New tech could transform phones into RFID readers

The devices would not need batteries because they can harvest power from LTE signals instead.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects. This is a feature that would allow you to, for instance, know everything that is in your fridge and when it expires.

Adapting smartphones into RFID readers

Now, researchers have sought to answer the question: what if your phone could be adapted to track these features, essentially functioning like RFID readers?

A new technology developed by engineers at the University of California San Diego can allow that possibility, according to a  press release published by the institution on Tuesday.

The innovation is the first backscatter integrated circuit that can enable wireless communication and battery-less operation coming from a single mobile device. 

“This approach enables a robust, low-cost and scalable way to provide power and enable communications in an RFID-like manner, while using smartphones as the devices that both read and power the signals,” said Patrick Mercier, one of the new paper’s senior authors and a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of California San Diego. 

Perhaps the biggest advantage of the new technology is the development of devices that do not need batteries because they can harvest power from LTE signals instead. This would allow us to tackle the issue of e-waste.

“E-waste, especially batteries, is one of the biggest problems the planet is facing, after climate change,” said Dinesh Bharadia, a professor in the UC San Diego Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and one of the paper’s senior authors. 

Most Popular

Better longer-lasting devices

It would also lead to devices that are significantly less expensive and last much longer.

Even better, the device the researchers developed relies on common communication protocols: Bluetooth, WiFi, and LTE, making it extremely practical as all smartphones are equipped with both a Bluetooth transmitter and a WiFi receiver. 

The device has a range of one meter (about one yard) and costs just a few cents to manufacture. 

Now, the scientists are looking to integrate the technology into other research projects to demonstrate its capabilities and hope to commercialize it either through a startup or through an industry partner, claims the statement

The new chip is roughly the size of a grain of sand, making it easy to incorporate into already-existing devices.

message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron