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Money tracking by micro chip

Mew processor raises privacy concerns

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Hitachi has developed a silicon chip for security applications so small that it can even be embedded in money.

Originally developed to thwart counterfeiting of bank bills, Hitachi said the minute integrated circuit could equally be embedded in consumer products to track them in case of theft.

The chip, which is just 0.4mm long, can hold security-related information or identifying data. It is so thin it will neither damage material in which it is placed or be damaged if a note it is embedded within is folded.

EE Times reports that the chip is a 60-micron thick CMOS device that integrates 2.45GHz wireless communications circuitry and features 128 bits of ROM.

Hitachi has formed a joint venture firm, called Mew Solutions to promote sales of the integrated circuit device, which has been christened the Mew chip.

The Japanese giant expects the Mew chip to enjoy much higher demand than conventional ID chips, which can be several millimeters across. New applications, such as linking information on the Internet with the Mew chip's ID number, could be opened by the tiny integrated circuit, says Hitachi.

Its availability would open up the possibility of being able to track consumer products - or even money - over the Internet.

Samples of the chip will be available this autumn, with sales efforts getting into gear by next year. Mew Solutions expects to achieve sales of $145 million per year by 2005.

Pricing on the device isn't available yet and that, along with the privacy concerns using the technology might throw up, will play a large part in determining its success.

We all remember the furore that surrounded Intel's plans to ship Pentium III processor with ID numbers that identified each processor. Intel said this was good for ensuring the security of ecommerce transactions, but eventually relented under pressure from privacy advocates and shipped processors with the feature turned off by default.

Similar concerns might well surround the introduction of the Mew chip and it'll be interesting to see how the technology is received in the market. ®

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Security chip could foil counterfeiters, Hitachi says

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