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HP's Memory Spot Chip 87

Iddo Genuth writes, "HP Labs recently revealed a prototype of the Memory Spot Chip, a tiny wireless chip capable of storing and transmitting data. When it hits the market in about 2-3 years, the new chip will enable a variety of applications ranging from digital wristbands that store patient medical information to sound bytes on paper or printed pictures that can be accessed using a reader-equipped device. The article has an interview with Howard Taub of HP Labs and some photos of the prototype chip." The chip can only be read at a distance of 1 mm, so it avoids many of the privacy concerns of RFID. It has about 1000 times the storage capacity and 100-1000 times the data transfer rate of RFID.
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HP's Memory Spot Chip

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  • by User 956 ( 568564 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @04:33PM (#16369463) Homepage
    The chip can only be read at a distance of 1 mm, so it avoids many of the privacy concerns of RFID. It has about 1000 times the storage capacity and 100-1000 times the data transfer rate of RFID

    Well then, they need to call it something catchy, like "RFID Extreme". I'll buy one to go with my Airport Extreme bas station, and my Extreme Doritos.
  • No thanks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @04:34PM (#16369471) Homepage Journal
    I can only see 1 metre without my glasses,
    But shockingly if I get a device to FOCUS the light I can see much further.

    Do they make tiny pringles cans?
    • by Cemu ( 968469 )
      You're a bit incorrect with your analogy. This is more like a flashlight than your glasses. With these you still need to power them so the power source needs to be within a certain distance. If you hold a flashlight a foot away from what you're looking at you can see it bright as day but if the light is 100 yards away it doesn't do much good.
      • Actually, it depends if your flashlight is a laser or not.
      • You're a bit incorrect with your analogy. This is more like a flashlight than your glasses. With these you still need to power them so the power source needs to be within a certain distance. If you hold a flashlight a foot away from what you're looking at you can see it bright as day but if the light is 100 yards away it doesn't do much good.

        Presumably the HP chip's power source is RF transmission, right? So why couldn't you convert your pringles-can receiver into a transceiver? I recall there is a physi

  • Imagine! No more sheafs of paper!
    Actually not having to use a card reader at the store, simply pick up what you want and leave!
    I'll take 2.
  • by businessnerd ( 1009815 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @04:45PM (#16369661)
    The chip can only be read at a distance of 1 mm, so it avoids many of the privacy concerns of RFID.


    If they are going to make it so that you have to be 1mm away to read the signal, then why not just make a contact point and do away with the wireless function all together. This would truly avoid the privacy concerns and would function just the same. What's 1 more milimeter of distance anyway?

    It seems everything these days needs to be wireless in order to be considered a hot new item. This is like making a "contactless pen." Instead of having to press the pen against the paper to write, you can hover the pen less than 1mm away from the paper.
    • by mcfuddlerucker ( 883634 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @04:52PM (#16369753)
      >> This is like making a "contactless pen."

      Kindly stop hoarding this technology to yourself, and let me know where I can purchase this device.
      • Here. [wickedlasers.com]
      • by Excen ( 686416 )
        >> This is like making a "contactless pen."

        Kindly stop hoarding this technology to yourself, and let me know where I can purchase this device.


        Seeing as how this is Slashdot, I'm pretty sure you could call your gigglestick a contactless pen.
    • by le0p ( 932717 ) * on Monday October 09, 2006 @04:52PM (#16369765)
      Just a thought, maybe it's because contacts get dirty, scratched, corroded, and stop working? With extrememly close wireless, you achieve a "contact" point without the maintenance issues. You could be right that it's purely a hype creator, but it seems like there might be some merit to me.
      • Instead of relying on the sensitivity of today's receivers to come up with "it can only be read from a distance of 1mm", why not implement very simple technology (radio signal ping-pong) to determine the distance of the radio partner? Encryption keys could be passed to ensure a single partner, and possibly moot the entire Pringles Can argument. Or perhaps I'm daft to think any solution could be so simple.
        • by x2A ( 858210 )
          The 1mm thing isn't because of security/privacy, it just happens to rule out many of those concerns. The issue is, if you want the chip to be able to transmit futher, it would need to be bigger, to be able to collect, handle, and transmit greater power.

