Electronic labels made from plastic semiconductors can now pick up and respond to radio signals at a frequency suitable for use on products. At an electronics conference in San Francisco this week, two European industrial-research teams described plastic radiofrequency-identification (RFID) prototypes with those advanced capabilities.
Although silicon-based RFID tags are already in wide use—for instance, in so-called smart cards used to pay mass-transit fares—the new developments bring closer the prospect of RFID tags becoming as common as bar codes, or perhaps even more so, the researchers say. Besides labeling consumer products, plastic tags might make novel electronic tracking and transactions possible, from computer monitoring of what's in the refrigerator to mail routing by means of smart address labels.
To make that leap, tags must become much less expensive than is possible if they're made of silicon. Hence, the move to plastic.