RFID, Sensing Networks, and Gateway to the Internet- An Electromagnetics Based Design

Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID) have been in use since the late 1940 for short distance and supply chain-type of applications. These earlier applications required low data rates, limited information interrogation, and reduced memory requirements. Recently, there has been a phenomenal growth in interest in the RFID technology as new and important applications continued to emerge. Of particular interest are applications in homeland security including identifying and tracking containers during shipment, and in providing the military with effective means for addressing logistics needs and protected supply chain. To help address the needs of these new applications there has been a surge in research activities both in the antennas and electromagnetics area as well as in the chip and microelectronics development technology.

We at the Hawaii Center for Advanced Communications have strong research activities in wireless communications with focus on the integration of electromagnetic assets (antennas, propagation, and DSP algorithms for smart antennas and beamforming) in the design and optimization of wireless communications and radar systems. For the RFID applications, we are pursuing efforts to miniaturize antennas while maintaining high gain (say using Electromagnetic Band Gap or EBG-based designs), and also intend to provide RFID devices with enhanced sensing and detection capabilities. Coupled with suitable interfaces for Internet access and more embedded electronic and data processing capabilities, RFIDs will be used as the gate way for the Internet with many potential and secure practical applications in industry, military, homeland security, hospitals, and even in remote management of energy-consuming appliances.

In this project we will continue to pursue the ongoing activities in miniaturizing antenna designs (one of the key technologies in RFID development), and integrating propagation modeling capabilities to help development RFID devices with effective and reliable communication links. We will also work on exploring the integration of RFID devices with various wireless sensors (acoustic, thermal, medical, and impedance mismatch based devices) and help develop estimates of "energy link budget" that will be required to establish reliable wireless links to the Internet with suitable data rates. Successful completion of this project will lead to significant advanced in the development of the RFID technology, and in its implementation in broader applications and to the realization of its much anticipated benefits.

Tasks and deliverables: A schematic of the proposed RFID sensing network and gate way to the Internet is shown in Fig. 1. As it may be noted, three interconnected layers of sensors and control devices will be considered including a set of interconnected sensors and computing devices (set A, a set of central readers with controls (set B), and an integrated wireless connection to the Internet (layer C).

With this system development in mind, we intend to integrate a set of different sensors and computing devices, use Zigbee or Wi-Fi protocols to establish reliable local area networks. We also intend to integrate propagation modeling and site planning software capabilities to optimize connectivity in desired and specified sites. We will use hybrid smart antenna technique to provide beamforming and beam steering capabilities. The integrated system will then be connected to the Internet for monitoring the sensing devices and for data analysis.

Fig. 1. Schematic of the proposed RFID sensing network and gate way to the Internet.

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