NEC Announces Development of Tri-frequency RFID Interrogator

By Mary Catherine O'Connor

Although it won't be commercially available until next year, the device will be able to read and write to tags that communicate at the 13.56 MHz, 952-954 MHz and 2.45 GHz radio bands.


Japanese electronics giant NEC Corp. has announced it has developed a multifrequency, multiprotocol RFID interrogator that can read and write to tags communicating at the 13.56 MHz, 952-954 MHz and 2.45 GHz radio bands.

Though NEC has not provided an availability date more specific than 2008, or announced further details, the company indicated, in a prepared statement released this week, that it developed the reader to help alleviate what it called a “bottleneck in expansion of the RFID market,” caused by the unavailability of a dedicated interrogator for all RFID tag types. According to the announcement, the reader’s software will be upgradable to enable it to read and write to a variety of tag models.

In the HF band, the interrogator will work with tags containing NXP Semiconductors‘ I CODE SLI inlay or Texas Instruments‘ Tag-it HF-I inlay, both compliant with the ISO 15693 air-interface standard. In the UHF range, it will encode and read EPC Gen 2 (ISO 18000-6C) compliant tags, as well as Hitachi‘s Hibiki tag and a UHF tag with data security functions developed by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). The compatible 2.45 MHz tags that NEC lists for the reader are the Hitachi µ-chip (mu-chip) and the bottle-top tag, which was developed jointly by NEC and Toyo Seikan and uses a proprietary air-protocol interface.

NEC noted that it is also working on a smaller version of the reader, intended for embedding into small mobile electronics. Given the range of frequencies and protocols the interrogator will support, an embeddable version could be used for a variety of applications running on PDAs, cell phones, GPS receivers and handheld gaming devices.

As described in the release, the reader could not be utilized for UHF tags in the United States or Europe, since it is said to operate only in the 952 to 954 MHz range, whereas the sanctioned UHF RFID bands in the United States and Europe, respectively, are 902 to 928 MHz and 865.6 to 867.6 MHz. Japan’s RF regulations allow UHF devices to operate at 951 to 954 MHz.

In recent years, NEC has introduced a range of other RFID products, including an RFID-enabled customer loyalty card (see NECSAP Launches RFID Customer Cards), a public-transit management solution employing RFID technology to augment the location information provided by a GPS-based bus-tracking system (see RFID Improves ETA Info for Bus Passengers) and tags for bottle caps (see NEC Works on RFID Tags, Readers for Bottle Caps).