Tiny radio frequency identification (RFID) chips can enable the tracking of everything from pets to batches of razor blades. But their need for antennas to transmit data has held up efforts to shrink them. Now Hitachi has embedded an internal antenna in an RFID chip the size of a fleck of ground pepper using standard semiconductor manufacturing techniques. Special readers provide power to activate the chips and can scan identification numbers from a distance of about one millimeter. Because of the short communication distance, the new chips are not suited for product tracking, but they could be used to authenticate documents such as bank notes, passports, gift certificates, and securities. Hitachi is seeking customers before starting commercial production of the chips, but once a market is found, the chips could be in use within a year.
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