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Researchers Develop a Tiny ID Chip to Tackle Counterfeiting

Researchers Develop a Tiny ID Chip to Tackle Counterfeiting

Electronic components are a popular target for counterfeiting, and are an ongoing problem that costs the electronics industry billions of dollars each year. To tackle the issue of counterfeits entering the supply chain, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have invented a tiny new ID chip that is small enough to fit onto small electronic components in order to verify their authenticity.

While existing radio frequency identification (RFID) tags are becoming increasingly popular as a way of authenticating parts, they are costly to manufacture, too large to fit on tiny components, and require too much power to run strong encryption.

According to MIT officials in a paper presented at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) International Solid-State Circuits Conference, the newly developed cryptographic ID tag is millimetre-sized and runs on relatively low levels of solar power. Using a ‘backscatter’ technique, the tiny ID chip can transmit data at significantly higher distances than existing RFID tags. It can also run a popular cryptography scheme that guarantees secure communication using extremely low energy. Additionally, the new ID chip is inexpensive and easy to make.

“We call it the ‘tag of everything’. And everything should mean everything,” said Ruonan Han, report co-author, associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, and head of the Terahertz Integrated Electronics Group in the Microsystems Technology Laboratories. He added, “If I want to track the logistics of, say, a single bolt or tooth implant or silicon chip, current RFID tags don’t enable that. We built a low-cost, tiny chip without packaging, batteries, or other external components, that stores and transmits sensitive data.”

Wasiq Khan, MIT graduate student and report co-author, added, “The US Semiconductor industry suffered $7 billion to $10 billion in losses annually because of counterfeit chips. Our chip can be seamlessly integrated into other electronic chips for security purposes, so it could have a huge impact on industry. Our chips cost a few cents each, but the technology is priceless.”