          • Actually, the point I intially responding to was all about security. 1mm is today's max range, then some hotshot with a pringles can and a high-gain amp changes that to 10 feet tomorrow, and a mile 10 years from now.

            It's my opinion they should build in security features to prevent this, rather than claiming 1 mm is the max distance the thing can be read from.
            • by x2A ( 858210 )
              I don't believe it's an issue... you'd need the pringles tube around the chip to make any significant distance, as this is the bit that you can't significantly increase its broadcast power (as it's just too small to collect, handle, and transmit a large enough amount of energy, no matter how much energy you send to it). Without that, you amplifying (either using more power or a directional antenna) your signal to it won't make any difference, it can't reply with all that extra power, and so you're going to
              • ...and so you're going to have a greater difficulty differenciating between the signal and background radiation the further away you get

                Correct. And today someone is saying the max distance is 1 mm. No once can predict what discrimination techniques will be invented tomorrow. RFID and Bluetooth were both touted and very short-range technologies - until enterprising minds figured out how to get Bluetooth over a mile an RFID to meters.

                UWB (Ultra-Wide Band) is a very low power technology (comparativel
                • by x2A ( 858210 )
                  "Please don't tell me you can predict with any certainty that no one will ever read this device from a distance of great than 1mm"

                  I'm not saying that the limit can't be broken, by 10, maybe even 100 times the distance... but nothing to be worried about. Sure technologies like bluetooth and wifi can stretch over their spec'ed distance, this can be achieved with various methods such as increasing the power to the antenna and/or using directional antennas. But if you're not going to notice somebody attaching a
                  • I'm not saying that the limit can't be broken, by 10, maybe even 100 times the distance... but nothing to be worried about.

                    Fine. I'll do the worrying for both of us ;-)
            • the limitation would be with the chip itself, not the transceiver on the other end.

              it doesn't matter if you hijack a radio tower, you're only gonna get so much range out of the thing before power disapation (or lack therof) causes the little chip to fry.
      • Go get out a ruler and look at the distance 1mm. Now tell me how you're going to consistently get the RFID chip up to the receiver that close without constantly banging them against each other.

        The original parent is right. Even a distance of 1cm would be okay (if a bit weird), but 1mm is just pointless *And* being wireless, less secure.
    • It's probably necessary for the heavy uses. The more a contact device is read, the more you'll want wireless because contacts wear out. If not on the dots, then the contacts on the readers would wear out. Then you have to worry about alignment and such. With wireless, you don't have to worry about the contacts corroding, wearing out, getting bent, flaking or anything like that. You might have to worry about interference, but if you are reading a dot on a card that you feed a machine, I think shielding
    • A wireless device like this can provide a more reliable mechanism than something with a contact. Contacts wear out over time, and even if the time period is short enough to make wear irrelevant, static buildup or incorrect voltages on the reader device could blow the device when you make contact with it.

      And finally, unless you're extending an antenna via the contact, you will need more than one contact to make a usable circuit with the reader. On something as small as a Memory Dot, that could be nigh on im

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by profplump ( 309017 )
      Because a wired reader would:
            1. Require the reader to be properly oriented, not merely within range, so that the 2+ contacts required are aligned
            2. Render the chip unreadable when it's dirty
            3. Render the chip unreadable when it's wet
            4. Prevent the chip from be layered inside paper/plastic/fabric -- it would have to be exposed, which complicates manufacturing
    • by MadEE ( 784327 )
      If they are going to make it so that you have to be 1mm away to read the signal, then why not just make a contact point and do away with the wireless function all together.
      Simple answer is that contacts can be pretty unreliable in a dirty environment. Even in a clean environment without a way to lock the contacts of the reader to the device the contacts will "bounce" due to a lack of constant resistance and capacitance between the contacts of the reader and the device.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Because if you don't have to have metal-to-metal contact to transfer data, you can have something over it (say, cloth or plastic) for physical protection or concealment and still be able to read the thing by touching whatever's over it. You'd still touch the reader to something, but it doesn't have to be the storage device itself.

