NEC to launch RFID business this year

NEC Corp. is planning to enter the radio frequency identification (RFID) business this year and is currently in the final stages of developing its own RFID chip, it said Friday.

The company, one of Japan's biggest computer makers, plans to start offering both the chip and associated software and systems in Japan and overseas sometime during the April to September period.

NEC's chip, called NetLabel, measures 0.8 millimeters square and includes a built-in antenna, said Yasuhito Jochi, a spokesperson for NEC in Tokyo. That is four times the size of Hitachi Ltd.'s "myu" chip, which will be one of its biggest competitors in the domestic market, although NEC's chips scores over Hitachi's in terms of memory size. The myu chip has a memory of 128 bits while NetLabel can store up to 1 kilobit of information, or eight times more.

Like Hitachi's chip, the first sample from NEC will operate in the Japanese RFID band, which is around 2.5GHz, said Jochi.

The profile of RFID technology has recently been growing in Japan as several companies and organizations announce trials of smart-tag systems. In one current trial in Yokohama, supermarket shoppers can call up data on produce, such as where it was grown and when it was packed, by bringing it close to a reader terminal.

The Japanese government is also working with private companies on a number of other trials that include parcel tracking, airport baggage handling and merchandise management.

The Japanese domestic RFID market is estimated to have been worth

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