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New NXP RFID Chips Bring Multiple Functions to Item-Level Tagging

NXP Semiconductors' new G2iL and G2iL+ EPC Gen 2 chips will enable tags to be turned on or off, be switched into low read range, send tamper alerts or transfer data to microcontrollers.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 06, 2010NXP Semiconductors has unveiled two new passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID chips for use by the fashion and electronics markets that will make EPC Gen 2 item-level tags more sensitive by requiring less power to operate. The chips feature privacy, security and anti-tampering functions, and one model allows users to send commands to their electronics via the RFID connection. The chips, based on the ISO 18000-6C standard, were developed to target high-volume, item-level tagging.

The UCode G2iL and G2iL+ chips, expected to be commercially available in June 2010, come with a variety of functions designed to resolve the shortcomings of typical item-level tags, according to NXP—namely, insufficient read rates and consumers' privacy concerns that tags might be readable outside of a store. In addition, the G2iL+ enables a tag to link firmware upgrades or other information to an electronic device, such as a cell phone or an MP3 player, by receiving data via RFID and forwarding it directly to the device's microcontroller, to which the tag is hardwired. Both chips are specified to operate across the 840 to 960 MHz UHF band, making them useable globally.


NXP's UCode G2iL chip (top: front view; bottom: interior view)
The new chips, according to Ralf Kodritsch, NXP Semiconductors' UCode marketing manager, are the company's response to the retail industry's requests to make tags more sensitive (by requiring a less powerful signal from an RFID interrogator in order to operate), more secure from a privacy standpoint (because they can be turned off), able to have their read range shortened, and tamper-proof (since they transmit an alert if someone tears or cuts a tag).

Both versions are more efficient than most other UHF EPC Gen 2 tags currently on the market, Kodritsch says, requiring about half the power to be activated. This, he notes, results in a higher read rate, while enabling the use of smaller tag antennas—and, consequently, the design of smaller tags.

For those in the fashion and electronics sector, improved read rates are critical. If tagged items are placed within boxes that are then stacked on pallets and passed through a reader portal, users need a system able to capture 100 percent of those tags, including those packed in the center of the stack. The new NXP chips, Kodritsch indicates, will help tag manufacturers get closer to achieving this 100 percent goal.

Both chips also come with a tag tamper alarm, made possible by a small wire that connects two metal pins on the chip. If that wire were to break (as would happen if someone attempted to cut or tear the tag, or peel it off an item to which it was attached via adhesive), the chip would send an alert, along with the transmission of its own ID number, when read by an interrogator. With this function, stores could install a reader in changing rooms, for example, and detect, in real time, if a person tried to disable a tag or move it to a different garment.

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