Cutting edge Malaysia-Japanese venture

  • Nation
  • Friday, 05 Sep 2003


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CYBERJAYA: Malaysia will produce an advanced microchip the size of dust motes that can be used for a broad range of applications, from fighting forgery to killing cancer cells. 

One for the album: Dr Mahathir and his deputy pose for a group photograph with members of the International Advisory Panel at the meeting in Cyberjaya.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced yesterday that the Government would jointly produce the next-generation radio frequency identification (RFID) chip with Japanese R&D company FEC Inc, which designed the chip. 

The venture will also include several other major high-tech players in Japan that could not be named at the present time. 

The intellectual property rights to the chip, dubbed the “MM” chip or Malaysian Microchip, has been acquired and is now owned by the Malaysian Government. 

The MM chip measures 0.25 sq mm – about the size of a decimal point – and can be embedded in paper. It is useful for a variety of purposes, such as a replacement for barcode tags in retail goods, for differentiating between genuine and counterfeit currency notes, and for use in passports. 

“This RFID chip technology is indispensable to Malaysia in order to achieve our Vision 2020,” Dr Mahathir said at a press conference after the seventh annual meeting of the Multimedia Super Corridor’s International Advisory Panel (IAP) kicked off here yesterday. 

Dr Mahathir and Datuk Seri Abdullah getting ready for the IAP meeting.

“We are expecting that this project will initiate new economic initiatives that can revolutionise technology applications.” 

He added that the MM chip would create greater value for the Malaysian economy in the  

distribution, import and export, environmental and other sectors. 

“The MM chip may be incorporated into currencies that would eliminate counterfeiting activities,” he said. 

Dr Mahathir also said that the chip could be used for security purposes to “greatly prevent the possibility of terrorist acts”. 

A platform for the application of the chip’s underlying technology is currently being set up and is scheduled to be completed before the end of the year. 

Beginning next year, Government agencies would work with the private sector to “enhance the application of this very advanced chip technology,” Dr Mahathir said. 

The chip is expected to cost less than US$0.10 (38sen) each when commercial production is in full swing. 

Dr Mahathir said the chip would be produced initially in Japan, with local wafer fab Silterra Malaysia Sdn Bhd – located at Kulim High-Tech Park in Kedah – expected to be involved in production later. 

Production of the MM chip is slated to begin early next year. 

FEC Inc chief executive officer Kunioki Ichioka said Silterra’s facilities were suitable for producing the MM chip. 

Dr Mahathir also said that Malaysians would be involved in future research and development of the chip. He added that the chip had the potential to be a major export contributor to the Malaysian economy. 

“There is already a great deal of interest in Japan,” he said. 

The MM chip is a multiband RFID chip, which means that it would also be usable in the United States and Europe, which have adopted a different RFID frequency standard from that in Japan, according to FEC officials. 

Dr Mahathir said the Government had already set aside funding for the project, but he declined to go into details. 

“We anticipate that Malaysia would lead the establishment of the global RFID industry in the future,” he said. 

The IAP is made up of internationally renowned technology leaders and thinkers who advise the Malaysian Government on the MSC. 

See also Tech Central

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