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Memory Spot wins Computerworld Horizon Award


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By Jamie Beckett, August 2007

Memory Spot, a wireless data chip that could help bridge the physical and digital worlds, is a winner of Computerworld's third annual Horizon Awards honoring cutting-edge technologies.

Developed in HP Labs Bristol, U.K., the chip has the potential to revolutionize the way people store information on paper and other physical objects.

Less than half the size of a grain of rice, the chip can be stuck on or embedded in almost any object and make available information and content now found mostly on electronic devices or the Internet.

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Storage, bandwidth and speed

Memory Spot provides high storage capacity (currently half a megabyte), high bandwidth and requires no batteries. The chip can also be erased and rewritten.

The chip has a 10 megabits-per-second data transfer rate -- 10 times faster than Bluetooth™ wireless technology and comparable to Wi-Fi speeds -- effectively giving users instant retrieval of information in audio, video, photo or document form.

Potential applications

Memory Spot can be used anywhere a physical object would benefit from having digital information attached directly to the object.

"You could add a video clip to a movie poster, include complete medical records on a hospital wrist band or have operating instructions -- with photos or video -- attached to a piece of equipment," says Howard Taub, associate director of HP Labs. "You could even have your doctor's or pharmacist's voice on a Memory Spot attached to a medicine bottle explaining how to take the medication and telling you what adverse affects to look out for."

Although much of this information is available on the Internet or in a computer databases, "it's both easier and more efficient to have it directly attached to an object and immediately available to be read or heard," Taub added.

The broadest set of applications will require a ubiquitous multi-media reader/writer which everyone will have with them most of the time -- the closest thing today that could eventually serve this function is the cell phone.

Other honors

Memory Spot was one of 10 technologies selected for the Computerworld award.

"The Horizon Awards recognize companies developing innovative, promising technologies which hold the potential to significantly affect enterprises in the near future," said Don Tennant, editor in chief of Computerworld.

The Horizon award is Memory Spot's third honor since it was announced a year ago. In December 2007, it was selected for the Scientific American 50, the magazine's annual list of 50 technologies that demonstrate outstanding leadership in science and technology, and it received a "Best Of What's New" award in general innovation from Popular Science magazine.

This is the second consecutive year that HP Labs technologies have been among Computerworld's winners. Last year, the Tycoon virtualized market-based system for allocating computer resources received an award and Jena, the most popular toolkit for Semantic Web developers, received an honorable mention.

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