      Anywho, there was another article about this thing a couple of months ago. I'd look it up, but I've got a bunch of other stuff to do and for some stupid reason my modem (yes,
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by patrixmyth ( 167599 )
      Even if it required contact, then it would still be wireless. As long as it doesn't connect by a wire, then it's wireless. To address your point directly however, I assume that the point of allowing it to work with a 1mm distance is to allow it to be enclosed within other materials. For instance, you could put one inside packaging or a protective cover and still allow a reader to access the information. I would love to see nutritional information put into this sort of thing so that grocery shopping coul
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by a_nonamiss ( 743253 )
      You miss the crucial point. If you make it a maximum distance of 1mm, you can enclose the chip in plastic or some other water-proof material. This is the same philosophy as making rechargable items that charge by induction. (Such as electric razors, toothbrushes, etc.) Induction (as it's implemented in these devices) is very inefficient and only works over a very short distnace, however, they can completely seal the plastic case of the device to eliminate the possibility that water can get in there. (Water
      • Animals (Score:2, Interesting)

        These types of devices could be incredibly helpful inside live animals (including humans). Imagine a farmer being able to touch a machine to a computer laying just beneath the skin of livestock. He could use this to collect info from internal probes and other data gathering tools... sugar, water, and fat levels, hormone levels, known pathogens, etc... all could be checked every time the cow wandered in to get milk (as happens automatically in many big farms).

        Inside people, temporary chips could be used to
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by arielCo ( 995647 )
      1. With wired links you need contact pads, which spell trouble (dirt on the pads, dirt coming inside the package, tiny wires, etc).
      2. You have to align the contacts for reading/writing. Even if this RF chip actually has to come within 1 mm from the antenna, the latter can have as large a surface as you want it to be.

      iButton [wikipedia.org] is a simple, rugged contact-based solution, but it's far from being cheap/small enough to put on every spare widget you sell.

    • Dallas Semiconductor iButtons
    • by donaldm ( 919619 )
      Very good point. Take the following web site for instance it actually shows how rfid can be compromised.

      http://www.hackaday.com/2005/02/19/sniffing-and-cr acking-rfid-crypto/ [hackaday.com]

      This web site has been out for some time so it appears that if you have a contact-less method of reading something then it's eventually going to be cracked. It is very easy to get close such as sitting next to or just brushing past a the potential victim without them being aware of any evil intent and 1m is a huge distance to play aroun
    • by donaldm ( 919619 )
      Adding to my last post.

      The 1mm read distance would certainly stop the casual pass in the case of an rfid chip reader but it would be interesting in knowing how they determined a 1mm transmitting range since any wireless transmitting device has the potential for unlimited range. Granted that you need a much more sensitive receiver to receive the weaker signal but it could be done and that is all a cracker needs.
    • From the article...
      ...we laminate the tiny chip in plastic on a small carrier...
      If it's wireless then you don't have to worry about leaving contact points clear. You couldn't laminate the chip or cover it in any way. This way they can just have a dot on the corner of a picture, etc, and you simply have to put your reader on that spot to read the data.
  • by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @04:48PM (#16369689) Homepage Journal
    HP had to develop such a tiny memory technology for their spy cameras! :)

  • What happens if I lose my memory spot?
    Could I be malicious and sprinkle hundreds of them on expensive items and the the clerk play pin the scanner on the donkey?
  • by jhfry ( 829244 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @04:50PM (#16369729)
    The advantage of RFID is that it could be read from a distance... so that you could walk out of a store with a cart full of items and not need to scan each one individually. This removes this ability.

    The security concern with RFID is that it could be read from a distance... so a marketing company could scan a cart full of items and not need to scan each one individually. this removes this ability.

    OK so now it doesn't benifit you or the store at all... but it protects your security better! But the way I see it is it's no better than the current, cheap alternative of barcodes.

