St. Louis, Missouri-based Somark Innovations, cofounded by Ramos Mays and Mark Pydynowski, is developing a chipless, RFID bio-ink applied by a method similar to tattooing. According to company president Pydynowski, Somark’s ink is “a biocompatible, chemically inert ink that is injected into the skin ... . This ink has special properties allow[ing] it to be remotely detected, translating into a unique ID [code] that can be read without line of sight.” Somark’s founders are motivated, said Pydynowski, by the precariousness of the nation’s food supply. The RFID ink the company produces can permanently track livestock threatened by disease in a more cost-effective way than chip technology can. Print Professional spoke with Pydynowski to find out more about this incredible innovation.
PP: Can you give me a brief history of Somark?
Pydynowski: Ramos Mays—who is my cofounder and the inventor of the technology—and I ... started a company together when we were in school. However, we folded up the company and went our separate ways at graduation. He went on to do his graduate work in condensed matter physics, whereas I was at a consulting firm in New York. He called me up one day and said, “Hey, I just invented a new technology. I have an idea for an application. Do you want to start another company together?” I said yes, we moved back to St. Louis, which is where we went to school, [and] started our first company together.
PP: What I can’t quite grasp is how [the ink] retains a unique code or pattern.
Pydynowski: While we say that it’s an RFID ink, it has the same functionality as RFID. However ... we’re completely chipless—there’s no integrated circuit and we’re purely an ink. How that ink retains a unique ID is [through] the pattern in which the ink is encoded. ... We encode that pattern with a micro-needle array ... of many, many small needles, and you can use them to basically deposit a unique pattern. Some people, in terms of understanding it, can think of it conceptually as you think of a regular bar code, or a 2-D bar code ... . That’s a unique pattern. Conceptually, we’re very similar to that, but very different ... [the bar code] actually relies on line of sight to be able to read it, where you don’t need to see ours—you can actually read through the [livestock’s] hair.
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