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Intel Announces UHF Reader Radio Chip

Intel has shrunk many of an interrogator's critical components onto a single chip, which manufacturers can use to make more compact, power-efficient readers. Other chipmakers are also making reader chips.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Mar 06, 2007The past few years have seen significant advancements in passive RFID tag performance and standards development, as use of the technology proliferated across a number of different industries and applications. Innovations on the interrogator (tag reader) side, however, have been slower. But a highly anticipated technology development could change that. Intel, the Santa Clara, Calif., semiconductor firm whose processors have been used in RFID interrogators for a number of years, today unveiled the R1000, a highly integrated, application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) that combines 90 percent of the discrete components found in a typical passive UHF RFID reader radio onto a single chip.

Integrating these components onto a chip allows RFID interrogator and printer-encoder manufacturers—a number of which Intel says have been testing the R1000—to reduce the size and improve the power efficiency of their products. Combining discrete components onto a single chip means that the separate components are not powered up individually, so the reader requires significantly less wattage to function. By using the R1000 or other similar reader chips that are also emerging on the market, RFID manufacturers should also be able to lower the price they charge for the interrogator and other equipment they make.

"The R1000 is definitely another sign of innovation in the UHF marketplace," says Mike Liard, RFID and contactless research director for market research firm ABI Research. "Hopefully this will help enable larger RFID technology adoption and enable companies to build out and scale their deployments."

Onboard the R1000 are roughly 100 components that transmit, modulate, receive and process the radio communications performed with EPC Gen 2 tags. The R1000 also contains a power amplifier that enables it to encode and read tags at a close range, up to roughly 2 meters, depending on the type of reader antenna used, according to Intel. With an additional external power amplifier, a reader using the R1000 could have up to 10 meters of read range, it says. The R1000 must be linked to a separate microprocessor that can turn the raw data generated from the R1000's digital signal processor into an EPC or ISO 18000-6C code.

Intel is offering the R1000 with the firmware needed to comply with these standards. The firmware also enables the R1000 to support the dense-reader mode (DRM) specification of the Gen 2 standard, which improves reader performance in environments where multiple readers are deployed close to each other. The firmware also allows reader makers to create products that comply with regulatory requirements such as those made by the FCC in the United States or by ETSI in Europe, where readers currently must follow a listen-before-talk protocol in order to prevent RF interference in the UHF band.

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