Integration of RFID into Wireless Sensor Networks: Architectures, Opportunities and Challenging Problems

Lei Zhang and Zhi Wang

National Laboratory of Industrial Control Technology, Institute of Industry Process Control, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310027, P.R.China {zhanglei, wangzhi} Abstract
The vision of pervasive computing is based on the idea that future computers will merge with their environment. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) are two important components of pervasive computing, since both technologies can be used for coupling the physical and the virtual world. However, RFID and WSN almost are under development in parallel method, few integration schemes and related opportunities are investigated in detail. Through deep analysis of RFID and WSN, three forms of new system architecture that combines the two technologies are proposed and its feasibility, technical challenges are discussed thoroughly. kind of sensor, it certainly can be integrated to WSNs. However, RFID and WSN are almost under development in parallel method, few integration schemes and its related opportunities are investigated in detail. In an effort to bridge the gap between industry and academic focuses, we propose new network architectures integrating both technologies to achieve an optimal goal. Through deep analysis of RFID and WSN, three forms of new system architecture are proposed. WSN nodes and RFID tags are mixed composing of heterogeneous network where tags and sensor nodes work separately. A more functional smart base station combining RFID readers and WSN base stations is needed to coordinate tags and sensor nodes working properly. Smart base stations will be a decisive factor to the whole system, of which the infrastructure is very complicated and costly. There is a trade-off between the complexity of the infrastructure and the device. The infrastructure can be simpler if complexity is moved to the devices. We then propose a distributed reduced functional sensor reader, which organize themselves and cooperate with each other in networks. The second integration increases the number of readers in networks and reduces the complexity of each reader. A smart active tag network architecture is also proposed in the paper. Instead of sending message to readers directly, message is transmitted between tags until it reaches the ultimate object. Sensed information is transmitted utilizing the network protocol of WSNs. Selection of the form of integration is usually be costbased and depends on the application. A node’s battery is not replaceable, so its energy is the most important system resource. While an RFID system where data is collected at one or several centralized points is not energy-efficient [3]. Energy efficiency has been a crucial problem when combining RFID and WSNs. The best method for conserving energy is to put as many nodes to sleep as possible. At the same time, however, the network must maintain its functionality through a connected subnetwork that lets the monitoring station communicate with any of the

1. Introduction
It is widely believed that the next revolution in computing technology will be that the widespread small wireless computing and communication devices will integrate seamlessly into daily life [1]. We can therefore expect in the near future lots of devices to grow by multiple orders of magnitude such as tags, sensors etc. They gather information about the current environment, which means sensing and processing information. Among technologies, RFID and WSN are two important components of this pervasive computing since both as technology can be used for coupling the physical and the virtual world in pervasive computing environments. It is possible for RFID to bridge the real and the virtual world, which results in a machine readable environment when tags are used at a large scale. RFID systems have been applied in a number of applications, such as asset tracking, telemetry-based remote monitoring, and real time supply chain management. Meanwhile WSN has been around mostly only as proofs of concept except for military applications [2], although it is considered as a major step towards pervasive computing. Considering RFID as a specific

Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Grid and Cooperative Computing Workshops (GCCW'06) 0-7695-2695-0/06 $20.00 © 2006

