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Publication numberUS20080238621 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/867,763
Publication dateOct 2, 2008
Filing dateOct 5, 2007
Priority dateMar 30, 2007
Also published asUS8093990, US8115598, US8207825, US8838047, US20080238622, US20080238623, US20080238624, US20080238625, US20080238626, US20080238688
Publication number11867763, 867763, US 2008/0238621 A1, US 2008/238621 A1, US 20080238621 A1, US 20080238621A1, US 2008238621 A1, US 2008238621A1, US-A1-20080238621, US-A1-2008238621, US2008/0238621A1, US2008/238621A1, US20080238621 A1, US20080238621A1, US2008238621 A1, US2008238621A1
InventorsAhmadreza (Reza) Rofougaran, Maryam Rofougaran, Amin Shameli
Original AssigneeBroadcom Corporation
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Multi-mode rfid reader architecture
US 20080238621 A1
Abstract
A multi-mode RFID reader operates in both far field mode and near field mode. The multi-mode RFID reader includes a transmitter section, a receiver section, a transmit multiplexer and a receive multiplexer. Both the transmit multiplexer and the receive multiplexer are configurably coupled to a far field antenna structure and a near field coil structure. For far field operation, the transmit multiplexer provides an up-converted outbound signal to a far field antenna structure and the receive multiplexer provides an inbound signal to a receiver section. For near field operation, the transmit multiplexer provides an up-converted outbound signal to the near field coil structure and the receive multiplexer provides an inbound signal to the receiver section.
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Claims(25)
1. A multi-mode radio frequency identification (RFID) reader comprises:
a baseband processing module coupled to:
convert outbound data into outbound modulation information; and
convert an encoded inbound signal into inbound data;
a transmitter section coupled to convert the outbound modulation information into an up-converted outbound signal;
a far field antenna structure;
a near field coil structure;
a transmit multiplexer coupled to output the up-converted outbound signal to the near field coil structure when the multi-mode RFID reader is in a near field mode and to output the up-converted outbound signal to the far field antenna structure when the multi-mode RFID reader is in a far field mode;
a receive multiplexer coupled to input an inbound signal from the near field coil structure when the multi-mode RFID reader is in the near field mode and to input the inbound signal from the far field antenna structure when the multi-mode RFID reader is in the far field mode; and
a receiver section coupled to down-convert the inbound signal into the encoded inbound signal.
2. The multi-mode RFID reader of claim 1, wherein the far field antenna structure comprises:
an antenna;
a transformer balun coupled to the antenna.
3. The multi-mode RFID reader of claim 1, wherein the near field coil structure comprises:
a plurality of coils;
a plurality of capacitors coupled to the plurality of coils.
4. The multi-mode RFID reader of claim 1, wherein the transmitter section comprises:
a current source modulated based on the outbound modulation information; and
input transistors coupled to the current source.
5. The multi-mode RFID reader of claim 4, wherein the transmit multiplexer comprises:
multiplexer transistors operable to couple the input transistors to the near field coil structure when in the near field mode and to the far field antenna structure when in the far field mode.
6. The multi-mode RFID reader of claim 5, wherein the multiplexer transistors comprise:
a first set of transistors coupled to the input transistors and the near field coil structure, wherein each of the first set of transistors includes an activation input; and
a second set of transistors coupled to the input transistors and the far field antenna structure, wherein each of the second set of transistors includes an activation input.
7. The multi-mode RFID reader of claim 6, wherein the transmitter section is operable to signal the transmit multiplexer to activate the first set of transistors to transmit in the near field mode and to signal the transmit multiplexer to activate the second set of transistors to transmit in the far field mode.
8. The multi-mode RFID reader of claim 4, wherein the transmitter section comprises:
a transmitter driver circuit, including:
a power amplifier with outputs coupled to inputs of the input transistors;
a plurality of capacitors configurably coupled to the outputs of the power amplifier and to the inputs of the input transistors; and
a plurality of inductors coupled to the outputs of the power amplifier and to the inputs of the input transistors.
9. The multi-mode RFID reader of claim 1, wherein the baseband processing module further functions to:
encode the outbound data using a first encoding protocol when in the near field mode and using a second encoding protocol when in the far field mode.
10. The multi-mode RFID reader of claim 1, wherein the up-converted outbound signal and the inbound signal are in the ultra high frequency (UHF) range.
11. The multi-mode RFID reader of claim 1, wherein the baseband processing module further functions to transmit one or more control signals to the transmitter section, wherein the transmitter section operates in the far field mode or the near field mode in response to the one or more control signals.
12. The multi-mode RFID reader of claim 11, wherein the transmitter section further functions to:
signal the transmit multiplexer to couple the up-converted outbound signal to the near field coil structure when the one or more control signals indicates the near field mode; and
