A frequent trope in science fiction is the idea of our electronic world having come about via alternative means, such as mechanical. (Think Jules Verne or Jim Blaylock.) Another is a kind of ultra-far-future in which processes that still require a panoply of parts are done with semi-intelligent biological processes. (Think Iain M. Banks.)

The future is now! Well, sort of. Combining alternative materials and biological processes, a group in Germany has developed an RFID tag made out of wood.

The Frauenhofer Institute, which is not something from a Mel Brooks movie, developed this wood-based tag to be used in the forest industry, tracking timber for inventory control. Calling it the "Intelligent Wood Project" the institute used lignin, the "resin-like polymer" created during the process of extracting the cellulose fibers from wood, and paper to create a new type of RFID tag. The only part that has remained standard was the very small amount of metal in the antennae.

By making the RFID tags out of the same materials as are being moved, the process is less intrusive. A tagged truckload of logs can be processed with no special consideration. In an industry with razor-thin profit margins, this can be a profound advantage.

In addition to inventory, the process has another intriguing possibility. Such wood-based tags could be used in situ to track log poaching. Should tagged trees disappear, enforcement authorities could search for their distinct frequencies at processing points.

Read more ReadWriteWeb coverage of RFID

Doug fir photo by Greg Dunham | Monster tree photo by Ken & Margie Brown