Several electronics manufacturers and research institutes in Europe have joined forces in a European Union-funded project aimed at developing low-cost, polymer-based electronic circuits.
The project, called PolyApply, will focus on developing plastic chips for RFID applications, said Richard Stockdill, a spokesman for STMicroelectronics which is leading the project.
The European Commission will provide €12m to a group of 20 chip makers and research organisations to initiate the development project, slated to run to the end of 2007.
The partners include Acreo, Infineon Technologies, Siemens and Philips Electronics.
The group has coined the term "ambient intelligence" to define the general focus of its work.
The goal is to integrate a variety of electronic functions, such as sensing, computing and information storage, into a wide range of materials, including consumer packaging, and to enable all these to communicate via low-cost radio frequency technology, said Stockdill.
Polymer-based electronic systems will play a key role. In developing these new technologies, researchers and engineers in the group will aim to apply existing system and circuit-design expertise gained from their work on advanced silicon systems to new materials and devices that can be manufactured at substantially lower cost.
A number retailers around the world are eager to see the development of low-cost RFID chips which they can use to replace bar codes, one of these applications could be the ability to print RFID chips on consumer packaging, said Stockdill.
German retailer Metro is already conducting one of the sector's largest pilot tests of RFID technology.
To deploy RFID chips economically, the price will have to come down to around two cents from the existing prices ranging between 30 cents and 60 cents , said Gerd Wolfram, project manager of Metro's Future Store Initiative.
John Blau writes for IDG News Service