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Texas Instruments Unveils NFC RFID Sensor Chips, Demo Kit

The new ICs come with a built-in microcontroller and a temperature sensor, and are designed for developers of RFID transponders, as well as appliances or other types of electrical devices.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 10, 2014

Semiconductor firm Texas Instruments (TI) has released an evaluation version of a new family of RFID chips designed to deliver sensor-based data via a Near Field Communication (NFC) reader. The new series of transponder chips, known as RF430FRL15xH, is intended for industrial, medical and logistics applications. Several companies are now building prototypes of products and solutions based on the chips, though none are yet willing to be named.

The ICs, which operate at 13.56 MHz and are compliant with the ISO 15693 standard, each come with a built-in temperature sensor and a programmable microcontroller (MCU), and also have an analog-to-digital converter (ADC) to allow connection to a variety of other sensors, such as moisture, pressure, light or motion. The chip, which measures 4 millimeters by 4 millimeters (1.6 inches by 1.6 inches), can operate in passive mode, powered by a signal transmitted by an NFC RFID reader, as well as in semi-active mode, powered by a 1.5-volt battery.

TI's Diwakar Bansal
The chip's onboard non-volatile fast-access user memory (FRAM) is intended to allow developers to create transponders or electrical devices that store sensor data on the chip. This enables configuration according to the needs of a particular application, such as setting the device to issue alerts under specific conditions.

A version of the chip is also available with SPI and I2C interfaces, either of which can be used to connect both digital and analog sensors to the chip. In addition, the interface can be utilized to connect the chip to a microcontroller or a microprocessor that is part of the electronic device in which the chip is installed. Doing so enables additional functions, such as forwarding data from that device to a cloud-based server via an NFC reader.

The RF430FRL152H includes all sensor functionality described above, while the RF430FRL153H model comes without the SPI/I2C interface. The RF430FRL154H version does not include the ADC.

Texas Instruments has been working on the new transponder for some time, says Diwakar Bansal of TI's strategic marketing department, and has tested it with its own developers in-house. This week, the company is offering the product for sampling by developers with sales in large numbers expected by early next year. TI is working with developers that are now creating prototypes of applications using the new chip, Bansal reports. Beginning in January 2015, and at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), in Las Vegas, some of those prototypes will be ready for customer demonstrations. He predicts it will be several months before the products become commercially available.

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