HP unveils radio chip the size of a grain of rice

HP researchers have created a miniature wireless data chip, which is the size of a grain of rice. The tiny radio can be attached to or embedded in almost any kind of object, linking it and its data to the Internet.

Dubbed Memory Spot, the experimental chip, about 2mm by 4mm, is the work of HP Labs. It is based on CMOS chip technology, widely used for a range of chip designs. The antenna is built into the chip.

According to an HP statement, the data transfer rate is 10Mbps, which is about 10 times faster than Bluetooth, and comparable to IEEE 802.11b wireless LAN radios.

Working prototypes have been tested with a storage capacity of 256Kbits to 4Mbits. That's enough to store a very short video clip, several images, or dozens of pages of text, according to HP.

The chip would be used in conjunction with a tiny read/write device, with both components incorporated into a mobile phone, printer, digital camera or other object. The read/write device would instantly transfer the data stored in Memory Spot to a display screen or some other output format. Memory Spot also draws its power from the read/write device through a technique called "inductive coupling", which transfers energy from one circuit to another by means of a shared electromagnetic field.

The Memory Spot design is self-contained, so no separate battery or other external electronics are needed.

HP sees the tiny chip as a fit for a wide range of consumer, business and industrial applications, bringing new sources of digital data into the network.

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