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MIT Technology Review

  • Vivek Subramanian


    Vivek Subramanian is an inventor’s inventor. His credits include a novel memory chip that led him to start Santa Clara, CA-based Matrix Semiconductor; a tiny, award-winning transistor; and his current project, ultracheap, flexible displays for note-taking gadgets. But his greatest ambition is to put small amounts of computing power into everyday items. Subramanian has devised radio frequency sensors that can be printed onto the plastic and paper that wrap fresh foods and packaged goods in stores. He’s confident his University of California, Berkeley, group can produce the circuits for less than one cent each—compared with the current manufacturing cost of one dollar for a conventional radio frequency tag. Such tags on grocery items could give shoppers price and content information, even on-the-spot discounts. A sensor in a carton of milk could measure lactic-acid levels and signal when it’s time for a fresh container. “I’m not looking to make the best and fastest electronic devices,” Subramanian says. “I’m just making them good and fast enough so they can be placed everywhere in everything.”