Each node is equipped with a physical sensor for reading light. A tag is a mini little label conserving fixed-format data. it enables location. Signposts activate only those tags within their immediate vicinity at 123 kHz. Comparison of three schemes and conclusion are given in section 6. An RFID system includes five components [15]: (1) tags located on the object to be identified. established for more than twenty years. These wireless systems allow for non-contact reading and are effective in manufacturing and other hostile environments where bar code labels could not survive [9]. Besides.1. Radio Frequency Identification RFID is a method of remotely storing and retrieving data using devices called RFID tags/transponders. Section 4 describes distributed reduced sensor reader architecture and its network. 2. self-networking. computational power and on-chip memory are very important. 2. Choosing a low-power-consumption transceiver is crucial for a low-consumption system because current consumption of a transceiver takes up most of the Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Grid and Cooperative Computing Workshops (GCCW'06) 0-7695-2695-0/06 $20. A transceiver unit connects the node to the network. Functional diagram of a sensor node 2.2. RFID and ZigBee. Wireless sensor network Sensor networks consist of tiny low-powered computing network nodes with extremely restricted computational. (4) a local control chamber sending reading/writing commands to all the readers as well as reading back tag information. which includes antenna and wireless communication IC as big as sesame. pressure or other physical phenomena. communication and battery capabilities. sound. Battery management is an important issue in WSNs since battery is irreplaceable. The sensor nodes usually send their data to a specific sink node or monitoring station for collection. distributed surveillance. [3] RFID first appeared in tracking and access applications during the 1980s. Section 5 describes smart active tag network. When choosing a microcontroller power consumption. The RFID reader consists of transmitting and receiving sections. selfdiagnosing and self-healing. The microcontroller manages the procedures that make the sensor node collaborate with the other nodes. The rest of the paper is organized as follows: Section 2 gives a brief introduction to WSN.and context-aware applications. Therefore. 1. Technical Backgrounds 2. power consumption of a system. If all the nodes communicated directly with the monitoring station. As a cheap and mature technology. temperature. decentralized manner that maintains the best connectivity as long as possible and communicates messages via multihop spreading [5]. A theoretical calculation how long the expected battery life time lasts is also given in this paper. receives the backscattered signal from the tag. Last important component of a sensor node is power source. (3) antennas that emit radio signals to activate the tag and read/write data to it. enabling precise identification of tagged items at specific locations. The typical hardware platform of a wireless sensor node will consist of sensor. and radio frequency transceiver and power source. Heterogeneous network architecture mixed RFID reader and sensor base station is proposed in Section 3. Wireless Sensor Networks A wireless sensor network is a system which is capable of self-configuring. Therefore ZigBee protocol is likely the best candidate as it satisfies reliable. the communication load— especially over long distances—would quickly drain the network’s power resources. microcontroller. low power consumption requirements. and performs’s active nodes. Attached into tagged items. required chip size. healthcare and control applications [1]. which have made sensor networks a very attractive solution for a wide range of environmental monitoring. the sensors operate in a self-organized. It transmits a carrier signal. RFID tags are particular identifiers announcing its presence to a reader. (2) readers which may be a read or write/read device. Fig. Transceivers currently used include the Infineon [6] or Chipcon [7] devices or similar radio modems are available from various manufacturers.00 © 2006 . low cost. a new component added to some systems is called signpost.

flush left. For devices with a 30s check-in period or more. [12]. while readers as slavers only response to the commands from application program. AES 128-bit security. Fig. send data. 802. 3(a). ZigBee Alliance takes charge in correlated standards and interoperability testing from Network Layer to Application Layer. All details of communication such as establishing communication. System program as master will send write/read instructions to readers. ZigBee has no comparability when it comes to data rate because it isn’t designed for a high data duty cycle from each node. link quality indication. ZigBee is much less mature than proprietary spread-spectrum solutions. readers will establish communication with corresponding tags.4/ZigBee is a new rising short-haul low-rate technical resolution for automatic system and remote control.3. low cost. low latency. Functional block diagram of typical RFID tag Fig. but also has some special requirements about the direction of antennas. A basic block diagram of a typical RFID tag and reader is shown in Figure3. ZigBee has some characters as follows. All the behavior of readers and tags are controlled by application program. z The flash memory requirement for a ZigBee device ranges from 4 to 32 KB depending on the device’s complexity. Functional block diagram of typical RFID reader RFID systems work strictly according to “masterslave” principle. ZigBee protocol is considered as the best configuration scheme for WSN applications in industry application field. IEEE 802. Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Grid and Cooperative Computing Workshops (GCCW'06) 0-7695-2695-0/06 $20. z Reliability of the whole network is guaranteed by Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS). check in. The cost of a naked ZigBee IC plus the necessary discrete beats other options on physical size and cost. tags only response the instructions from readers.4 defines Physical Layer and MAC Layer (including encryption mechanism in data transmission). the required stack features. z Low cost. This leads to an extremely long battery life. However. and will never act anything without readers’ instruction. and one after. they should be Times 11-point boldface. as it satisfies reliable. clear channel assessment. and whether or not it’s a reduced function device (RFD) or full function device (FFD). ZigBee might be a better option if you require the following: small size. a sophisticated MAC layer supporting CSMA-CA. are all dealt with by the reader itself. A ZigBee device includes a ZigBee IC that solids all of functions of PHY layer and MAC layer. and shut down in less than 30 ms. ZigBee Protocol As in this heading. The reader also communicates with an external host computer. To execute the instruction from application program. collision prevention. This is about a quarter of Bluetooth’s requirements. therefore. Fig. all of which have been demonstrated highly reliable in previous IEEE standards by practice. z ZigBee is so low powered that a typical batterypowered node can wake up. flexibility of system is limited greatly. low power. Complete descriptions of the protocols used in ZigBee can be found in [11]. RFID operation principle An active RFID system particularly for long distance identification requires readers installed in a fixed position. the battery’s shelf life will expire before the battery capacity runs If a node is configured for use with a beacon frame and a guaranteed time slot. and mesh network architecture. which hook up to a low power consumption 8-bit MCU.00 © 2006 . initially capitalized. 4. which is extremely fit for WSNs where the range needing to coverage and the number of devices in the network are very large. cost sensitivity. optional acknowledgement. 2.15. and the cost of entire system is no longer cheap. low power consumption requirements for these applications. with one blank line before. 4 (b). Compared with readers are masters. and processing. and authentication.15.