signal the transmit multiplexer to couple the up-converted outbound signal to the far field antenna structure when the one or more control signals indicates the far field mode.
13. The multi-mode RFID reader of claim 11, wherein the baseband processing module further functions to transmit a signal to the transmitter section, wherein the signal indicates whether the transmitter section is to transmit in the far field mode or the near field mode.
14. The multi-mode RFID reader of claim 11, wherein the baseband processing module is operable to:
in response to a receive signal strength indication from one or more tags, encoding a data signal command for transmission by the transmitter section in the far field mode to the one or more tags to operate in the near field mode; and
upon receipt of a decoded data signal from the one or more tags with an acknowledgement of the command, transmitting the one or more control signals to the transmitter section to transmit in the near field mode to the one or more tags.
15. The multi-mode RFID reader of claim 11, wherein the baseband processing module is operable to:
in response to a receive signal strength indication from one or more tags or an inbound encoded signal that the baseband processing module is unable to decode, encode a data signal command for transmission by the transmitter section in the near field mode to the one or more tags to operate in the far field mode; and
upon receipt of a decoded data signal from the one or more tags with an acknowledgement of the command, transmitting the one or more control signals to the transmitter section to transmit in the far field mode to the one or more tags.
16. The multi-mode RFID reader of claim 11, wherein the multi-mode RFID reader operates in the far field mode as a default mode.
17. An radio frequency identification (RFID) reader, comprising:
a baseband processing module operable to:
convert outbound data into outbound encoded data; and
convert the outbound encoded data into outbound modulation information; a transmitter section operable to convert the outbound modulation information into an up-converted outbound signal; and a transmit multiplexer operable to:
couple the up-converted outbound signal to a near field coil antenna structure for inductive coupling to one or more tags in a near field mode; and
couple the up-converted outbound signal to a far field antenna structure for RF radio frequency (RF) coupling to the one or more tags in a far field mode.
18. The RFID reader of claim 17, further comprising:
a receive multiplexer operable to:
receive an inbound signal from the near field coil antenna structure when the RFID reader is operating in the near field mode;
receive the inbound signal from the far field antenna structure when the reader is operating in the far field mode; and
transmit the received inbound signal to a receiver section.
19. The RFID reader of claim 18, wherein the receiver section is operable for converting the UHF inbound signal into an encoded inbound signal.
20. The RFID reader of claim 19, wherein the baseband processing module is operable to:
convert the encoded inbound signal into inbound data using a first encoding protocol when in the near field mode; and
convert the encoded inbound signal into inbound data using a second encoding protocol when in the far field mode.
21. The RFID reader of claim 20, wherein the baseband processing module is operable to:
convert the outbound data into outbound encoded data using a first encoding protocol when in the near field mode; and
convert the outbound data into outbound encoded data using a second encoding protocol when in the far field mode.
22. The RFID reader of claim 21, wherein the baseband processing module is operable to:
when the RFID reader is operating in the far field mode, encode a data signal command for transmission in the far field mode to the one or more tags to operate in the near field mode; and
upon receipt of a decoded inbound data from the one or more tags with an acknowledgement of the command, operating the RFID reader in the near field mode.
23. The RFID reader of claim 21, wherein the baseband processing module is operable to:
when the RFID reader is operating in the near field mode, encode a data signal command for transmission in the near field mode to the one or more tags to operate in the near field mode; and
upon receipt of a decoded inbound data from the one or more tags with an acknowledgement of the command, operating the RFID reader in the far field mode.
24. The RFID reader of claim 17, wherein the transmit multiplexer comprises:
a first set of transistors coupled to input transistors and the near field antenna coil structure that are operable to couple the up-converted outbound signal to a near field coil antenna structure for inductive coupling to the one or more tags in the near field mode; and
a second set of transistors coupled to the input transistors and the far field antenna structure that are operable to couple the up-converted outbound signal to a far field antenna structure for RF coupling to the one or more tags in the far field mode; and
wherein the transmitter section is operable to signal the transmit multiplexer to activate the first set of transistors to transmit in the near field mode and to signal the transmit multiplexer to activate the second set of transistors to operate in the far field mode.
25. The multi-mode RFID reader of claim 17, wherein the up-converted outbound signal is in an ultra-high frequency (UHF) range in the near field mode and the far field mode.
Description
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED PATENTS

