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RFID for Consumer Electronics

A new breed of UHF EPC Gen 2 ICs enables a myriad of applications.
By Victor Vega
Aug 01, 2011— The consumer electronics industry has long considered RFID for tracking laptops, mobile phones and other devices, but several concerns have prevented widespread adoption. The business case called for item-level tagging, for example, but that presented challenges. Some RFID labels couldn't be read on metallic surfaces, for instance, and others could be easily removed or duplicated.

Technology providers developed a solution coined "Interactive Gen 2": a passive RFID integrated circuit (IC) embedded within the consumer electronic device's printed circuit. The manufacturing process is cost-efficient, and the device's serial numbers are secure because they are invisible from outside the unit. In addition, instead of the device's metal surface interfering with the ability to read the RFID label, it can serve as an extension of the tag antenna, often improving performance.

But the solution's most unique characteristic is the universal I2C (inter-integrated circuit) serial interface, which enables direct communication between the RFID IC and the device's microprocessor. This "bridge" feature enables a myriad of new applications.

To understand the benefits of this bidirectional communication, let's look at the Ucode I2C, an ultrahigh-frequency EPC Gen 2 chip from NXP Semiconductors. The RFID IC includes a conventional Tag Identifier (TID) and a unique TID (a permanent and unalterable serial number, useful for authentication and anticounterfeiting applications).
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