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Embedded / Robotics / Communication | SEED Organization




Almost every product in the market has a barcode printed on it.
Barcodes are machine-readable parallel bars that store binary information,
revealing information about the product. Thus, it acts as the product
fingerprint. As we go to the supermarket to buy things, the checkout person
runs our selection over the scanner to scan the barcode, theres an audible
beep, and we are told how much money we owe.
But the days of barcode are numbered. The reason is that a
technology called radiofrequency identification (RFID) is catching on RFID
tags are being used by corporations to track people and products in just









containers, car keys, and even clothes on the rack at a shopping mall into
mini nodes on a network. Databases then record the location and status of
these network nodes to determine product movements.

This technology can completely replace barcodes.

The automotive industry makes use of small RFID tags that offer a high
level of security at low cost.

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A lot of developments are taking place in RFID technology that will change
the course of the industry, particularly in the supply chain area.

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A tag is any device or label that identifies the host to which it is
attached. It typically does not hinder the operation of the host or adversely
affect its appearance.
The word transponder is derived from the words transmitter and
responder. The tag responds to a transmitted or communicated request for
the data it carries.







Fig.1 Transponder Block Diagram

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The transponder memory may comprise of read-only (ROM), random

access (RAM), and non-volatile programmable memory for data storage
depending on the type and sophistication of the device. The ROM-based
memory is used to accommodate security data and the transponder
operating system instructions which in conjunction with the processor or
processing logic deals with the internal house-keeping functions like
response delay timing, data flow control and supply switching. The RAMbased memory is used for temporary data storage during transponder
interrogation and response. The non-volatile programmable memory may be
of several types of which the electrically erasable programmable read-only
memory (EEPROM) is the most common. It is used to store the transponder
data and needs to be non-volatile to ensure that the data is retained when
the device is in its quiescent or power-saving sleep state.
Data buffers are further components of memory used to temporarily
hold the incoming data following demodulation and outgoing data for
modulation and interface with the transponder antenna. The interface
circuitry provides the facility to direct and accommodate the interrogation
field energy for powering purposes in passive transponders and triggering


transponder response.

The transponder




interrogating field and serves as the means for transmitting the transponder
response for interrogation.]

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On the basis of the presence of battery, tags can be classified into
active or passive tags.
Active tags are powered by an internal battery and are generally
read/write devices. They contain a cell having a high power to weight ratio
and are capable of operating over a temperature range of -50 to +70 degree
Celsius. Active tags have a finite life time. A suitable cell coupled to suitable
low power circuitry can ensure functionality of ten or more years depending
on operating temperatures, read/write cycles and usage. They have greater
size and increased cost compared to passive tags.
Passive tags operate without an internal battery source, deriving the
power to operate from the field generated by the reader. They are hence
lighter than active tags and have greater life time. They have shorter read
ranges compared to active tags. They are also constrained in their ability to
store data and perform well in electromagnetically noisy environments.
RFID tags can also be classified on the basis of coupling into
inductively and capacitively coupled tags.

Inductively coupled RFID tags consist of the silicon microprocessor

which vary in size depending on their purpose and metal coil which is made
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of copper or aluminum wire that is wound into a circular pattern on the

transponder. This coil acts as the tags antenna. The tag transmits signal to
the reader with the read distance determined by the size of the coil
antenna. It also consists of an encapsulating material of glass or polymer
that wraps around the chip and coil. Inductively coupled RFID tags are
powered by the magnetic field generated by the reader .The tags antenna
picks up the magnetic energy and the tag communicates with the reader.
The tag then modulates the magnetic field in order to retrieve and transmit
data back to the reader. Data which is transmitted back to the reader is
directed to the host computer. These tags are expensive due to the silicon,
the coil antenna and the process that is needed to wind the coil around the
surface of the tag.
Capacitively coupled RFID tags consist of an RFID chip and an
antenna made from two plate electrodes. The reading mechanism between
the tag and the reader is through capacitive coupling. Placing the tag in an
electric field powers the tag. The field gradient across the tag results in a
charge buildup between the plates and hence a potential difference which is
used to energize the small silicon IC at its center.
Data stored in data carriers require some organization and additions
like data identifiers and error detection bits to satisfy recovery needs. This
is known as source encoding. Standard numbering systems such as

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UCC/EAN can be applied to data stored in tags. Tags are basically used to
1.identifiers, in which a numeric or alphanumeric string is stored for
identification purposes or as an access key to data stored in a computer or
information management system.
2. Portable data files in which information is organized for communication.
Tags can be obtained that can store single bits to kilobits. The single bit
devices are used for surveillance purposes. Retail electronic article
surveillance (EAS) is the typical application which activates an alarm in the
interrogating field. They can also be used for counting applications.

