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News from Asia-Pacific

Malaysia to Produce Smallest Multiband RFID Chips

Malaysia's pioneer radio frequency identification (RFID) chip project is set to go into volume production as early as 2005. According to a spokesman for FEC Inc, a Japan-based chip developer, the Malaysian Microchip or MM chip is currently in testing phase and initial production would be in Japan and later transferred to a Malaysian wafer fab. Malaysia bought the intellectual property rights to the chip from FEC last September.

FEC is a major antenna supplier for Fujitsu Ltd, Hitachi Ltd, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd and other corporations in Japan. It also develops smartcards and smartcard readers.

The company claimed that the multiband RFID chip is so tiny that it can be embedded in paper and plastic. It has a built-in antenna and read/write capabilities, and has a broad range of uses, including tracking goods in a supply chain, helping to reduce theft, counterfeiting and the spread of livestock disease.

Kunioki Ichioka, CEO of FEC, noted that the chip has begun to attract attention from possible customers in China, Canada, Mexico and Australia. Ichioka, who also heads FEC (M) Sdn Bhd,Esaid that the Mexican government expressed interest in using the chip for voter IDs during elections, while Canadian and Australian governments wanted to use it for national IDs.

Locally, Malaysia's smartcard maker Iris Corp Bhd already indicated plans to use the MM chip for the country's national electronic passports to replace larger chips in the current passports. Ichioka added that his company was also planning to produce cellphone-size handheld readers for the project and had begun discussions with several ministries to put in place the infrastructure to enable wide acceptance of the chip.

MM Chip

According to FEC, the MM chip is the smallest multiband RFID chip in the world with a form factor of 0.5 x 0.5mm and a thickness ofE0.07mm. It has an on-chip antenna for 2.45GHz communication and can respond to multiple frequencies ranging from 13.56MHz to 2.45GHz with an external antenna. It also uses an infrared writing system for data transmission.

The chip can replace barcode tags in retail goods, and can be inserted into the human body, animals, bullets, credit cards, currency and other items for verification purposes.

A company spokesman said that the MM chip could cost as little as US$0.10 in full production and this would be a "turning point" for the burgeoning RFID industry. "Malaysia has many advantages that other countries do not have. It hasEmultimedia-friendly cyberlaws, advanced information and communication infrastructure, related industrial clusters, strong leadership, easy access to global markets, and multiple languages,Eraces and cultures," he said.

He added that although the MM chip is patented in Japan, the Malaysian government is the intellectual property owner of the chip, and has set up a committee to oversee its development.EMalaysia plans to patent derivate products of the chip and will control the manufacture, supply and licensing of the chip.

by Julian Matthews

(August 2004 Issue, Nikkei Electronics Asia)
China Update
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