Distributed Smart Node As no network stack is embedded into the reader in a RFID system at present. Here RFID and WSN information can be integrated in the base station.11b/Wi-Fi uses Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Avoidance (CSMA/CA) scheme. reading part which reads fewer tags comparing with a normal RFID reader. Its very big volume also makes it difficult to move around. which implies us to integrating sensor nodes into RFID to get more environment information we need. flexible communication protocol is necessary. The new system will be composed of three classes of devices. a 32bit microprocessor for local data processing and a network connection. Fig. In MAC sub-layer. The gathered information is transmitted through multi-hops.3. it can be compressed with simple and high effective data compressing methods in each smart node. The first class is that of wireless devices with no serious power constraints named as smart stations. This means that there is a multi-layer networking stack implemented in each smart station. 802. Energy constrains is an extremely crucial problem when smart nodes are wanted to be applied in industry for battery change is not taken into account. Smart node The smart node contains three parts: sensing part which makes use of kinds of sensors to detect interested physical scenario. which suggests the traditional Internet protocol architecture can be employed. and radio transceiver which transporting sensed data. Schematic of smart node platform Fig. Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Grid and Cooperative Computing Workshops (GCCW'06) 0-7695-2695-0/06 $20.6. Moreover. For now there seems to be no counterpart in RFID systems for this device. the position of antennas of an RFID reader must be computed carefully to cover all the tags in range and not to conflict with other antennas or readers. All of these disadvantages limit the applications of RFID. and maximum data rate can reach to 11 Mbps. Smart nodes read fewer tags and can be deployed densely as self-organizing WSN. The device will contain an RFID reader. Consequently. In Physical layer. 4. A mix of tags and sensor nodes are deployed in detected area. WSN data triggers RFID reader for certain unusual event. less expensive and easy to deploy. 802. which will be more intelligent. the reader can only be operated passively and all of its behaviors are controlled by local control system. For example. Heterogeneous network architecture Limited resources and power challenges at smart stations don’t exist here. Presently.11b/Wi-Fi technology is a good platform for such heterogeneous network. RFID network is very mature now such as Real time locating System (RTLS).11b/Wi-Fi uses the unlicensed 2. which can improve the efficiency of network remarkably. Smart nodes run autonomously and translate data information to the sink node.00 © 2006 . ZigBee take much method to lower power consumption in physical lay and MAC layer. We give the schematic picture of smart nodes as Fig 6. As information of tags in the same area is similar. an RFID reader might get much smaller. The second and the third class are normal tags and sensor nodes. that allows not only for some processing. 4. Integration of RFID Reader and WSN Base Station One trend of the development of RFID is integrating it into network. 802. ZigBee protocol is the best candidate for the proposed architecture for its features we describe in technical ground. 5. We propose a new smart node containing less functional reader. If functions of a reader are cut short. but also for the routing of data and eventually even for reliable transport protocols such as TCP. In the following we will make a theoretical calculation how long the expected battery lifetime would lasts.1.4 GHZ band and DSSS technique. They are nearly identified with the wired devices but use wireless connections to the backbone network for more convenient deployment. Smart stations gather information from tags and sensor nodes then transmit it to local host PC or remote LAN.