Devices characterized by data storage capacities upto 128 bits are

sufficient to hold a serial or identification number together with parity
check bits. These devices may be manufacturer or user programmable. Tags
with data storage capacities upto 512 bits are user programmable and
suitable for accommodating identification and other specific data like serial
numbers, package content, key process instructions and results of earlier
interrogation/response transactions. Tags with storage capabilities of 64
kilobits are carriers of portable data files. By increasing the capacity, facility
can be provided for organizing data into fields or pages that may be
selectively interrogated during the reading purpose. Data transfer rates are

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linked to carrier frequency. The higher the frequency, the higher the
transfer rates. Depending on the memory, the tag contains data that can be
read-only; write once read many (WORM) or read /write. Read-only tags are
low capacity devices programmed at source usually with an identification
number. WORM devices are user programmable devices. Read/write devices
are also user programmable but allow the user to change data stored in a
tag. Portable programmers may also be present that allows in-field
programming of the tag while attached to the item being identified or








depending on the type of tags being supported and functions to be fulfilled.

The overall function is to provide the means of communicating with the tag
and facilitating data transfer. Functions performed by readers include signal
conditioning, parity error checking and correction. Once the signal from a
transponder has been correctly received and decoded, algorithms can be
applied to decide whether the signal is a repeat transmission and may then
instruct the transponder to stop transmitting. This is known as Command
Response Protocol and is used to circumvent the problem of reading
multiple tags in a short span of time. Using interrogators in this way is also

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referred to as Hands Down Polling. A more secure, but slower tag polling
technique is called Hands Up Polling which involves the interrogator
looking for tags with specific identities and interrogating them, in turn. A
further approach uses multiple readers, multiplexed into one interrogator
but results in cost increase.


The range that can be achieved in an RFID is determined by:
1. The power available at the reader/interrogator to communicate with the
2. The power available within the tag to respond.
3. The environmental conditions and structures, the former being more
significant at higher frequencies including the signal to noise ratio.
Although the level of available power is the primary determinant of
range, the manner and efficiency in which that power is deployed also
influences the range. The field or wave generated from an antenna extends
into space surrounding it and its strength diminishes with respect to
distance. The antenna design determines the shape of the field or
propagating wave delivered so that range is also influenced by the angle
subtended between the tag and antenna.
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In the space free of any obstruction or absorption mechanism, the

strength of field reduces in inverse proportion to the square of the distance.
For a wave propagating through a region in which reflections can arise from
the ground and from obstacles, the reduction in strength can vary as an
inverse fourth power of the distance. Where different paths arise in this









frequencies, moisture presence can cause absorption which can further

affect the range. Where a number of reflective obstacles are to be
encountered within the applications under consideration, which may vary
from time to time, it may also be necessary to establish the implications of
such changes through an appropriate environmental evaluation.

The power within the tag is generally much less than that from the
reader, requiring sensitive detection capability within the reader to handle
the return signals. In some systems, the reader constitutes a receiver and is
separate from the interrogation source or transmitter, particularly if the uplink (from transmitter to tag) carrier is different from the down-link (from
tag to reader).
100-500mW power are values quoted for RFID systems, whereas the
actual values should be confirmed with the appropriate regulatory
authorities in the countries where the technology is being applied. The form

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in which the power is delivered, pulsed or continuous, and the associated

values are also indicated by the authority.

An RFID system consists of RFID tags, a means of reading or
interrogating the tags and a means of communicating the data to a host
computer or information management system. The system will also include
a facility for entering or programming data into tags, if it is not done at the
source by the manufacturer. There may also be present antennas for
communication between the ag and the reader.






