S'pore debuts low-cost RFID reader

Country's Institute of Microelectronics unveils silicon chip that it says will reduce cost and size of UHF RFID readers.

SINGAPORE--The Institute of Microelectronics (IME), a member organization under the country's Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR), has developed a silicon chip that it says can help slash the price and size of RFID (radio frequency identification) readers that support the ultra-high frequency (UHF) band spectrum.

Professor Dim-Lee Kwong, executive director of IME, said at a press briefing Monday: "The low-cost RF CMOS circuit chip for UHF reader module is considered by industry analysts to be the key in bringing down the cost of UHF readers, which still sell for about US$1,000 and constitute the most bulky and pricy part of an RFID deployment."

"The reason for this has been the lack of [component] integration," Kwong said. To address these issues, he said that researchers at IME have integrated all discrete components required for the radio frequency section of the reader module, onto a single piece of silicon.

This has resulted in a "highly-integrated" 0.18um RF CMOS (radio frequency complementary metal oxide semiconductor) reader IC (integrated circuit), which Kwong said is usable for multiple RFID tag scanners and compatible with the requirements of different countries.

With the RF CMOS chip, the IME--and its industry partner SmartID Technology--were able to build an RFID reader "reduced to the size of a name card [and built] at significantly lower cost", he said. An industry partner of IME, SmartID Technology is a provider of UHF RFID readers and has completed RFID deployments in logistics and supply chain management, and intelligent access control.

According to the IME, an RFID reader built with the new chip is expected to cost less than US$100, weigh less than 100 grams and consume less than a watt of power.

A conventional reader currently costs "a few thousand dollars", measures about 6 by 6 inches and weighs approximately 1 to 2 kilograms, the IME said. These readers consume about 10 watts of power.

With the new chip, RFID readers can be programmable for use within the 860-960 MHz band, which "allows coverage in Asia, Europe and the United States", according to the IME. The Institute said a patent has been filed for the RF CMOS reader.

Kwong said: "With the arrival of the [RF CMOS] chip reader IC on the market, we can expect RFID adoption to receive a boost due to lower cost of deployment."

"Products, from consumer to office to industrial use, are integrating RFID [technology] and [enabling] a new range of personalized services based on identity," he said.

Dan Lee, business development director of SmartID Technology, said: "The initial evaluation of the IME UHF reader yielded excellent results… With the highly-integrated circuitry and small chip size, we believe the UHF reader pricing will hit mass market adoption level in the 2007."

Lee added that the silicon chip will help in the proliferation of RFID technology "by reducing the total solution costs".

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