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Researchers Propose Recorder Tag for Extending RFID Apps

The EPC Gen 2 tag could be integrated into electronic devices that could then use their screens to display warranties, maintenance histories, temperature logs and other data stored in the RFID chip.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Dec 22, 2008In the retail supply chain, radio frequency identification has emerged as a tool well suited for retailers and manufacturers. But for consumers, the technology's value is limited, according to a group of researchers at the Auto-ID Lab Japan. The researchers—led by Jin Mitsugi, an associate professor at the Graduate School of Media and Governance at Japan's Keio University, which hosts the lab—have developed a prototype of a hybrid passive and active RFID tag that could make consumer electronics more user-friendly.

"In Japan," Mitsugi says, "we buy product from a store and [get] a warranty that is printed on paper. It contains the start date for the warranty. But consumers [sometimes lose the paper warranty] and forget when or where it was bought." Being able to save this information directly onto the onboard memory of a laptop or other consumer electronic device is one possible application for this tag, which Mitsugi has dubbed a recorder tag.


A prototype recorder tag

Mitsugi presented the group's recorder tag prototypes at an October meeting of EPCglobal's Joint Action Group (JAG) in Bonn, Germany. EPCglobal is an RFID standards-setting organization run by GS1, and the JAG is an amalgam of EPCglobal members from all industry and technical action groups contributing to the development of Electronic Product Code (EPC) standards.

The prototype contains a passive EPC Gen 2 chip wired to a large patch tag, as well as to a second chip—a low-power microcontroller manufactured by Renesas and designed for general consumer electronic applications. This chip, Mitsugi says, is used to provide a means of exchanging data with the electronic device to which the recorder tag is attached. To communicate with the device in which it is embedded, the chip would employ a simple communication scheme instead of the EPC Gen 2 communication protocol, which uses anti-collision algorithms and other procedures to transmit and receive data. Such EPC Gen 2 procedures, he explains, "could be a burden to hosting electronics (such as consumer electronics)."

With the prototype, the recorder tag is connected to a laptop through a USB port. In a commercial version, the tag would be hardwired directly into the computer, or any other electronic device, as long as that machine had a display screen able to support human-readable text, a flashing LED or any means of communicating tag information to a consumer, without requiring the customer to purchase an RFID interrogator. What's more, Mitsugi says, both the EPC chip and the secondary chip would be integrated into a single IC. This integrated chip would support the EPC Gen 2 tag air-interface protocol. The communication scheme between the chip and the device into which it is integrated would then need to be developed.

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