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BlogsAsk The Experts ForumDo RFID Tags Work on a Motherboard?

Do RFID Tags Work on a Motherboard?

Posted By RFID Journal, 11.15.2013

Are there any tags made specifically for use with electronics?

—Name withheld


There are RFID tags designed specifically to be placed on a motherboard, or on any printed circuit board, for tracking work-in-process, and to store data about the board.

In 2012, we wrote about Jabil Circuits using Murata's Magic Strap on the boards it makes for Cisco Systems. This allowed Jabil to improve the efficiency of its board production by 80 percent (see Electronics Factory Uses RFID to Manage Assembly of Cisco Circuit Boards). Tags can be integrated with the board's ground plane to create a larger antenna, thereby providing a longer read range. This can enable companies to use the same transponder to track finished goods and in-store inventory.

Intel has developed a platform that integrates the RFID transponder with the central processing unit (CPU) via a wired connection on the board. The chip in the RFID transponder is designed with extra memory dedicated to the processor, creating what Intel describes as "processor-secured storage," in which data can be stored safely and activated when needed. The information on the chip can be written to or accessed by the Intel processor via an inter-integrated circuit (I2C) interface, which is a semiconductor industry standard, and from an external handheld or fixed RFID reader (see A New Tool For Electronics Companies).

This integration between the RFID tag and the motherboard creates the opportunity to add new functionality to devices that use it. One application is called "lock in transit." The CPU is locked so the device cannot be turned on after it is manufactured, which makes it less attractive to thieves. Once it arrives at a store and is purchased, the retailer can transmit a security code to the device in order to unlock it. Retailers and device manufacturers could also let consumers customize the device. For instance, they could send, through the RFID transponder, a customized message to display when the device starts up, such as "Happy Birthday, Mom." This could be accomplished without opening the device.

At our recent RFID in High Tech event, held on Oct. 2-3 in San Francisco, Calif., Intel provided a demonstration of an application called "Premise Aware Security." The tag in a device could be given access to data about, for example, patients in one area of a hospital, by sending information to the transponder on the motherboard, but be locked out in another area. Other applications will, no doubt, be developed as the industry embraces this technology.

In September, Intel released its fourth-generation Core vPro computer processor with a built-in AeroScout active RFID Wi-Fi tag, enabling what Intel calls indoor location-based services (LBS). That, according to AeroScout, means that a computing device using the vPro Generation 4 platform can be located if it comes within range of an enterprise Wi-Fi network, and can be programmed to change its own settings based on that device's location. Such devices can also identify the locations of other laptops and tablets containing the new processor, as well as assets fitted with AeroScout Wi-Fi RFID tags (Intel's Gen 4 vPro Computer Processors Feature AeroScout Wi-Fi RTLS Technology).

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal


BJ Favaro 2013-11-19 04:28:25 PM
As it is true we have had much success in the factory with embedded RFID tags, I might add to, or caution, your response to the question by reminding readers that the performance of tags on PCBs is severely diminished by the surrounding metal of an assembly enclosure or chassis. So, outside of interfacing with an open board, the tag is inaccessible without another interface such as an external antenna, or I2C on the board. - BJ Favaro, Cisco

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