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RFID chip uses UHF bands for longer distances

Posted: 01 May 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:CMOS reader IC? UHF? near-field communication? RFID tags?

RFID semiconductor startup Starport Systems Inc. isn't aiming at the high-frequency bands favored by Texas Instruments, NXP Semiconductors and other large players. Instead, its SF7001 single-chip CMOS reader IC will use UHF bands in a design that can operate from NFC distances to several meters.

Retail-outlet customers told Starport they did not want the RF readers typically used for industrial tagging, since the electronic product code (EPC) Gen 2 standards within the EPC global organization more closely fit the retail industry's needs, said Armond Hairapetian, who founded Starport Systems in mid-2005. With EPC Gen 2, most reader functions are embedded in cellphones, so handsets can be used to obtain information on a scanned product, pay for items and collect postpurchase information.

Hairapetian, a former Broadcom executive, worked with Aram Nahidipour, a former Broadcom principal software engineer, and Danny Shamlou, former CTO of Mindspeed Technologies, to define a chip that included a licensed DSP core, media-access control-layer logic, system interface blocks and such RF peripherals as a 20dBm on-chip power amp.

"The power amplifier is acceptable for distances out to 2m, and we expect most of the applications for this chip to be mobile," Hairapetian said. "For stationary readers and other applications where longer distances are needed, you can use an off-chip power amp."

Earlier RFID designs used direct magnetic coupling at 13MHz. Newer UHF-based designs allow longer distances between client and reader, and operate via backscatter RF methods at 900MHz. When an external power amp is used, UHF RFID networks can operate from 1cm to 10m, and RFID tags can cost as little as 10 cents each in volume.

The SF7001 operates in a frequency range of 860-960MHz and supports data rates of 40-240Kbps. The programmable DSP architecture can be configured for custom applications. Starport plans versions using special system interfaces such as USB; the current device has IPC, SPI and GPIO interfaces.

The SF7001 is priced at $50 each in lots of 10,000. An evaluation kit is now available.

- Loring Wirbel
EE Times

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