This U.S. patent application claims priority under 35 USC 119 to a provisionally filed patent application entitled, “RFID System,” having a provisional filing date of Mar. 30, 2007, and a provisional application Ser. No. 60/921,221. This U.S. patent application claims priority under 35 USC 119 to a provisionally filed patent application entitled, “RFID System,” having a provisional filing date of May 31, 2007, and a provisional Ser. No. 60/932,411.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not applicable.

INCORPORATION-BY-REFERENCE OF MATERIAL SUBMITTED ON A COMPACT DISC

Not applicable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Technical Field of the Invention

This invention relates generally to communication systems and more particularly to RFID systems.

2. Description of Related Art

A radio frequency identification (RFID) system generally includes a reader, also known as an interrogator, and a remote tag, also known as a transponder. Each tag stores identification or other data for use in identifying a person, item, pallet or other object or data related to a characteristic of a person, item, pallet or other object. RFID systems may use active tags that include an internal power source, such as a battery, and/or passive tags that do not contain an internal power source, but instead are remotely powered by the reader.

Communication between the reader and the remote tag is enabled by radio frequency (RF) signals. In general, to access the identification data stored on an RFID tag, the RFID reader generates a modulated RF interrogation signal designed to evoke a modulated RF response from a tag. The RF response from the tag includes the coded data stored in the RFID tag. The RFID reader decodes the coded data to identify or determine the characteristics of a person, item, pallet or other object associated with the RFID tag. For passive tags, the RFID reader also generates an unmodulated, continuous wave (CW) signal to activate and power the tag during data transfer.

RFID systems typically employ either far field or near field technology. In far field technology, the distance between the RFID reader and the tag is great compared to the wavelength of the carrier signal. Typically, far field technology uses carrier signals in the ultra high frequency or microwave frequency ranges. In far-field applications, the RFID reader generates and transmits an RF signal via an antenna to all tags within range of the antenna. One or more of the tags that receive the RF signal responds to the reader using a backscattering technique in which the tags modulate and reflect the received RF signal.

In near-field technology, the operating distance is usually less than one wavelength of the carrier signal. Thus, the reading range is approximately limited to 20 cm or less depending on the frequency. In near field applications, the RFID reader and tag communicate via electromagnetic or inductive coupling between corresponding reader and tag coil antennas. Typically, the near field technology uses carrier signals in the low frequency range.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has developed an RFID standard called the ISO 18000 series. The ISO 18000 series standard describes air interface protocols for RFID systems especially in applications used to track items in a supply chain. The ISO 18000 series has seven parts to cover the major frequencies used in RFID systems around the world. The seven parts are:

18000-1: Generic parameters for air interfaces for globally accepted frequencies;

18000-2: Air interface for below 135 KHz;

18000-3: Air interface for 13.56 MHz;

18000-4: Air interface for 2.45 GHz;

18000-5: Air interface for 5.8 GHz;

18000-6: Air interface for 860 MHz to 930 MHz;

18000-7: Air interface at 433.92 MHz.

According to the ISO 18000-2 and 18000-3 parts of the ISO 18000 series, near-field technology with magnetic/inductive coupling has an air interface protocol at low frequency (LF) of 135 KHz or less or at 13.56 MHz high frequency (HF). The communication protocol used by the reader and the tag is typically a load modulation technique.

Far field technology with RF coupling has three ISO defined air interfaces at 2.45 GHz microwave frequency according to ISO 18000-5, 860 MHZ to 930 MHz ultra high frequency (UHF) range according to ISO 18000-6 and 433.92 MHz UHF according to ISO 18000-7. For UHF at 860-930 MHz, the ISO 18000-6 has defined two tag types, Type A and Type B with a reader to tag link defined as including either 33 kbps or 40 kbps data rate, Amplitude Shift Keying (ASK) modulation, and biphase-space (FM0) encoding of data.

In addition, the EPCglobal Class 1, Generation 2 standard defines a tag standard using UHF with a tag to reader link of 40 to 640 kbps, ASK or Phase Shift Keying (PSK) modulation and data encoding of biphase space (FM0) or Miller-modulated subcarrier.

