Invisible RFID Ink Safe For Cattle And People
Sun Jan 21, 2007 17:57

Source: TechWeb, the business technology network

Invisible RFID Ink Safe For Cattle And People, Company Says
By K.C. Jones mailto:

A startup company developing chipless RFID
ink has tested its product on cattle and laboratory rats.

Somark Innovations announced this week that
it successfully tested biocompatible RFID ink, which can be read
through animal hairs. The passive RFID technology could be used to
identify and track cows to reduce financial losses from Bovine
Spongiform Encephalopathy (mad cow disease) scares. Somark, which
formed in 2005, is located at the Center for Emerging Technologies in
St. Louis. The company is raising Series A equity financing and plans
to license the technology to secondary markets, which could include
laboratory animals, dogs, cats, prime cuts of meat, and military

Chief scientist Ramos Mays said the tests provide a true
proof-of-principle and mitigate most of the technological risks in
terms of the product's performance. "This proves the ability to create
a synthetic biometric or fake fingerprint with biocompatible, chipless
RFID ink and read it through hair," he said.

Co-founder Mark Pydynowski said during an interview Wednesday that the
ink doesn't contain any metals and can be either invisible or colored.
He declined to say what is in the ink, but said he's certain that it
is 100% biocompatible and chemically inert. He also said it is safe
for people and animals.

The process developed by Somark involves a geometric array of
micro-needles and a reusable applicator with a one-time-use ink
capsule. Pydynowski said it takes five to 10 seconds to "stamp or
tattoo" an animal, and there is no need to remove the fur. The ink
remains in the dermal layer, and a reader can detect it from 4 feet

"Conceptually, you can think of it in the same way that visible light
is reflected by mirrors," he said, adding that the actual process is
slightly different and proprietary.

The amount of information contained in the ink depends on the surface
area available, he said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture calls for
a 15-digit number to track cattle. The first three digits are "840"
for the U.S. country code. The remaining digits are unique
identifiers. The numbers would link to a
database containing more information.

"It can say where it has been, who it has talked to, who it has eaten
with, and who else it has been in contact with," Pydynowski said.

Ranchers and others in the agricultural industry can choose a covert
stamping system, which would make it impossible for cattle thieves to
tell which animals have been marked and easy for those checking for
stolen cattle to determine a cow's source. Pydynowski said the
technology is an improvement over ear tags, which can be detached from
cows and other products.

The technology could verify that cuts of meat originated in a
hormone-free environment, Pydynowski said, adding that consumers would
destroy the system by breaking down the ink when chewing the meat. In
other words, Big Brother wouldn't know whether someone ate a Big Mac
or a filet mignon, according to Pydynowski's explanation. However, the
government and agricultural producers and retailers could track e-coli
outbreaks in spinach, he said.

The ink also could be used to track and rescue soldiers, Pydynowski

"It could help identify friends or foes, prevent friendly fire, and
help save soldiers' lives," he said. "It's a very scary proposition
when you're dealing with humans , but with
military personnel, we're talking about saving soldiers' lives and it
may be something worthwhile."

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