, they may cost as little as one dollar each.
No batteries are needed because the chips get their power by induction from the devices which read the data.

Current wireless transfer speeds are 10 Mbit/s.

The current development version of the chip can hold 512 kB of data; but HP say that the memory capacity is likely to increase in the future. They claim that they are two years away from commercial production.


Some examples are:

* Medical records: Embed a Memory Spot chip into a hospital patient’s wrist band and full medical and drug records can be kept securely available.
* Audio photo: Attach a chip to the prints of photographs and add music, commentary or ambient sound to enhance the enjoyment of viewing photos.
* Digital postcards: Send a traditional holiday postcard to family and friends with a chip containing digital pictures of a vacation, plus sounds and even video clips.
* Document notes: A Memory Spot chip attached to a paper document can include a history of all the corrections and additions made to the text, as well as voice notes and graphical images.
* Perfect photocopies: A Memory Spot chip attached to a cover sheet eliminates the need to copy the original document. Just read the perfect digital version into the photocopier and the result will be sharp output every time, no matter how many copies are needed, and avoiding any possibility of the originals jamming in the feeder.
* Security passes: Add a chip to an identity card or security pass for the best of both worlds — a handy card with secure, relevant digital information included.
* Anti-counterfeit tags: Counterfeit drugs are a significant problem globally. Memory Spot chips can contain secure information about the manufacture and quality of pharmaceuticals. When added to a drug container, this can prove their authenticity. A similar process could be used to verify high-value engineering and aviation components.