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Nordic Researchers Aim for Multiprotocol Multisensor RFID Tag

Backed by government agencies and commercial vendors, the IntelliSense RFID initiative is developing a tag that will support several passive RFID standards and monitor temperature and other conditions.
By Rhea Wessel
Jan 19, 2007A group of Nordic research organizations is developing a multiprotocol RFID tag combined with environmental sensor technology. The group is integrating HF and UHF standards and sensors onto one device in an effort to create a single tag for use in different regions for a variety of applications.

Led by independent research organizations SINTEF in Norway and VTT in Finland, the project is part of the IntelliSense RFID initiative, funded with €2.3 million ($3 million) from NORDITE, a Nordic research program. NORDITE is run by the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems (VINNOVA), the Research Council of Norway (RCN) and the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (TEKES).

The IntelliSense project started in January 2006 and, if an application for an extension is not approved, will last until the end of 2007. Project members will find out in the fall if the project will be extended for three years. Members of the project expect by the end of the year to have samples of the devices, which operate using the ISO 15693 (18000-3) HF (13.56 MHz) and ISO 18000-6C (EPC Class 1 Gen 2) UHF (860 to 960 MHz) standards. If the project is extended, the group hopes to begin working next year on integrating the 18000-4 standard for tags operating at 2.45 GHz.

"Today, there are different types of protocols for different types of applications, such as logistics or consumer applications. Our goal is to merge these protocols so that one can use one tag for different applications," says Ovidiu Vermesan, the project coordinator. According to Vermesan, applications that can benefit from multiband RFID technology include object authentication, personalization, theft protection, maintenance and recycling. "This will increase the production volume for these tags and increase the flexibility of using RFID tags across boundaries, across continents and across applications."

The multiprotocol tag will work with standard RFID interrogators, says Aarne Oja, head of the IntelliSense project team for VTT. "Existing RFID readers will be able to access the information on the new multiprotocol RFID tags. Some mobile phone models already have embedded RFID readers which allow ordinary consumers to make use of RFID-based services," Oja explains.

As for the environmental sensing functionality, IntelliSense members have already developed sensors to measure air pressure and temperature, and now are working on sensors designed to measure humidity and pH. The latter are expected to be completed by the end of 2007, at which point the project's members expect to have produced a fully functioning RFID tag that supports both the ISO 15693 and ISO 18000-6C protocols and incorporates pressure, temperature, humidity and pH sensors.

"We feel that the era of smart tags is starting. These tags [will be able to sense] the environment in which they are placed and monitor the environmental conditions," says Vermesan.

Other partners in the IntelliSense project, besides SINTEF and VTT, are Chalmers University of Technology and IMEGO, both located in Sweden. SINTEF is focusing on the sensor interface and the integration of multiple protocols onto a single chip, while VTT is working on the multiband tag antenna's front end (which connects the antenna to rest of the circuitry) and the pressure and temperature sensors. Chalmers University is developing the multi-band fractal antenna, with IMEGO concentrating on the humidity and pH sensors, as well as tag assembly.

A group of seven companies is cooperating with IntelliSense RFID: Nokia, UPM, NordicID, Selmic, Noca, Combitech/Saab and VTI Technologies. Project members expect to make the tags commercially available, and to work with industrial partners to market them.
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