4 kbit/s. and utilize their parameters to calculate the battery life. and the consumption is 18 mA when the RF field is off. The time it takes to send the information is therefore given by 60(8 + 1) bits 38. tough the latency would be very long.8h Further the time it takes for the reader to respond to a command given is approximately 1 ms. it didn’t take into account the power consuming. First we assume that when the reader is reading there will be one tag within range.03953 mA + 0. The batteries will last shorter than six months while the RFID reader is put in shutdown mode.00 © 2006 . and during this time the RF field is not on resulting in a lower current consumption. such as maintenance and inventory security. the smart node has to go into sleep mode when it is idle. As Fig 8 show.092mA. To be able to estimate the energy consumption of the RFID reader when it is operational we make some more assumptions. Here we suppose supply voltage is 6 V and data rate is 38. 7. the battery lifetime will only be 2200 mAh*6V 250mw = 52. Energy calculation [13] Proposes a prototype on RFID and Sensor Networks similar to ours. A 1% duty-cycle would be realistic to use with the ZigBee protocol. Of course the lifetime is depending on which types of batteries used. The life time of the battery can be calculated as 2200 mAh 0. Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Grid and Cooperative Computing Workshops (GCCW'06) 0-7695-2695-0/06 $20.03953mA (3) Current consumptions of the MICA2 platform in full operation and in sleep mode are given in [17].4 kbit/s = 14. Architecture of networked smart nodes (reduced functional sensor readers) 4. The high quality AA batteries have a capacity about 2200 mAh.092mA+0.06 ms + 5 ms )*115 mA+ 10 ms * 18mA 60 * 1000 ms = 0.06 ms (2) Fig. The expected battery life shall be a year or more. And we may be able to learn that the temperature of someplace in the warehouse is much higher than usually and put out fire immediately before it comes out of control. however. However it is lucky we can turn off the power of the RFID reader completely when the RFID reader is not used and thereby clear up the power consumption. The supply voltage U is 4 to 6 V and the output power is 250 mw [14].7 year (4 ) (1) So it’s necessary to take every method to save energy. Finally the time it takes to wake up the reader from shutdown mode is 10 ms. We consume here Mica2 [17] for controller platform and TAGSYS Medio S002 [14] for reader part. which puts hard constrains on the power consumption of smart nodes. If the microcontroller works with a duty-cycle of 1%. This figure is important because during this transmission the reader 4.has a very high current consumption. Medio S002 supports a maximum data rate of 38.016mA and of the transceiver is 0. To meet this requirement. If the reader works continuously. Each transmitted byte is followed by a stop bit which implies that each Byte corresponds to 9 bits. Proper deployment algorithms shall be used to adopt as few as nodes to make all the tags in the range of readers. It can be applied into applications without strict real-time requirement. An alarm could be triggered when an asset leaves a facility without authorization. The maintenance of inventory can be identified by a smart node tracking system.2.016mA = 14912h=1. the average current of microcontroller is 0. If we assume that the reader is instructed to read one tag every minute The average current during a minute is (14. It will find a wide application in industry. In total 5 commands are sent to the reader when one tag is within range resulting in the total respond time equals 5 ms. The current consumption of the reader equals 115 mA while the RF field is on. From this it is able to estimate that the amount of data that is sent between the reader and the microcontroller is about 60 Bytes per read instruction.3. Case of application Highly integrated and inexpensive smart nodes network is much cheaper and more flexible compared with the first class of heterogeneous network. Medio S002 has a current consumption of 500 µA when it is put in shutdown mode. smart nodes with temperature sensors are deployed densely in the smart warehouse.4 kbit/s. From now on we assume that the RFID reader does not have any power consumption when it is not used.

Though integrating the mini nodes into a complete system poses many difficulties with end-to-end security guaranties as they are based on highly application-specific software. In the future each finished rotating part of dynamos is attached with a mini node and the fork lift is equipped with a reader receiving information from mine nodes. Complicated and expensive readers are no longer needed. which is a great waste of time.802. Robot carrying a Mica mote can get the information of every node in the room by 2 or 3 hops. When a rotating part is finished the tag can transmit its location between tags until its location information gets to the fork lift. The area of our lab is 11m * 9m.4 standard provides symmetric key encryption and authentication to support end-to-end system security. Smart warehouse 5. The results of experiment are acceptable. Case of application Mini node network is specially fit for industrial security.9. instead. Therefore it is absolutely possible to substitute Mica nodes for active tags when the Mica nodes become much cheaper in the future. however. Mini node network architecture (Smart active As the cost of devices is very low and data flow in the network is little. 10. remote condition-based maintenance systems that are switched on just once or twice per day.00 © 2006 . It effectively reduces the reader and wired network infrastructure. 5. The network architecture of a complete system solution is shown as Fig. it has much more work to do if we want to use it in real factory environment. which communicates with a single reader. IEEE 802.15. Fig. Then the fork lift can go to move the rotating part automatically.8. Smart Sensor Tags Many active and semi-active tags have incorporated sensors into their design. The active tag is similar to the Mica mote [17]. Rotating parts of dynamos are making in a production plant of a dynamos factory. We call Mica nodes used in potential RFID applications as Mini nodes. Related studies can be found in [13]. Giving them microcontrollers. ZigBee can help dumb tag chips which have a low transmission area get smarter for the features mentioned above.15. But they are not exactly sensor network nodes because they communicate in centralized mode and can’t cooperate with each other through formed ad-hoc network.1. The whole process sometimes requires more than half an hour. Conclusions Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Grid and Cooperative Computing Workshops (GCCW'06) 0-7695-2695-0/06 $20. We completed this experiment in our lab making use of Mica2 motes. It’s lucky the IEEE tags) Fig 10 shows a fork lift operation dispatching in a factory.4/ZigBee standard is perfectly applicable to mini node network. 9. In most factories operator has to stop work in hand and search in the large plant to find the fork lift truck. The mini nodes can pass information from one to another until the data reaches the last transceiver. these mini nodes provide an inexpensive way to monitor the condition of products. Fig. After a rotating part is finished it needs to be taken away by a fork lift quickly. Fork lift operation dispatching in a factory Fig. 6. they will decide by themselves which and when data should be get.