Generally, RFID readers employing near field technology operating at LF or HF have been used in applications involving reading item-level tagging for inventory control in the supply chain management or applications involving short range reads such as smart cards or vicinity credit cards, e.g. for access control or monetary use, passports, money bills authentication, bank documents, etc. Such applications do not need long range reads of the tags but may need more security provided by near field technology. In addition, near field technology is known for better performance for reading of tags near fluids, such as fluid medications, wherein far field RF coupling tends to incur interference from the fluids.

RFID readers employing far field technology RF coupling at microwave or UHF have been used to read tags in applications involving shipping units such as pallets or carton level tracking or other applications needing long-distance reads.

Currently, an RFID reader may consist of a controller or microprocessor implemented on a CMOS integrated circuit and a radio implemented on one or more separate CMOS, BiCMOS or GaAs integrated circuits that are uniquely designed for optimal signal processing in a particular technology (e.g., near-field or far-field), but not in both. These different types of technology and the number of different RFID standards, each defining a different protocol for enabling communication between the reader and the tag, has inhibited the wide spread use of RFID readers for multiple applications. Therefore, a need exists for a highly integrated, low-cost RFID reader. In addition, a need exists for a multi-standard, multi-technology RFID reader.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to apparatus and methods of operation that are further described in the following Brief Description of the Drawings, the Detailed Description of the Invention, and the claims. Other features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following detailed description of the invention made with reference to the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWING(S)

FIG. 1 is a schematic block diagram of an embodiment of an RFID system in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a schematic block diagram of an embodiment of a multi-mode RFID reader in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a schematic block diagram of another embodiment of a multi-mode RFID reader in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 4 a is a schematic block diagram of one embodiment of the near field coil structure and the far field antenna structure of a multi-mode RFID reader in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 4 b is a schematic block diagram of another embodiment of the near field coil structure and the far field antenna structure of a multi-mode RFID reader in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 5 is a schematic block diagram of one embodiment of a transmit multiplexer and transmitter section of a multi-mode RFID reader in accordance with the present invention; and

FIG. 6 is a schematic block diagram of one embodiment of a transmitter driver circuit module in a transmitter section of a multi-mode RFID reader in accordance with the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 is a schematic block diagram of an RFID (radio frequency identification) system that includes a computer/server 12, a plurality of RFID readers 14-18 and a plurality of RFID tags 20-30. The RFID tags 20-30 may each be associated with a particular object for a variety of purposes including, but not limited to, tracking inventory, tracking status, location determination, assembly progress, et cetera. The RFID tags may be active devices that include internal power sources or passive devices that derive power from the RFID readers 14-18.

Each RFID reader 14-18 wirelessly communicates with one or more RFID tags 20-30 within its coverage area. For example, RFID tags 20 and 22 may be within the coverage area of RFID reader 14, RFID tags 24 and 26 may be within the coverage area of RFID reader 16, and RFID tags 28 and 30 may be within the coverage area of RFID reader 18. In far field mode of operation, the RF communication scheme between the RFID readers 14-18 and RFID tags 20-30 is a backscatter coupling technique using far field technology whereby the RFID readers 14-18 request data from the RFID tags 20-30 via an RF signal, and the RF tags 20-30 respond with the requested data by modulating and backscattering the RF signal provided by the RFID readers 14-18. In a near field mode of operation, the RF communication scheme between the RFID readers 14-18 and RFID tags 20-30 is a magnetic or inductive coupling technique whereby the RFID readers 14-18 magnetically or inductively couple to the RFID tags 20-30 to access the data on the RFID tags 20-30. Thus, in one embodiment of the current invention, the RFID readers 14-18 may communicate in a far field mode to an RFID tag 20-30 with far field mode capabilities and in a near field mode to an RFID tag 20-30 with near field mode capabilities.

The RFID readers 14-18 collect data as may be requested from the computer/server 12 from each of the RFID tags 20-30 within its coverage area. The collected data is then conveyed to computer/server 12 via the wired or wireless connection 32 and/or via peer-to-peer communication 34. In addition, and/or in the alternative, the computer/server 12 may provide data to one or more of the RFID tags 20-30 via the associated RFID reader 14-18. Such downloaded information is application dependent and may vary greatly. Upon receiving the downloaded data, the RFID tag 20-30 can store the data in a non-volatile memory therein.

