NDSU Magazine logo - Spring 2004

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Spring 2004

Vol. 04, No. 2


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Excerpts - Stav Prodromou

Stav Prodromou is chief executive officer of Alien Technology Corporation, a Morgan Hill, California, company that has selected the North Dakota State University Research and Technology Park for its new manufacturing plant. Alien Technology is a designer and manufacturer of Radio Frequency Identification -- RFID -- products. The Fargo plant is expected to become the largest producer of RFID technology in the world. Prodromou has 30 years of executive leadership experience, and holds a doctorate in systems science from Polytechnic Institute of New York.

My life lesson has certainly been that anything is possible. I think it's so trite and you hear so many people say it but it's true. Whatever you set your mind to you just go and do it. I think that's a wonderful thing about our country. I came to the United States when I was a boy -- 12 years old -- and so it was not a foregone conclusion that anything is possible.

My father was an electrician so his whole life had been working with his hands and he was determined that we would all have the opportunity for an education. Having the opportunity to study the things I wanted to study and the things that I liked was important. That just led to things.

I learned very early in my career about the importance of business aspects, customers, financial aspects of the business, so after about 10 years on the engineering side I started getting involved in other aspects.

Whenever anyone asks me I say I'm an engineer, but I don't think I could earn a living doing engineering any more.

It's an intensely satisfying feeling to be able to grow a company and have it grow into an image that you have for it and to be successful.

I see really three major things that should come out of our collaboration with North Dakota State University. First and foremost we have a very active research partnership that's already underway. The second thing we hope to do is to help to build around that an RFID hub here at NDSU and the reason that's important is because just like in any industry there's an ecosystem of different types of technologies that need to go around. And the third is very important for us from a financial point of view and that's to build a world class manufacturing center here to make billions of these RFID tags and really become to RFID what Silicon Valley became to the chip world.

We had members of our management team that were actually very interested to come up here and get involved in the project so we'll be able to have a team here that will kind of pull the activity that we have in Morgan Hill and bring it to Fargo.

One of the things that I think could be a really nice benefit of all this would be to have some of the alums who've moved away because the right kinds of jobs weren't available for them here to come back and say okay I want to work in a technology company and here's a technology company in Fargo.

The reasons that Wal-Mart or Target sell at very low prices is because they've used information technology as a way to reduce their costs and pass that on to consumers. But now this becomes more than just a lower cost way for consumers to get their goods. With RFID you can now assure freshness of the product. You can assure safety of the pharmaceuticals you are taking. You can assume that baggage has not been tampered with so there's homeland security applications.

You can't do this if these devices cost tens of dollars each -- which is what it costs today -- or even down to a dollar. It has to be pennies or even a penny for being able to do these things so that in a typical home you might have several hundred of these things and the cost of that is still $5. And that just makes them absolutely ubiquitous.

We constantly hear from people ideas of how to use this technology and I think it's going to be as varied and exciting a mix of applications as the computer has become.

RFID is really no more, no less of a privacy concern than the other things that we have to face every day today. You still have to have a trusted commercial party that you are dealing with.

I've already put www.gobison.com on my favorites at work.

I'm a very competitive person, not so much to kill the other guys so much as a competitive feeling to succeed and do well. That's sort of built into my character, and our company. We all feel like we're going to be winners.

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