Fig.2. RFID System

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The reader sends out a radio frequency wave to the tag and the tag
broadcasts back its stored data to the reader. The system has two antennas,
one for the tag and the other on the reader. The data collected from the tag
can either be sent directly to a host computer through standard interfaces
or it can be stored in a portable reader and later updated to the computer
for data processing. The automatic reading and direct use of tag data is
called automatic data capture.[8]
When the tag which is battery free, is to be read, the reader sends out a
power pulse to the antenna lasting for about 50ms.The magnetic field
generated is collected by the antenna in the transponder that is tuned to the
same frequency. This received energy is rectified and stored on a capacitor
within the transponder. When the power pulse has finished, the transponder
immediately transmits back its data, using the energy stored within its
capacitor as its power source. The data is picked up by the receiving
antenna and decoded by the reader unit. Once all the data has been
transmitted, the storage capacitor is discharged resetting the transponder
to make it ready for the next read cycle. The period between transmission
pulses is called sync time and lasts between 20ms and 50ms depending on
the system set up.

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The transmission technique between the transponder and the reader

is FSK.This approach has good resistance to noise and is cost effective to










transponder type, electromagnetic noise, transponder orientation, antenna

type. In general, a 32mm glass transponder can be read with a stationary
reader and gate antenna from a distance of about 1m.Larger transponders
can achieve ranges upto 2m with handheld readers offering lower ranges
upto 250mm.

Data accuracy: A 16-bit cyclic redundancy check algorithm is used to

ensure that only valid data is sent from the reader to its associated
Antenna selection: Of the antenna types, the one giving larger read
ranges is selected. Electromagnetic noise affects the readout pattern.
Transponder orientation: For maximum range, the antenna orientation
with respect to the transponder must be optimized for maximum coupling.

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The orientation in line with a ferrite antenna produces the largest read
ranges from 2mm glass transponder.
Reading speed: Many applications require that that transponder must
remain in the reading range. Since a standard stationary reader completes
one cycle in abut 120ms, transponders must remain in the boundaries of a
readout pattern for at least that amount of time.

Immobilizers are the security systems in automobiles. The latest
generation of RFID transponders called crypto transponders can be used as
the chief part of immobilizers.


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Key-based immobilizer systems consist of four main components. The

core of the system is the transponder, a battery less device which is
available in various form factors and with different functionalities. For
operation, the transponder has to be supplied with energy from an external
source. The transceiver generates a high frequency magnetic field which is
radiated by an antenna coil. The energy activates the transponder and it
sends a data stream in form of a modulated RF signal. This signal is
demodulated by the transceiver and then passed to the controller for data
processing. Different physical principles for RFID systems have been
established on the market. Concerning the transmission of energy, two
different systems can be distinguished.
Full Duplex Systems. The energy for the transponder and the data signal
generated by the transponder are transmitted at the same time.
Half Duplex Systems. The transmission of the energy for the transponder
and the data signal from the transponder are done consecutively. The
transponder stores energy in a capacitor and as soon as the transmitter is
switched off, the energy is used to transmit data. The different techniques
have an impact on system design and reading range, but have no impact on
the system.

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Cryptographic Background
From the cryptographic point of view, the problem of immobilization
consists of two different tasks, the identification of the driver and proving
his identity, the authentication. Several cryptographic means are applicable
for driver authentication.
The authentication is based on the knowledge of a secret, for example
a password or PIN (Personal Identification Number) that has to be
presented to proof the identity. For automotive applications any method
using a keyboard is unacceptable for most of the users. In addition the level
of security is unacceptable.

Biological attributes, such as fingerprints, voice, and retinal or face
patterns could theoretically be used for authentication of the driver.
However, the technical effort for such systems is still high compared to keybased immobilizers and not acceptable for automotive applications. In
addition, the problem of renting a car to someone else and emergency use
of a vehicle becomes a critical issue.
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Authentication by means of possession is the most common method

and will also be widely spread in future. The simplest implementation is the
possession of a mechanical key. A much higher security is offered if the key
contains an electronic tag such as a transponder. To start the vehicle, the
mechanical key and the code in the transponder must match.
All cryptographic systems described above are based on static
authentication procedures, which mean the security system of the car can
verify the identity of the key but the electronics in the key cannot check the
identity of the communication partner. A mutual authentication procedure
which also allows the key to verify the identity of the communication
partner is one feature that would improve the security level of the system.
A much higher level of security can be achieved with a simple
symmetrical algorithm known as challenge / response protocol. The security
system of the vehicle can check the identity of the key by sending a question
(a challenge) and verifying the answer (response). The correct answer can
only be given if a secret is known that is shared by both partners. This
concept has several advantages. During normal use, the secret is not
exchanged and both challenge and response vary from cycle to cycle.

