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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

We further propose that a simple extension be made to the UHF RFID standard, in order to provide the transponder with an internal flag, the status of which would specify whether the transponder should respond to any query in the UHF range. However, the flag's setting and alteration would be performed only on the NFC side. Furthermore, the response or silence should depend on the outcome of communication with the user on the NFC side. Of course, it is necessary to define, on the NFC side, the functions by which this flag can be set, or the corresponding logical value can be generated for the UHF response.

What's more, the adoption of NFC UHF tags could possibly lead to new application areas. By implementing reader broadcasting—a function not used so far with passive UHF RFID technology—a UHF reader could broadcast a message that, unlike the current protocols, would not expect any direct response from the tag. Instead, the reader's message would simply inform the tag, "Here's who I am and here's what I want to do." According to today's EPC Gen 2 protocol, a tag cannot do anything with this message, but if a UI-TAG were realized, the new mode of operation could be interpreted—the individual user could read this message via NFC. In this way, the broadcasting of either an individual identifier or a link—or even a complex data structure describing a service or business offer—can be propagated, on the basis of which the transponder's owner can then decide if he or she would like to use this information.

We also note—having eliminated the hazards and offering only benefits to consumers—that it would be similarly worth manufacturing the tags used inherently in the NFC applications equipped with a UHF interface (in that case, perhaps "UNI-TAG" would be a better name). Imagine, for example, that NFC-enabled mobile phones in the future might have such a transponder. This could be employed to extend the read range of the phone's NFC technology to a few meters, thereby enabling a consumer to use his or her phone's NFC function to access information provided by UHF RFID technology. It is not just a solution for providing business offers, but also, for example, for calling attention to hazards, or for providing information to the vision-impaired.

Overall, we can state that integration would not pose an unsolvable problem on the protocol level. We have begun the detailed development of this protocol simultaneously with drafting our proposal, but we also welcome other organizations interested in cooperation. As part of this work, we will, of course, clearly define the eligibility rules to influence the UI-TAG's behavior, including situations in which the transponder linked to an object would change hands along with that product.

Finally, we again emphasize that the implementation of what we set out in our proposal is in the interest of all those involved with RFID technology—even if making it a reality might pose certain difficulties for standard-setting organizations, as well as for RFID manufacturers. The UI-TAG concept has the potential to significantly improve RFID's social acceptance, and thus to open new horizons for the technology's future use.

József Bánlaki (banlaki.jozsef@aries.ektf.hu) is the director of the Internet of Things (IoT) Research Center at Eszterházy Károly College, in Eger, Hungary. Miklós Hoffmann (hofi@ektf.hu) is a professor at Eszterházy Károly College, and the head of the college's department of mathematics. Tibor Juhász (juhaszti@ektf.hu) is an associate professor at Eszterházy Károly College. Their RFID research project was supported by the European Union and the State of Hungary, co-financed by the European Social Fund in the framework of TÁMOP-4.2.2.C-11/1/KONV-2012-0014.

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