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Researchers Develop Energy-Harvesting NFC Tag With Sensors, E-Paper Display
Intel and university scientists have created a prototype tag that can be interrogated, controlled and recharged by an NFC-enabled smartphone.
The researchers also developed an Android smartphone application that instructs the smartphone to take a screenshot of its own display if the phone is shaken, and to use its built-in NFC reader to transmit that image to the e-paper tag as soon as the tag is detected within the 5-centimeter read range. This app converts the phone screenshot to a black-and-white image appropriate in size and structure for the e-paper display screen.
The e-paper NFC-WISP tag could be installed at a location such as a cooler where perishable foods may be stored, for example, in a supermarket. Powered by energy stored on its rechargeable battery, the tag would collect temperature data at a pre-determined rate and store it in 2 megabits (0.25 megabyte) of memory. Later, an employee could utilize a mobile phone to capture that data and forward it to a server for future analytics. While doing so, the phone would recharge the tag. For additional recharging, the phone would need to be held against the tag for a longer span of time. The battery used in the prototype version, Sample notes, takes approximately 15 minutes to charge to 90 percent capacity.
In another scenario, the tag could be used as a companion display to a smartphone. Users could access a Web site on a phone and transmit an image of that site to the tag, which would then display the page on its own screen, thereby conserving the phone's battery consumption. In that way, the screen could preserve information on a phone's main display and allow the phone itself to be placed in a sleep state. The tag could potentially store up to 200 images, each averaging 6 kilobits in size. Data to be displayed could include an individual's boarding pass or credit card information, all stored on the single tag.
The NFC-WISP technology is designed to allow researchers to explore various applications using NFC technology, Sample says. "We're still just starting to think about the possibilities," he states. Currently, the display tags cost about $100 apiece when produced in a batch of five, though high volume and further development of the hardware could make them much less expensive, he notes.
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