As indicated above, the RFID readers 14-18 may optionally communicate on a peer-to-peer basis such that each RFID reader does not need a separate wired or wireless connection 32 to the computer/server 12. For example, RFID reader 14 and RFID reader 16 may communicate on a peer-to-peer basis utilizing a back scatter technique, a wireless LAN technique, and/or any other wireless communication technique. In this instance, RFID reader 16 may not include a wired or wireless connection 32 to computer/server 12. In embodiments in which communications between RFID reader 16 and computer/server 12 are conveyed through the wired or wireless connection 32, the wired or wireless connection 32 may utilize any one of a plurality of wired standards (e.g., Ethernet, fire wire, et cetera) and/or wireless communication standards (e.g., IEEE 802.11x, Bluetooth, et cetera).

In other embodiments, the RFID system of FIG. 1 may be expanded to include a multitude of RFID readers 14-18 distributed throughout a desired location (for example, a building, office site, et cetera) where the RFID tags 20-30 may be associated with access cards, smart cards, mobile phones, personal digital assistants, laptops, personal computers, inventory items, pallets, cartons, equipment, personnel, et cetera. In addition, it should be noted that the computer/server 12 may be coupled to another server and/or network connection to provide wide area network coverage.

FIG. 2 is a schematic block diagram of an embodiment of a multi-mode RFID reader 40 which can be used as one of the RFID readers 14-18 in FIG. 1. The multi-mode RFID reader 40 is operable to communicate in a far field mode to an RFID tag 20-30 with far field capability and/or in a near field mode to an RFID tag 20-30 with near field capability. The multi-mode RFID reader 40 includes a transmitter section 42, a receiver section 44 and baseband processing module 46. The multi-mode RFID reader 40 also includes a transmit multiplexer 48 and a receive multiplexer 50. Both the transmit multiplexer 48 and the receive multiplexer 50 are coupled to a far field antenna structure 52 and a near field coil structure 54.

The baseband processing module 46, transmitter section 42 and receiver section 44 may be a single processing device or a plurality of processing devices. Such a processing device may be a microprocessor, micro-controller, digital signal processor, microcomputer, central processing unit, field programmable gate array, programmable logic device, state machine, logic circuitry, analog circuitry, digital circuitry, and/or any device that manipulates signals (analog and/or digital) based on hard coding of the circuitry and/or operational instructions. One or more of the modules may have an associated memory element, which may be a single memory device, a plurality of memory devices, and/or embedded circuitry of the module. Such a memory device may be a read-only memory, random access memory, volatile memory, non-volatile memory, static memory, dynamic memory, flash memory, cache memory, and/or any device that stores digital information. Note that when the module implements one or more of its functions via a state machine, analog circuitry, digital circuitry, and/or logic circuitry, the memory element storing the corresponding operational instructions may be embedded within, or external to, the circuitry comprising the state machine, analog circuitry, digital circuitry, and/or logic circuitry. Further note that, the memory element stores, and the module executes, hard coded and/or operational instructions corresponding to at least some of the steps and/or functions illustrated in FIGS. 1-6.

In operation, the baseband processing module 46 converts outbound data into outbound modulation information 5 and transmits the outbound modulation information 56 to transmitter section 42. The transmitter section 42 is operable to convert the outbound modulation information 56 into an up-converted outbound signal 58. The up-converted outbound signal 58 has a carrier frequency within the RF band and/or in the microwave band. In one embodiment, the up-converted outbound signal 58 is in the UHF range, and in particular in one embodiment, the up-converted outbound signal 58 is in the 860 MHz to 930 MHz UHF range. The transmitter section 42 is coupled to the transmit multiplexer 48. The transmit multiplexer 48 receives the up-converted outbound signal 58 from the transmitter section 42 and is operable to couple the up-converted outbound signal 58 to the near field coil structure 54 when the RFID reader 40 is in a near field mode and to output the up-converted outbound signal 58 to the far field antenna structure 52 when the RFID reader 40 is in a far field mode.

To receive signals, an inbound UHF signal 60 is detected at either the far field antenna structure 52 or the near field coil structure 54. The receive multiplexer 50 is coupled to output the inbound signal 60 from the near field coil structure 54 to the receiver section 44 when the RFID reader 40 is in the near field mode and to output the inbound signal 60 from the far field antenna structure 52 to the receiver section 50 when the RFID reader 40 is in the far field mode. The inbound signal 60 has a carrier frequency within the RF band and/or in the microwave band. In one embodiment, the inbound signal 60 is in the UHF range, and in particular in one embodiment, the inbound signal 60 is in the 860 MHz to 930 MHz UHF range. The receiver section 44 is operable to down convert the inbound signal 60 into an encoded inbound signal 62. The baseband processing module 46 is operable to convert the encoded inbound signal 62 into inbound data.

