With so many chips, how to manage the e-waste?
If there is going to be a chip in every object, what will happen to the e-waste generated during the manufacture of these chips, and when these objects (and the chips in them) reach end of their life?
“Of course, there have been concerns. But when you consider that many of the IC chips are essentially silicon chemicals, you will realise ordinary stones and sand have silicon composition too,” quips Ishikawa.
So the issue is more about the materials used for packaging the ICs. While ceramic-based packing is quite clean, it is the resin mould based packaging that is a bit suspicious in this regard and needs to be tracked.
“But, in the case of very tiny chips used for IoT applications without much packaging (they are often sealed into sheets or some type of planar structure), the issue may not be that serious,” Ishikawa says. He also points out that the tiny chips attached to the objects might actually be beneficial with regards to e-waste—as the chip will help trace the larger object in which it is embedded and organise its proper disposal!
Tushar Abraham, a former CDAC-ian, ubiquitous computing enthusiast and specialist in ZigBee wireless communication, says, “The number of devices in the mobile, personal computing and appliances space is anyway seeing an explosion. Ubi-comp will only integrate these devices in a more meaningful manner. Either way, India is not currently prepared to deal with the huge amount of e-waste that is generated. An effective e-waste policy will have to be put in place to deal with the current and future usage patterns of its 1.2 billion population. I believe the Pollution Control Board is working on such a policy. However, we still do not have companies that have the technology to retrieve valuable metals and other materials from this e-waste. Therefore it is imperative that stringent penalties are imposed on polluters. Tax incentives and FDI must be allowed to bring in cutting-edge technology into the country to meet the ever-growing demand.”