STMicroelectronics, a leading supplier of MEMS devices for consumer and portable applications, and Bluechiip, an early-stage company that has developed a MEMS based asset tracking solution, announced this week that the two companies will cooperate in further commercialization of Bluechiip's MEMS based tracking tags, aimed at a range of different markets, but initially in healthcare, such as biobanks. Through this partnership, ST will be responsonsible for manufacturing of Bluechiip's MEMS based tracking tags into high-volume production.
Bluechiip's tracking tag is a mechanical device and, the company claims, has the unique ability to both survive and read the ID of samples in extremely high and low temperatures, in addition to its immunity to gamma irradiation. This robustness is said to provide significant advantages over more traditional identification or tracking solutions, such as labels, barcodes or RFID technologies, as well as the necessary high levels of data integrity in the rapidly growing and labor-intensive healthcare markets, especially in biobanking.
In March 2009, Time Magazine highlighted biobanking as one of emerging technology trends in its article, 10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now. The growth of biobanks worldwide has been exponential -- recent studies estimate that hundreds of millions of tissue samples are stored in U.S. biobanks and greater than one billion are stored worldwide. In a recent report by Visiongain titled Biobanking for Medical R&D: Technology and Market 2010-2025, the market for biobanking (sales of biobank resources or services) in 2009 was estimated to be worth $8 billion and is expected to reach $45 billion by 2025.
Bluechiip says that its tags, uniquely capable of withstanding temperature extremes and radiation, will first be molded into test tubes and vials for the expanding biobank market to identify, track, retrieve, monitor and store valuable and irreplaceable human biospecimens, including tissue, embryos and cord blood in liquid nitrogen. Bluechiip also says that its MEMS RFID technology has applications in pathology, clinical trials, biorepositories and forensics. Other key markets for the technology could include security, defense, industrial, manufacturing, waste, aerospace and aviation.
"ST's extensive experience in MEMS technologies and its solid manufacturing capabilities make it the perfect partner to Bluechiip in industrializing its innovative tracking tag," said Brett Schwarz, Managing Director and CEO, Bluechiip. "The tag will revolutionize tracking of critical assets in a broad range of important markets."
"Bluechiip's tag technology coupled with ST's MEMS design and manufacturing expertise will make available an extremely robust and valuable tracking capability for many applications in healthcare and other markets," said Benedetto Vigna, Group Vice President and General Manager, MEMS, Sensor and High-Performance Analog Division, STMicroelectronics. "ST has a long history in the industrialization of innovative technologies and applications, and this cooperation with Bluechiip will further extend ST's expertise in biosensors, while also complementing and reinforcing its leadership in MEMS overall."
This new technology enables data to be read at temperatures as low as those reached in liquid nitrogen, approximately –196 degrees Celsius, and as high as 200 degrees Celsius. Data can also be transmitted through frost. Bluechiip's tracking solution has also been field-proven to survive autoclaving, gamma irradiation sterilization, humidification, centrifuging, cryogenic storage and frosting.
Bluechiip's technology is based on MEMS based resonators within a tiny and purely mechanical chip, containing no electronics whatsoever. The tracking tag, which comprises this mechanical chip and an antenna, can either be embedded or manufactured into a storage product, such as a vial or a bag. Easy identification, along with any associated information from the tag can be detected by a reader, which can also log the temperature history of the tagged items.