Standard Security Architectures using RFID

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established on the market.







initialization, the controller learns different identification codes stored in

the transponders that belong to a vehicle. When the driver places the
ignition key in the lock cylinder, the fixed code in the transponder is read
and compared to the codes stored in the memory of the controller.
The level of security depends to a great extend on the type of
transponder used. There are write once transponders on the market which









Commercially available readers/writers allow to pick up the code in the

transponder while away from the vehicle and to program an unprogrammed
unit. Thus a copy of the fixed code has been generated which cannot be
distinguished from the original. True Read Only systems on the market are
factory programmed with a unique identification number. These systems do
not allow copies. However, it is possible to emulate the data signal on the
radio frequency level. The effort to design an emulator is considerable and
requires RF design knowledge.
Rolling Code Systems operate in the same way as fixed code systems
except that the secret code in the key is only valid for a certain period of
time, typically from one ignition cycle to the other. The System Security
Controller reprograms the transponder (which is a Read/Write type)
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periodically. The secret is changed, but in terms of cryptographics the

procedure is still a static authentication. To guarantee the reliability of the
system, resynchronization procedures have to be implemented in case the
transponder programming fails or the transponder is reprogrammed by
mistake while away from the vehicle. Especially these procedures for
resynchronization are the most critical issues in such systems.
A simple mutual authentication can be provided by password
protected transponders. The transponder will deny access to the secret data
information stored in its memory unless a password is presented and thus
the identity of the reader proven. The length of the password can vary
depending on the required security level. The password is usually
transmitted in plain text and can be picked up or guessed if the transponder
is available. Depending on the length of the password, the time to guess the
password can vary from several minutes to several years. A limitation of the
system is the total transaction time which can be unacceptable for practical
use in the application.
Combined Rolling Code / Password Systems can also be implemented
using password protected Secured Read Write Transponders. They provide
a higher level of security.
Crypto Transponders

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Crypto Transponders are the second generation of transponders for

use in immobilizers. The new generation of crypto transponders developed
by Texas Instruments is based upon the TIRIS TM half duplex RFID
technology and is compatible to all standard RF interfaces of the TIRIS TM
product range.
System Overview
The Digital Signature Transponder (DST) is a crypto device which
offers the challenge/ response functionality. During initialization, the vehicle
security system and the transponder exchange a secret encryption key. The
key cannot be read out, only the transponder response to a challenge sent
by the transceiver can be read. In a typical application, the vehicle security
system generates a 40 bit random number (the challenge), and sends it to
the transponder using Pulse Width Modulation (PWM). In the transponder
the challenge is shifted into the challenge register. For a short period of
time, energy is provided by the transceiver and the encryption logic
generates a 24 bit response (signature).

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4. Crypto Transponder System
The response R is a function of the encryption key Ke , the challenge
RAND and the cryptographic algorithm Fc. R=f(Fc, RAND, Ke ).
The response is returned to the transceiver using Frequency Shift Keying
The security system calculates the expected response using the same
algorithm and the same encryption key and compares the response received
from the transponder to the calculated one. The calculation of the expected
response can be done simultaneously to the communication between
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transponder and reader or after reception of the transponder response. If

expected and calculated response are equal, the information is sent to the
engine management computer. In time critical applications, the challenge
and the response can be generated after immobilization and stored for the
next cycle.

The advantages of this system are obvious:

Depending on the challenge the response is different every time. The

authentication procedure is dynamic.

No portion of the encryption key is ever transmitted after initialization

of the transponder

The encryption key cannot be read out

The transponder cannot be duplicated

The encryption key can be irreversibly locked or altered if desired.

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The transponder is a complex logical and mechanical micro system

designed to operate at very low power. During energy transfer less than 1A
is consumed by the transponder IC. This allows a capacitor to be charged
over a considerable distance within a reasonable amount of time, typically










consumption is below 16A. Therefore, the typical maximum read range is

comparable to standard Read Only systems.

