Different Applications

By Renee Boucher Ferguson  |  Posted 2006-07-17 Print this article Print

Whereas RFID is being considered in the pharmaceutical industry to help drug manufacturers maintain a drugs "pedigree" or manufacturing roots, HP is looking at different applications. For example, Taub envisions a Memory Spot placed on a pill bottle that has the recording of a doctors voice describing how to take the medication; or another spot on the bottle that carries electronically all the documentation that goes along with a prescription drug, such as warnings and drug interactions.
With the same token, Taub sees a potential market for electronic passports, given the Memory Spots capability to store different types of data.
"In principle, you could code a persons picture. You could make it encrypted—it could be the picture plus fingerprints plus a digital record of where a person travels," said Taub. "There are some [RFID] chips that go into kilobits or a few mega bites, and if they wanted to store a persons hair color, physical bits, they could do more than a bar code. But they cant do pictures, audio, video." There are other areas HP is looking into, for example adding Memory Spots to soldiers dog tags that would carry his or her entire medical history, or adding spots to a printer that will let users add media files to a photograph. The idea is to target those areas that are going to be good business for HP, which develops high tech equipment including personal computers, servers, storage devices, printers and networking equipment. On the software side HP develops operating systems, print management tools and networking tools. Taub said HP Labs generally invests in the research and development of significant technologies that will be a boon for the company—generating anywhere from $1 billion in revenue annually, and up. "Whats attractive about Memory Spots is there are so many possibilities, so many different places for HP to play," he said. "Being a part of the photography ecosystem could be important for us." HP has, for the past year, been in talks with potential partners. While Taub declined to comment on who the partners are, there are some natural extensions: chip manufacturers, reader and writer manufacturers (the ideal one being cell phone makers); USB manufacturers (there could be a plug in spot reader and writer) and PDA manufacturers. At the same time HP Labs—which counts thermal inkjet printing and the 64-bit architecture behind Intels Itanium microprocessor among its inventions—partners with both HP business and a small group of customers, according to Hoovers Web site. But there is a lot to consider before the spots actually hit the market. Its not just lining up manufacturing partners, "its distribution channels and reliability," said Taub. "Its so complicated to build a supply chain for these things that even if everything worked perfectly, it would be two years before were out the door." Despite the delay in technology, some analysts believe its going to be a disruptive one for RFID—in certain areas. "What this technology does is what weve been trying to get RFID to do all along, but it really wasnt designed to do," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, in San Jose, Calif. "If RFID was a screwdriver and weve been running around using it to pound nails, [Memory Spots] are more like a hammer." The reason: the spots are really more of a storage medium, whereas RFID is a means of digitizing the bar code thats designed as a way to very quickly do inventory and track stuff—supplies and people, according to Enderle. "This is more of a storage medium—it puts a lot of data in a very small space and makes it accessible." Editors Note: This story was updated to add information from HP Labs. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on enterprise and small business storage hardware and software.


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