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The physics of RFID

Matt Reynolds
Founding Partner
ThingMagic LLC


Vision General
Una breve Historia de RFID
Elementos de un sistema de RFID
Un modelo ideal de Tag and practical
constraints
Un modelo ideal de Lector and practical
constraints
La base de una radio frecuencia propagacin
La base de RF interacin con materiales
Conclusiones



Una breve historia de RFID
1862 1886 1942 1948 1972 2003
printing
lasers
IC / VLSI
networking
supply chain scaling


What is an RFID Reader?
Cuatro principales elementos: Tags, Lectores, Antenas, y
Network Systems
(eg Savant)
Elementos de un sistema RFID


Variables de un sistema RF
1. Eleccin de la frecuencia operativa
2. Tag IC, diseo antena tag
3. Lector, diseo de la antena del Lector
4. Proximate materials
5. Fuentes de externas interferencias


Mayor RFID mercados by
frequency
US, Canada
125KHz
13.56MHz
902-928MHz
EU Countries
125KHz
13.56MHz
868-870MHz
Japan
125KHz
13.56MHz
950-956MHz


RFID tags en diferentes frecuencias
125 KHz

TI
Philips
Others
13.56 MHz

Tagsys
Philips
TI
Microchip
Others
915 MHz

Intermec
SCS
Matrics
Alien
Philips
TI
2.4 GHz

Intermec
SCS
Hitachi


Anatomia Tag
Substrate
Tag IC
Antenna
Die attach


Diagrama de bloquesTag
Antenna
Power Supply
Tx Modulator
Rx
Demodulator
Control Logic
(Finite State
machine)
Memory
Cells
Tag Integrated Circuit (IC)


Que un lector hace?
Primarias funciones:
Remota alimentacin tags
Establecer una bidireccional data link
Inventario tags, filtrar resultados
Comunicacin con networked server(s)



Anatomia Lector
915MHz
Radio
Network
Processor
Digital Signal
Processor
(DSP)
13.56MHz
Radio
Power
Supply


Diagrama Bloques de un Lector
antenna
Subsystem
Band 1
Band Module
Band 1
dsp
subsystem
network
processor
rx
tx
data
control
TCP/IP
data
control
antenna
Subsystem
Band 2
Band Module
Band 2
rx
tx control
data
antenna
Subsystem
Band n
Band Module
Band n
rx
tx control
data
-
-
-
-
-
-


915MHz band module schematic
UHF (915MHz) reader RF section


A passive RFID
communication model
Tags
Reader
Power from RF field
Reader
Antenna
Reader->Tag Commands
Tag->Reader Responses
RFID Communication
Channel


Limiting factors for passive RFID
1. Lector potencia trasmitida Pr (Govt. limited)
2. Reader receiver sensitivity Sr
3. Reader antenna gain Gr (Govt. limited)
4. Tag antenna gain Gt (Size limited)
5. Potencia requerida en un tag Pt (Silicon process
limited)
6. Tag modulator efficiency Et


Lectores ->potencia suministrada Tag
Lector
Lector
Antena
Tag
Q: Si un lector transmite Pr watios, Cuanta potencia Pt el tag
recive a una distancia de separacin d?

A: Depende -
UHF (915MHz) : Far field propagation : Pt 1/d
2

HF (13.56MHz) : Inductive coupling : Pt 1/d
6
Separacin
distancia d


Parametros tipicos sistema UHF

Reader Transmit Power Pr = 30dBm (1 Watt)
Reader Receiver Sensitivity Sr = -80dBm (10
-11
Watts)
Reader Antenna Gain Gr = 6dBi

Tag Power Requirement Pt = -10dBm (100 microwatts)
Tag Antenna Gain Gt = 1dBi
Tag Backscatter Efficiency Et = -20dB

System operating wavelength = 33cm (915MHz)




Far field path loss
Au
d
Pr
Pt
Pt = Pr Gr Gt
2

4 d
2


Two cases: Tag power limited, or reader sensitivity
limited.
Well designed systems are tag power limited.

Pt = Pr Gr Gt
2

4 d
2

d
max
= sqrt ( Pr Gr Gt
2
)
4 Pt
d
max
= 19.4 meters, theoretical maximum
UHF read range estimation


Reader sensitivity limit
Lets assume we can build a tag IC requiring 1 microwatt (100
times better than current practice)
d
max
= 194 meters tag power limit for this hypothetical IC.

Pt->r = Pr Gr Gt Et
2

4 d
4


Pt->r = 2.65x10
-13
Watts (-95.6dBm)

Noise power in 50 ohm resistor at 500KHz BW=4kTB=-109dBm.
With a practical receiver of NF=3dB, Pn=-106dBm, SNR=10dB.
This signal is at the edge of decodability.


Lessons from the simple model
Since Pt 1/d
2
, doubling read range requires 4X the
transmitter power.
Larger antennas can help, but at the expense of
larger physical size because G{t,r} Area.
More advanced CMOS process technology will help
by reducing Pt.

At large distances, reader sensitivity limitations
dominate.


RF seales y materiales
Materiales en campo RF puede tener varios efectos:
1. Reflexin / refracin
2. Absorcin (perdidas)
3. Efectos dielectricos (detuning)
4. Complejos efectos de propagacin (photonic
bandgap)


Efectos RF en comunes materiales
Material Efectos de una seal RF
Carton Absorption (moisture)
Detuning (dielectric)
Conductive liquids (shampoo) Absorption
Plasticos Detuning (dielectric)
Metales Reflection
Groups of cans Complex effects (lenses, filters)
Reflection
Cuerpo Humano / animales Absorption
Detuning (dielectric)
Reflection


Effective shielding of UHF signals
Any conductive material exhibits a skin depth effect

o = sqrt ( 2 / ( 2 t f
0
) )
where
0
= 4 t x10
-7
H/m.

For aluminum, = 2.65x10
-6
ohm-cm. An effective
aluminum shield is only 27 microns thick.

For dilute salt water, = 10
-2
ohm-cm. An effective
salt water shield is 1 mm thick.


Conclusions
There are serious practical limitations to passive
RFID read range.
It is not practical to read a passive UHF RFID tag
from Earth orbit.
Improvements to tag IC design will yield
commercially helpful, but probably privacy-
insignificant increase in read range.

UHF RFID signals are easily shielded by common
materials (aluminum foil, antistatic bags, or your
hands).