Fig. 5. Plastic Wedge Transponder

Design Objectives
The Digital Signature Transponder was based on many established
circuit blocks and assembly techniques to ensure compatibility to existing
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transceiver hardware and to keep existing qualified automated production

Apart from the design challenges for the IC design:
Maintain low power consumption despite the large number of gates for

Keep wiring of the encryption circuitry to a minimum

Keep chip size to a minimum,

A considerable effort has been spent to ensure

A high level of cryptographic security

Fast transaction times for the challenge/response cycle

Low data processing effort for the encryption algorithm in the car
security system

Reliability in the application in terms of highly sophisticated

supervision circuitry in the transponder.

All encryption algorithms are theoretically breakable. An algorithm is
computationally secure if it cannot be broken within a reasonable amount of
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time respectively with reasonable resources. In this context reasonable is









immobilizer systems are:

The attacker will not spend more than five minutes in the vehicle

The key is not longer than ten days available for analysis

The key is not longer than ten days available for analysis

The attacker is familiar with cryptoanalytical techniques.

Dictionary attacks can be used if the key was available to the attacker
for a
certain period of time to build a dictionary of challenge response pairs. In
the vehicle, the attacker hopes for a challenge that is already in his
dictionary to reply with the correct response and start the engine.
Statistical calculations show that even if the key is available for 10
days and the dictionary is built at a rate of four responses per second, the
probability for a successful attack within five minutes in the car is only
0.47%. Taking into consideration that this effort has to be repeated for each
vehicle, it can be understood that this method is uneconomic for the thief.

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Cryptoanalysis makes use of the knowledge of the algorithm. Those

attackers try to find a mathematical solution to the problem of finding the
encryption key with a limited amount of challenge response pairs. The
algorithm in the Digital Signature Transponder has been developed to
frustrate these cryptoanalytical methods.

Read/Write Crypto Transponder for Short Cycle Time

The TK5561A-PP is a complete transponder integrating all important
functions for immobilizer and identification systems. It consists of a plastic
cube which accommodates the crypto IC and the antenna realized as tuned
LC-circuit. It is a R/W crypto transponder for applications which demand
higher security levels than those which standard R/W transponders can
fulfill. For this reason it has an additional encryption algorithm block which
enables a base station to authenticate the transponder. Any attempt to fake
the base station with a wrong transponder will be recognized immediately.









transponder. This challenge is encrypted by both IC and base station .Both

should posses the same secret key. Only then the result can be expected to
be equal. The on-chip 320 bit EEPROM(10 blocks of 32 bits)can be read
and written blockwise by a base station Two or four blocks contain the ID
code and six memory blocks are used to store the crypto key as well as the

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read or write options.125 kHz is the typical operational frequency of a

system using this transponder.

Transponder Antenna
The antenna consists of a coil and a capacitor for tuning the circuit to
the nominal carrier frequency of 125kHz.The coil has a ferrite core for
improving the distance of read, write and programming operations.

Fig. 6. Analog Front End (AFE)

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The AFE includes all circuits directly connected to the coil. It

generates the ICs power supply and handles the bidirectional data
communication with the base station. It consists of the following blocks:

Rectifiers to generate a DC supply voltage from the AC coil voltage

Clock extractor.

Field gap detector for data transmission from the base station to the

The controller has the following functions:

Control memory access.

Handle correct write data transmission.

Error detection and error handling.

Control encryption operation.

Control adaptation of resonance frequency.

Power on reset

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It is a delay reset which is triggered when the supply voltage is

The IC is able to minimize the tolerance of the resonance frequency
between the base station and the transponder by on-chip capacitors in
parallel to the LC circuit of the transponder.
Bitrate Generator
The bitrate generator can deliver bitrates of RF/32 and RF/64 for data
transmission from the IC to the base station.

Bit Decoder
The bit decoder forms the signals needed for write operation and
decodes the received data bits in the write data stream
The modulator consists of two data recorders. Manchester and
biphase modulation are possible.
HV Generator

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Voltage pump which generates about 18V for programming of the

The memory is a 320-bit EEPROM which is arranged in 10 blocks of
32 bits each. All 32 bits of a block are programmed simultaneously. The
programming voltage is generated on-chip.
Crypto Circuit
The crypto circuit uses an algorithm to encrypt the challenge which is
written to the chip. The computed result can be read by the base station.
Comparing the encryption results of the base station and the IC, a high
security authentication procedure is established.
Writing Data into the IC
A write sequence of the IC is shown below.
Writing data into the transponder occurs by interrupting the RF field
with short gaps. After the start gap the write op-code (10) is transmitted.
The next 32 bits contain the actual data. The last 4 bits denote the
destination block address. If the correct number of bits has been received,
the actual data is programmed into the specified memory block.

