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Chips Tracked in Fab by Wi-Fi

Freescale furthers the removal of humans from the chip-making process

2 min read

28 September 2007—Freescale Semiconductor has found another way to extend the life of its fabs, some of which are 15 years old—a truly geriatric age in an industry that routinely pronounces its US $3 billion production facilities obsolete after five years. The chip maker is automatically tracking wafers through all stages of fabrication by marking boxes with RFID tags that communicate using Freescale’s existing Wi-Fi infrastructure. This is the first time Wi-Fi–enabled active RFID tags have been used to automate a fab.

AeroScout, in Redwood City, Calif., supplied the RFID tags that Freescale is using in its Oak Hill plant in Austin, Texas. Like most fabs, Oak Hill, which processes 200-millimeter wafers, is about the size of two football fields. In a standard facility, it’s almost impossible to immediately distinguish one black box of wafers from the other hundreds of very similar black boxes. ”Just think about having to look for one box with an identical black-and-white label in a bunch of identical black boxes,” says Freescale spokesman Glaston Ford, ”versus being able to punch an ID code into a computer, activate a box’s LED display, walk over to the right shelf, and see the right box glowing.”

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How the FCC Settles Radio-Spectrum Turf Wars

Remember the 5G-airport controversy? Here’s how such disputes play out

11 min read
This photo shows a man in the basket of a cherry picker working on an antenna as an airliner passes overhead.

The airline and cellular-phone industries have been at loggerheads over the possibility that 5G transmissions from antennas such as this one, located at Los Angeles International Airport, could interfere with the radar altimeters used in aircraft.

Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

You’ve no doubt seen the scary headlines: Will 5G Cause Planes to Crash? They appeared late last year, after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration warned that new 5G services from AT&T and Verizon might interfere with the radar altimeters that airplane pilots rely on to land safely. Not true, said AT&T and Verizon, with the backing of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, which had authorized 5G. The altimeters are safe, they maintained. Air travelers didn’t know what to believe.

Another recent FCC decision had also created a controversy about public safety: okaying Wi-Fi devices in a 6-gigahertz frequency band long used by point-to-point microwave systems to carry safety-critical data. The microwave operators predicted that the Wi-Fi devices would disrupt their systems; the Wi-Fi interests insisted they would not. (As an attorney, I represented a microwave-industry group in the ensuing legal dispute.)

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