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Add a User Interface to UHF RFID Tags

Making a simple amendment to the EPC Gen 2 standard will allay privacy concerns, give consumers the ability to control tag behavior and enable new applications.
By József Bánlaki, Miklós Hoffmann and Tibor Juhász

Therefore, we must find a solution that protects a consumer's privacy while offering him or her the advantages that the technology has to offer. In addition to the legal environment and the development of social awareness, the world's leading professional organizations recommend, first and foremost, that the technology offer a solution to this problem (see Commission Recommendation of 12 May 2009 and Document 9303).

Given the above, we recommend that the EPC Gen 2 standard be amended to require that a passive UHF RFID tag include a user interface enabling consumers to detect any tags attached to the merchandise they purchase, and to interfere with the tags' behavior if they so choose. The most obvious realization of this user interface is the integration of NFC high-frequency (HF) RFID technology in the UHF RFID transponder.

We know that the Class 1 Gen 2 standard was recently revised, and that the combination of UHF and NFC RFID technology is not a new idea (see GS1 Ratifies EPC GEN2V2, Adds Security Features, More Memory). To the best of our knowledge, however, there have been no attempts to provide users with a way to protect privacy by directly communicating with a transponder. In our opinion, the integration of this capability in the future protocol would bring a revolutionary breakthrough in the technology's further spread, by alleviating consumer fears.

It is worth investing in the feasibility of the proposed transponder (hereby called a "UI-TAG"), in terms of the antennas' placement on the carrier, the integration of the NFC UHF chips and the protocol's proper extension.

With regard to the antennas, a tag that places the standard transponder of the UHF RFID and NFC technology on a common surface is already available on the market, so the antennas would operate close to each other at all times. Of course, the goal would be to minimize any eventual increase to the carrier surface's dimensions as a result of this integration. Antenna designers, however, should be able to solve this task.

Similarly, the integration of chips can be solved using current technology. Compared with the approximately 20,000 transistors used for chips during the implementation of the transponder-side protocol of the first-generation Class1 standard, the Class 1 Gen 2 standard has requested five times as many transistors. In fact, RFID chips containing nearly one million transistors exist at present. In this case, the scale is only doubled, so even if we did not trust good old Moore's law, the chip integration would result in a minimal increase of dimensions—and remember, the transponder's ultimate size is by no means determined by the size of the chip, but that of the antenna. Last year, for example, Neology announced that it had developed a dual-frequency transponder (see Neology Adds NFC to UHF RFID Transponders).

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