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Fig. 7. Write protocol to program the EEPROM

Write Data Decoding

The time elapsing between two detected gaps is used to encode the
information. As soon as a gap is detected, a counter starts counting the
number of field clock cycles until the next gap will be detected. Depending
on how many field clocks elapse, the data is regarded as 0 or 1.The
required number of field clocks is shown in figure .A valid 0 is assumed if
the number of counted clock periods is between 16 and 32, for a valid 1 it
is 48 or 64 respectively. Any other value being detected results in an error
and the device exits write mode and returns to read mode.

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Fig. 8. Write data decoding scheme

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Principle areas of applications of RFID include:
1. Transportation
2. Manufacturing and processing.
3. Security.
Texas Instruments Radio Frequency Identification (TI-RFid) Systems
has introduced its new RFID tag for textile rental and dry cleaning
applications. TI-RFid tags provide more accurate identification and greater
accountability as well as improved handling through each stage of cleaning
and processing to final customer delivery.
RFID system allows booksellers to gain such information as the range
of books a shopper has browsed, the number of times a particular title was
picked up, and even the length of time spent flipping through pages.
Gillete ,Wal-Mart, and Tesco will install specially designed shelves that can
read RF waves emitted by microchips embedded in millions of their
products. The shelves can scan the contents of the shelves and, via
computer, alert store employees when supplies are running low or when
theft is detected.

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RFID tags loaded with biometric information will be embedded in passports

to ensure travelers comply with security regulations.
RFID technology is also being used to improve luggage handling in airports.
Certain specific applications of RFID include:
1. Fleet management.
2. Inventory and asset management.
3. Warehouse automation.
4. Hazardous material management.
5. Packaging, security and access control.
6. Smart card payment systems.


RFID technology permits no line of sight reading.

Robustness and reliability under difficult environmental conditions.

These tags can be read through water, snow, concrete, bricks,


wood, and most non-metallic materials

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Available in a wide variety of physical forms, shapes, sizes and

protective housings.

RFID tags can be read at very high speeds.

In most cases the response time is less than 100ms.

Difficulty in duplicating, offers a high degree of security.


RFID solutions cost much higher than the conventional barcodes. A

large fraction of its cost lies in the software infrastructure and the
enterprise application and integration

Lack of standardization.
Standardization has not been provided across many fronts, ranging

from the different data formats used to interpretability between RFID

readers and tags from different vendors to interference between RFID
products from different manufacturers.

RFID will hurt privacy

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RFID transponders are forever part of the product, and designed to

respond when a signal is received.
RFID tags will soon be tracking millions of consumer products
worldwide. Manufacturers will know the exact location of each product they
make from the time it is made until it is used and tossed in the recycle bin
or trash can. The crypto transponders will be well suited for future
generation vehicle entry systems.
The RFID tagging will take off when the cost of the tags drops to one
percent of the cost of the product it is applied to, and that date is
somewhere near.
2005 is the date that researchers say when radio frequency tagging
becomes viable and until then, we must wait and see.

Long checkout lines at the grocery store are one of the biggest
complaints about the shopping experience. This is mainly due to the time
consuming use of UPC barcodes. These codes act as product fingerprints
made of machine-readable parallel bars that store binary data.

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Created in 1970s to speed up the checkout process, barcodes have certain


It is a read-only technology, which means it cannot send information.

It can easily be forged.

Barcode scanning is time consuming.

To overcome these, the barcodes are being replaced by smart labels,

also called radiofrequency identification tags.

RFID tags are intelligent barcodes that can literally talk to a
networked system to track every product that is bought.
The automotive industry also makes use of RFID battery less
transponders that offer a high level of security at low cost. The theft of








compared to those without immobilizers. This is based on the RFID










identification by transmitting data in a machine-readable form using

radiofrequency as the carrier medium.
This paper gives an in-depth knowledge about RFID technology and
its applications
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Student Empowerment and Education Development (SEED)
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