    I think where TFA is off is in it's comparing this technology and it's applications to RFID. These technologies are certainly not targetting the same markets or applications. I wouldn't mind the new chip in my credit card (unlike RFID), but don't raise the price of my canned fruit by embedding one in the label.

    This new technology is best suited in situations where large volumes of data need to be attached to an object and securely (relative, physical only) read very quickly and with minimal effort. Medical applications come to mind as well as banking, credit card processing, and identification (DL, VISA, Passport).

    • This is not supposed to be a substitute for RFID, well not in all applications anyway.

      Unfortunately people, and in this case TFA, often compare technologies that have different intended uses (eg. Bluetooth vs Wifi). Sure they have some overlap, but they differ in many ways too.

    • by jhfry ( 829244 )
      Before I am flamed... its not TFA that compares it to RFID so much as the original poster... sorry.
  • HP Labs recently revealed a prototype of the Memory Spot Chip, a tiny wireless chip capable of storing and transmitting data.

    This coming hot off the heels of the Mystery Spot Chip [wikipedia.org], which didn't really work, as any photos read off the device didn't appear to obey the observable laws of physics.
  • I loved the printed image part, accessible by a reader... :D
  • by vmxeo ( 173325 ) on Monday October 09, 2006 @04:54PM (#16369785) Homepage Journal
    Too bad the range is so small. Otherwise it'd be so easy to grab people's sentistive information (say phone records or SS numbers, stuff like that) as they walk by. You'd be able to covertly snag information on anyone- employees, board members, maybe random reporters or thier relatives. Right now it so much hassle hiring outside firms to track this kind of stuff down for you. I'm sure those innovative enginners are working on it though. Go HP!


    (note to moderators: I forgot to include sarcasm tags in my post above. Sorry. Really.)
  • >> The chip can only be read at a distance of 1 mm, so it avoids many of the privacy concerns of RFID. It has about 1000 times the storage capacity and 100-1000 times the data transfer rate of RFID.

    RFID has been able to be read FAR from it's original spec'd distance...so have bluetooth devices. How long will this 1 mm last? What if this 1 mm becomes 1,000 mm?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MadEE ( 784327 )
      RFID and Bluetooth Antennas are external and can be modified by users and manufactures for extra range. That is not the case for these devices as the antenna is on the die of the chip. It doesn't mean that you may be able to get 5mm out of the thing in a faraday cage but if you think you are going to get meters out of it I wouldn't hold my breath.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by kfg ( 145172 ) *
      What if this 1 mm becomes 1,000 mm?

      All you have to do is figure out how to focus Arecibo on it.

      Now just stand still while we suspend you a couple miles above Puerto Rico.

      KFG
    • by avirrey ( 972127 )
      The difference, clearly, is that BT and RFID want the added range to be a side effect and don't filter for this in their product testing phase. With HP, the objective is to limit to 1mm, thus the test system would be setup to fail product that exceeds x amount of range. This in itself is the whole argument regarding the uselessness of this chip: Wireless is about how far, not how short. Again, as previous posters mentioned, if it's so short a range, why not make it a contact interface?
      ----
      I'll change
  • One major use of such a chip would be implanting it just under the skin on the back of your hand.
    Then you just swipe your hand over a reader to buy things.
    Since it has lots of memory, you could put all medical data and other "official" information on it to be at the ready.
    You could even use it at your employment establishment to get paid.
    I'd think that the government would want such a society of highly tracked and managed citizens. It would make it hard to buy drugs or support other terrorist activites
    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by Tony Hoyle ( 11698 )
      I'll take two!

      Anything that makes the fundies crap themselves is OK by me!
      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        The fundies wouldn't be crapping themselves. They'd be happy because the raputure must be right around the corner.