FIG. 3 illustrates one embodiment of the multi-mode RFID reader 40 in more detail. As seen in FIG. 3, the baseband processing module 46 includes a processing module 66, an encoding module 68, modulation module 70 and decoding module 72. The baseband processing module 46 is also coupled to a host interface 74. The host interface module 74 may include a communication interface (USB dongle, compact flash or PCMCIA) to a host device, such as the computer server 12. In addition, the multi-mode RFID reader 40 includes an up conversion module 76 as part of the transmitter section 42 and a predecoding module 80 and digitization module 82 as part of the receiver section 44. The digitization module 82 may be an analog to digital convertor or a limiter while the predecoding module 80 includes one or more digital filters.

In operation, the processing module 66 may receive one or more commands or requests for data from the host interface module 74 that requires communication of data to one or more RFID tags 20-30. Alternatively, or in addition to, the processing module 66 may receive data from an RFID tag 20-30 that requires a response to be generated by the multi-mode RFID reader 40. As another alternative, or in addition to, the processing module 66 may determine itself that a command or other communication is necessary to one or more RFID tags 20-30. In response to the required communication, the processing module 66 generates outbound data 76 for communication to one or more RFID tags 20-30 and transmits the outbound data 76 to the encoding module 68.

The encoding module 68 is operable to convert the outbound data 76 into outbound encoded data 78 in accordance with a particular RFID standardized protocol. In an embodiment, the baseband processing module 46 is programmed with multiple RFID standardized and/or proprietary encoding protocols to enable the multi-mode RFID reader 40 to communicate with RFID tags 20-30 operating in accordance with different standardized and/or proprietary encoding protocols. By way of example, but not limitation, the encoding protocols may include one or more encoding schemes, such as Manchester encoding, FM0 encoding, FM1 encoding, etc. In particular, the encoding protocol utilized may depend on the mode of operation of the RFID reader 40. Different encoding protocols may be defined for encoding data for transmission in near field mode and in far field mode. For example, in near field mode, a first data encoding protocol may be used by the baseband processing module 46 for encoding data while a second data encoding protocol may be used by the baseband processing module 46 for encoding data in far field mode. A typical encoding protocol in near field mode includes Manchester coding, although other encoding protocols may be used. Also, in far field mode, typical encoding protocols comprise at least one of the following: Miller-modulated subcarrier coding and biphase-space encoding although other encoding protocols may be used. In addition, the first data encoding protocol for encoding outbound data 76 in near field mode may the same as the second data encoding protocol for encoding outbound data 76 in far field mode.

Once the particular encoding protocol has been selected for communication with one or more RFID tags 20-30, the processing module 66 generates and provides the outbound data 76 to be communicated to the RFID tag 20-30 to the encoding module 78. The processing module 66 communicates the encoding protocol selected, and the encoding module 78 encodes the outbound data 76 in accordance with the selected encoding protocol to convert the outbound data 76 into the outbound encoded data 78.

Thereafter, the outbound encoded data 78 is provided to the modulation module 70 which converts the outbound encoded data 78 into outbound modulation information 56(e.g., phase, frequency, and/or amplitude modulation information). In an embodiment, the outbound modulation information 56 is one or more of binary phase shift keying (BPSK), quadrature PSK (QPSK), quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM), amplitude shift keying (ASK) modulation information, phase shift keying (PSK), load modulation, frequency shift keying (FSK), minimum shift keying (MSK), etc.

The outbound modulation information 56 is transmitted to the up conversion module 76, which utilizes the outbound modulation information 56 to generate an up-converted signal 58 at a carrier frequency in the RF band or microwave band. In one embodiment, the carrier frequency is in the ultra high frequency (UHF) range, which is approximately 300 MHz to 3 GHz. In an embodiment, the particular carrier frequency used by the multi-mode RFID reader 40 is a standardized carrier frequency in the UHF range, such as the ISO 18000 series 860-930 MHz UHF range or according to EPCglobal standards or other standards. However, the multi-mode RFID reader may be optimized for operation for any frequency within the RF band or microwave band, and in one embodiment in the UHF range.

