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NXP Releases Ucode 7, a Faster and More Sensitive Chip

The new chip promises to be the highest-functioning EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID IC on the market, the company claims, enabling the development of smaller, more versatile tags.
By Claire Swedberg

While the Ucode 7's predecessor, NXP's G2iL chip, could be read when receiving a reader signal as low as -17 dBm (decibels per milliwatt) in power, the Ucode 7 can be read if the received signal is only -21 dBm. Most UHF tags offer sensitivity between -14 dBm and -18 dBm. The writing sensitivity with the new chip has increased from -8 dBm with the G2IL to -16 dBm with the Ucode 7, Vega reports. "We went from frankly trailing in that area to the absolute leader," he says.

The chip also comes with a wider broadband width—from approximately 840 to 960 MHz—with sensitivity closer to that of chips focused on a specific frequency band, such as the North American, European or Asian band. "Because of the broadband nature of the chip, [tag companies] can now design global tags," explains Suresh Palliparambil, NXP's RFID business-development director, "with the flexibility to be used globally." This will enable product manufacturers and retailers to use the same label or tag across the entire global supply chain, the company reports, thereby reducing operating costs.

NXP Semiconductors' Victor Vega

The Ucode 7's own backscatter transmission strength is greater than that of previous chips, Vega says, thereby improving a reader's ability to detect the signal of a tag made with the chip. This more-powerful backscatter strength, he notes, is particularly important for smaller tag sizes.

The chip also comes with a feature known as parallel encoding, intended to provide fast programming in scenarios in which users are encoding a large quantity of tags for products with the same SKU. This method involves encoding the chip's first two 32-bit blocks to indicate the SKU of the product to be tagged, as well as the product's manufacturer—a process that can be accomplished in less than 40 milliseconds. When the tag is later interrogated, its chip will provide the encoded two blocks indicating the SKU and company identity, along with its own existing serial number—consisting of the three-bit chip manufacturer code (in this instance, 111 for NXP), as well as 35 bits from the chip's unique tag ID (UTID)— to the reader, which serves as the full 96-bit RFID number. In that way, a large number of tags for a specific SKU can be encoded simultaneously, provided that the user does not require the encoding of its own serial numbers. With this method, users could encode 100 tags in about 40 milliseconds.

After testing was conducted on RFID labels made with the Ucode 7 chip, says Michael Fein, Zebra Technologies' senior RFID product manager, the company's printers can now provide the parallel-encoding functionality. "Today," he states, "the parallel-encode feature allows Zebra's RFID printers to provide UHF-encoded tags that can uniquely identify assets." Looking ahead, he adds, "the parallel-encode feature will help Zebra customers achieve higher productivity and efficiency, while enhancing product throughput of its printers."

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