    • and thiefs will have tiny embedded reader units in *their* hands.
      and that's about the point where shaking somebody's hand will begin to frighten people. the end of social graces? that type of tech might result in us avoiding physical contact with other people at all cost.

      that kind of thing might not bother most readers of slashdot, but for the average joe (erm, the one with basic social skills) it might pose a problem.
  • The summary is crap (Score:3, Informative)

    by John Harrison ( 223649 ) <johnharrison@@@gmail...com> on Monday October 09, 2006 @05:50PM (#16370749) Homepage Journal
    There are contactless smart cards with up to 2 megabytes of storage, built in AES, 3DES, and RSA, that have a 1 inch range and 800 kbps transmit rates. A $1 memory spot looks good compared to a $0.10 rfid chip but isn't so impressive compared to a $1 contactless smart card.
    • The comparison about prices misses the mark because of the differences in form factor. There are places that the memory spot chip can be embedded where a smart card cannot. Done correctly, the memory spot chips will not draw attention to themselves, either. Obfuscation is an often-ignored aspect of securing data.
      • All the comparisons that I've seen miss the mark because the neglect to include all the relevant factors. You've just pointed out that I missed one and I agree. My point is that the summary and the article are hugely misleading by selecting a very particular implementation of a technology but using the generic term for it and then saying that their stuff is superior in every way. Like I said, it is crap.
    • You wouldn't happen to have a link to a dev kit for a card like you describe, would you?

      I've been looking for something like that for a while now, and apparently my Google skills suck, cause I can't find anything like what you mention that I can lay hands on.

      Regards,
      Ross
      • The IBM JCOP card is one such smart card. [ibm.com]

        You can also google on "Mifare" for cheap contactless memory cards from Philips. They aren't as programable but for many applications you don't need programability.
        • You can also google on "Mifare" for cheap contactless memory cards from Philips.

          This is what I'm currently developing against. I'm finding that I'd like to store more on the card than the Mifare DESFire cards currently allow (partitioned 4k, when I'd like to store about 100-300kB), so your mention of contactless smart cards with encryption protected 2MB on board sounded really good.

          The IBM JCOP card is one such smart card.

          The JCOP cards are different from the Mifare in that all of them have contact pins (l

          • Actually you can put JCOP cards in a variety of pure contactless form factors. I've seen them in watches and fobs for instance, but usually I use the dual interface cards that give me the option of using them with the more common contact readers or the much faster contactless ones. The Sharp smart card chip has 2MB of storage and there is a JCOP implementation for it which I believe came out recently. They've had a card with 1MB of storage for quite some time but it was their own Java impelementation as
  • So, it's like an RFID tag, only faster and with greater capacity - and it'll be released in a few years time. That's news how exactly?

    Unless technology suddenly stops advancing I'm sure every other RFID tag launched in a few years time will also have those sort of specs.
  • The chip can only be read at a distance of 1 mm, so it avoids many of the privacy concerns of RFID.

    And baby monitors only have a range of a hundred feet ... right? I have had some aquaintences that could bring up an old style analog wireless phone (remember 49 MHz?) from _miles_ away. Just takes a good radio, the tone generator, and a directional antenna. And if you use a wireless baby monitor. Well, wow! They have very sensitive mikes and pick up everything said in their vicinity, the next room, and some
  • Make sure that Pham Nuwen [wikipedia.org] hasn't hidden any trapdoors in them!
  • " tiny wireless chip capable of storing and transmitting data." ... it transmits that data to a bunch of private investigators by default.
  • It has about 1000 times the storage capacity and 100-1000 times the data transfer rate of RFID.

    Wow, so it can store, like, 100k! :)

    (yeah, i know that a lot of storage isn't usually needed in RFID applications and the such, but still...)
  • The chip can only be read at a distance of 1 mm, so it avoids many of the privacy concerns of RFID.

    Unless they have discovered some new fundamental property of electromagetism, what this has to be read as is this: The system was designed so that the specific reader they have in mind is not capable of reading at greater than 1mm. This says nothing about security because it does not preclude a reader of a different design from reading the devices at a greater distance.

    There is no doubt that this technology i

  • now they don't have to pretext, they can read your cell directly!

    HP will never get out from underneath these kind of jokes until all the spies and liars are thrown out and they lead the world in absolutely banning Nixonian tactics.

Memory fault -- brain fried

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