The transmit multiplexer 48 is operable to have the up-converted outbound signal 58 transmitted by the near field coil structure 54 when the RFID reader 40 is in a near field mode and to have the up-converted outbound signal 58 transmitted by the far field antenna structure 52 when the RFID reader 40 is in a far field mode. In one embodiment, the RFID reader 40 generates an up-converted outbound signal 58 in the UHF range in both near field and far field mode, e.g. in the ISO 18000 series 860-930 MHz UHF range. In such an embodiment, the up-converted outbound signal 58 is in the UHF range even when transmitting over the near field coil structure 54 in near field mode using inductive or magnetic coupling.

In operation to receive an inbound signal 60, the receive multiplexer 50 is coupled to output the inbound signal 60 from the near field coil structure 54 to the receiver section 44 when the RFID reader 40 is in the near field mode and to output the inbound signal 60 from the far field antenna structure 52 to the receiver section 44 when the RFID reader 40 is in the far field mode. In one embodiment, the inbound signal 60 is in the UHF range in both near field and far field mode, e.g. in the ISO 18000 series 860-930 MHz UHF range. In such an embodiment, the inbound signal 60 is in the UHF range even when receiving the inbound signal 60 over the near field coil structure 54 in near field mode using inductive or magnetic coupling.

The digitization module 82 and predecoding module 80 in the receiver section 44 converts the analog inbound signal 60 into digital encoded inbound signal 62. The receiver section 44 is operable to transmit the encoded inbound signal 62 to the baseband processing module 46. The decoding module 72 in the baseband processing module 46 decodes the encoded inbound signal 62. As explained above in an embodiment, the baseband processing module 46 is programmed with multiple RFID standardized protocols such that the decoding module 72 is operable to decode the encoded inbound signal 62 using one or more encoding protocols. By way of example, but not limitation, the encoding protocols may include one or more encoding schemes, such as Manchester encoding, FM0 encoding, FM1 encoding, etc. In particular, the encoding scheme utilized may depend on the mode of operation of the RFID reader 40. Different data encoding protocols may be defined for decoding data in near field mode and in far field mode. When operating in near field mode, the decoding module 72 may attempt to decode the encoded inbound signal 62 using a first protocol typical in near field operations, such as Manchester coding. If such decoding is unsuccessful, the decoding module 72 is operable to attempt to decode the encoded inbound signal 62 with a next protocol until the encoded inbound signal 62 is decoded. Similarly, when operating in far field mode, the decoding module 72 may attempt to decode the encoded inbound signal 62 using a second protocol typical in far field operations, such as Miller-modulated subcarrier coding and biphase-space encoding. If such decoding is unsuccessful, the decoding module 72 is operable to attempt decoding the encoded inbound signal 62 with a next protocol until the encoded inbound signal 62 is decoded. Once the particular encoding protocol has been determined for decoding the encoded inbound signal 62, the decoding module 72 decodes and generates the inbound data 84 to be communicated to the processing module 66.

The processing module 66 signals the other modules of the RFID reader 40, such as the encoding module 66, modulation module 70, transmitter section 42 and/or transmit multiplexer 48, the receiver section 44 and/or receive multiplexer 50 that the RFID reader 40 is operating in the near field mode or the far field mode. Various factors may determine whether the RFID reader 40 operates in near field mode or far field mode. For example, the RFID reader 40 may default to far field mode or a user input to the RFID reader 40 may determine the mode of operation or a command received through the hose interface module 74 may determine the mode of operation. In another alternative, the RFID reader 40 may transmit an interrogation signal to one or more tags 20-30 in far field mode using RF coupling over the far field antenna structure 52, and then transmit an interrogation signal to one or more tags 20-30 in near field mode using inductive or magnetic coupling over the near field antenna structure. The RFID reader 40 may then compare an input signal strength indication, transmit power levels, signal to noise ratio, ability to decode the inbound signal (e.g., error rate), and/or other indicators to determine the mode of operation to communicate with each tag 20-30.

In addition, certain tags 20-30 (hereinafter called multi-mode tags) may be operable to communicate in both near field mode and far field mode. See, e.g., U.S. Patent Application No. ______, filed ______, entitled, “Multi-Mode RFID Tag Architecture,” by ______, Attorney Docket No. BP6584, the entirety of which is incorporated herein. It may be advantageous to communicate in both modes with such a multi-mode tag. For example, when such a multi-mode tag is farther away, such as in a far field range, the RFID reader 40 operates in far field mode to communicate with the multi-mode tag. When the tag is in a closer near field range, the RFID reader operates in a near field mode to communicate with the multi-mode tag. In another method of operation, the RFID reader may operate in far field mode for general interrogation signals to multi-mode RFID tags but then operate in near field mode for more secure communications involving confidential, sensitive or private information to a particular multi-mode tag. To switch from one mode of operation to another during a communication with a multi-mode tag, the baseband processing module 46 encodes a data signal command for transmission in far field mode to one or more multi-mode tags to operate in near field mode; and upon receipt of a decoded inbound data 84 from the one or more multi-mode tags with an acknowledgement of the command, the baseband processing module 46 signals the other modules in the RFID reader 46 to operate in near field mode to communicate with the one or more multi-mode tags. The same procedure may be used to switch from near field mode to far field mode.