D. and Signal Processing. 2001.atmel. http:// www. mixed RFID reader and WSN base station deployment will be very effective. Jan. [3] Klaus Finkenzeller. ents/ [9] Carle. Apr 2003. Volume 37. 2003 [12] ZigBee Specification. Issue 2. Volume 1.Here in this paper we propose three different forms of network architecture. Base stations are complicated and costly and its very big volume also makes it difficult to move around. (ICASSP '01). Aug 2003.Gallen,Switzerland, Sep 27,2004 Networks. Compared with smart stations. IEEE. Cayirci. If the system is monitoring many objects over a limited range. one might choose to have heterogeneous network mixed WSN nodes and RFID tags for a higher real-time requirement or mini node network for fewer objects. References [l] Deborah Estrin. Simplot-Ryl. if the system is monitoring objects over a wide range. one might choose distributed reduced functional sensor reader network for no such real-time requirement. Acoustics. 4TM 2003. 11bTM – 1999. and M. Akyildiz. Kris Pister. www. A survey on sensor networks. If there is something wrong with a smart station the whole system will break up and therefore reliability of the system is decreased. and Gaurav Sukhatme. the last two classes of integrations provide a new management much cheaper and more flexible. Pervasive Computing. 2005.zigbee. 15. IEEE. “Navy Revs Up RFID Sensors. Which form of integration shall be selected is usually cost-based and will be dependent upon the application.00 © 2006 . RFID technology.4 [6] Datasheet of PTF08010M.Mote Processor Radio Board. Philadelphia.2036 vol. 2nd edition. http://www. Rev A. David Culler. Connecting the Physical World with Pervasive [8] Datasheet of Atmel AVR mega128l.chipcon. Y. RFID Handbook. August 22–26. 102– 114. IEEE. Wiley. which have consequent features as different functional nodes integrated RFID tags or readers with sensor nodes. M. SIGCOMM’05 Workshops. Issue 1.WirelessMedium Access Control (MAC) and Physical Layer ( PHY) Specifications for Low2RateWireless Personal Area Networks (LR2WPANs) [ S]. and E. further energy limits need not to be worried.” http://www. http://www. 0/1/ [17] Crossbow Technology. J. Medio S001/S002 Product Guide Version 1. Oct 2002 [15] Klause Finkenzeller. when the number of transmitting data is very large or real-time work needs to completed. [4] Rolf Clauberg,RFID and Sensor Networks:From Sensor/Actuator to Business Application,RFID Workshop,University of St. 7-11 May 2001 Page(s):2033 .0. 7. USA. Su. PA.Srivastavat.rfidjournal.. G.. 2001 IEEE International Conference on Volume [13] [13] A prototype on RFID and Sensor Networks for Elder Healthcare: Process Report. Energy-efficient area monitoring for sensor networks.Pottie. On the other hand.Estrin. [5] D. IEEE. Feb 2004 Page(s):40 – 46. Instrumenting the World with Wireless Sensor Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Grid and Cooperative Computing Workshops (GCCW'06) 0-7695-2695-0/06 $20. Computer. It will be an efficiency solution when real-time requirement is not strict and the transmitting data is not very large.The theory and application of wireless radio inductional transponder and contactless IC card. [10] IEEE Standards 802.Giro. On the other hand. 40(8):pp.-March 2002 Page(s):59 – 69 [2] I. MPR . [14] Tagsys. 2001. In the first class of integration form smart stations mixed RFID readers and WSN base stations are a decisive factor to the whole system.infineon.6 [16] Roberti. MIB . 1999 [11] IEEE Standards 802. Communications [7] Datasheet of CC2430. Proceedings.Mote Interface/Programming Board User's Manual. Information technology-telecommunications and information exchange between systems. L.local and metropolitan area networks-specific requirementsPart 11: Wireless LAN Medium Access Control (MAC) and Physical Layer (PHY) specifications. W. Sankarasubramaniam.

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