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NXP Boosts EPC Gen 2 Tag Memory, Performance

The semiconductor maker's two new RFID chips require less power to operate and work across the entire UHF RFID frequency range, from 840 to 960 MHz. One chip offers 512 bits of user memory.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 26, 2007NXP Semiconductors has released a pair of Gen 2 UHF RFID chips—models Ucode G2XM and Ucode G2XL—offering a greater read range and improved read rates. According to the company, both chips will perform over the entire UHF RFID frequency range, from 840 to 960 MHz. NXP designed the latest members of its Ucode family of UHF RFID tags to be more sensitive to RF signals (thereby increasing read rates and read range), and to operate in dense reader environments in which tags receive transmissions from multiple interrogators simultaneously. In the case of the G2XM, NXP claims, the chip provides more memory than other Gen 2 chips currently available.

In December 2005, NXP's precursor—the Philips Semiconductors division of Royal Philips Electronics—released the first Gen 2 UHF chip in its Ucode family. That chip offered a total of 512 bits of memory, including 96 bits for an EPC number, 224 bits programmable by the user, 64 bits for a tag identifier (TID) and 64 bits reserved for access and kill passwords. The two latest chips, says Jan-Willem Reynaerts, NXP's general manager for RFID, are the result of improvements developed at the NXP RFID Reference Design Center, located in Austria. The center, Reynaerts says, enabled NXP to develop a better chip by using several different interrogators and reader antennas to test tags made with Ucode chips.

End users have been seeking a UHF RFID chip that would allow them to store more data, Reynaerts notes, as well as attain read rates closer to 100 percent. Airports, airline manufacturers and other organizations that track tagged returnable assets typically need to input a great deal of data on their RFID tags, which do not always have enough memory to accommodate them.

The two new Ucode chips each come with a 64-bit preprogrammed unique tag identifier serial number. In response to customer requests for additional flexibility regarding the memory devoted to EPC numbers, Reynaerts says, the chips are capable of "scaling up" to a 240-bit EPC, enabling users to program different EPC codes for multiple applications. Because the chips will be sold globally, he adds, NXP designed them to operate across the entire UHF RFID frequency range, from 840 to 960 MHz, to be operable under disparate regulations around the world.

What's more, the chips feature increased sensitivity to the RF signals transmitted by an RFID interrogator, and require only about 30 microwatts of power to operate, compared with the 50 microwatts needed for NXP's first Gen 2 chip. "The processes we use have been optimized to allow us to minimize current consumption," Reynaerts states. With such greater sensitivity, he explains, the maximum read range for tags made with either chip is about 20 to 30 percent longer than that for any other Gen 2 chip presently on the market. The chips are alike in every way but one: The G2XM offers 512 bits of programmable user memory, which NXP says is more than any other Gen 2 tag currently available.

To improve performance in dense reader environments, NXP increased the chip's ability to cut off undesired reader transmissions. "We improved the filter function of the chip in order for it to operate so well, " Reynaerts explains. "Compared to the old chip, we made major improvements on filter functionality."

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