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01. Veratag

Radio Frequency IDs

Harold Craighead

Harold Craighead

Someday anything that needs security protection, such as passports, house keys, or pharmaceuticals, may be identifiable by tiny devices on silicon chips smaller than the tip of a pin. Veratag, a startup company in Albany, New York, aims to build powerful security systems based on MEMS devices. Founded on research from the lab of Harold G. Craighead, Applied and Engineering Physics, Veratag’s product is a tiny MEMS resonator called a MEMflake™. Producing unique analog signals, it can be incorporated into almost any manufactured product. Like snowflakes, each MEMflake is unique and uncloneable, making them ideal for security identification and product authentication.

To create the company’s security technology, a MEMS resonator is placed on a silicon chip that can be read and uniquely identified. A MEMS resonator is like a violin string that vibrates at a particular frequency. Veratag will add a minuscule antenna to the MEMflake to make a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag for identification and to fight counterfeiting. MEMflakes require a nonstandard reader. In addition to creating MEMflake chips, Veratag will develop readers. A complete Veratag RFID security system will consist of MEMflakes, a special reader, and software.

With applications like passports and ID cards, Veratag’s product offers a robust alternative to encrypted RFID, because MEMflakes cannot be cracked and obviate the need for a secure communications infrastructure to handle encryption keys. For applications in RFID, MEMflakes have a number of practical advantages, including short read time, a small footprint, and a low power requirement. The growing market for RFID tags for security applications will be $2.8 billion in 2008.

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