FIG. 4 a illustrates one embodiment of the near field coil structure 54 and the far field antenna structure 52 in more detail. First, with respect to the far field antenna structure 52, generally, RFID reader to tag distances greater than λ/2π are optimal for far field mode with RF coupling. Thus, the far field antenna structure 52 may be any type of antenna structure for transmitting in the far field range. In one embodiment shown in FIG. 41, the far field antenna structure 52 includes at least one antenna 90 and at least one transformer balun 92. The antenna 90 and transformer balun 92 are optimized for transmitting the up-converted outbound signal 58 using RF coupling in far field mode and receiving of the inbound signal 60 using RF coupling in far field mode. The antenna 90 can be one or more of several types of antennas optimized for the desired frequency of operation and application. The antenna 90 may be a dipole type antenna, a folded dipole, a half-wave dipole, monopole, differential antenna and/or another type antenna. In one embodiment, the antenna 90 can be bent or meandered with capacitive tip-loading or bowtie-like broadband structures. The transformer balun 92 provides impedance matching for the antenna 90. Other types of transformers or impedance circuits may be used with or in place of the transformer balun 92 to provide the necessary impedance matching needed for the antenna 90. In FIG. 4 a, the receive multiplexer 50 is connected to the single ended antenna 90. However, the antenna 90 may be a differential antenna and/or the receive multiplexer 50 may also be connected to the output of the transformer balun 92 as with the transmit multiplexer 48.

Another embodiment of the far field antenna structure is shown in FIG. 4 b. The far field antenna structure 52 includes a first antenna 91 a and a second antenna 91 b. The antennas 91 a and 91 b are differential antennas. The far field antenna structure also includes a transformer balun 92 with a primary winding 93 a connected to the first antenna 91 a and second antenna 91 b. The secondary winding 93 b,c has a four differential input wherein the secondary winding 93 b has more turns between the inputs connected to the receive multiplexer 44. The secondary winding 93 c connected to the transmit multiplexer has a smaller number of turns. Since the ratio of the primary winding turns to the secondary winding turns of a transformer is proportional to the voltage gain, the receive input thus has a larger voltage gain. In far field mode, the up-converted outbound signals 58 are transmitted from the far field antenna structure 52 by RF coupling to an RF antenna structure on a tag 20-30, and the inbound signals 60 are received by the far field antenna structure 52 by RF coupling to an RF antenna structure on a tag 20-30.

The near field coil structure 54 includes at least one inductor that operates as a coil antenna 96 and at least one impedance coupling circuit 94. The impedance coupling circuit 94 includes one or more capacitors C1-C3 coupled with one or more inductors L1, L2. The inductors L1, L2 and the capacitors C1-C3 form a resonant circuit with the coil antenna 96 tuned to the frequency of the up-converted outbound signal 58. Due to the parallel resonant circuit, the up-converted outbound signal 58 through the coil antenna 96 generates a strong magnetic field around the coil antenna 96. The magnetic field generated by the coil antenna 96 produces an inductive or magnetic coupling with a coil antenna of a tag 20-30 within the near field of the coil antenna 96. If the coil antenna 96 is a round or u-shaped ferrite core with windings, a magnetic coupling with a tag occurs in near field mode. Generally, with magnetic coupling, the tag 20-30 must be inserted into the RFID reader 40 so magnetic coupling is ideal for smart card applications. Generally, RFID reader to tag distances less than λ/2π are optimal for near field mode with inductive or magnetic coupling. The tag generates and transmits a response signal to the RFID reader through inductive or magnetic coupling in the same manner.

The RFID reader 40 operates in either far field mode or near field mode. In far field mode, the transmit multiplexer 48 provides the up-converted outbound signal or signals 58 to the far field antenna structure 52 and the receive multiplexer 50 provides inbound UHF signal or signals 60 to the receiver section 44. In far field mode, the near field coil structure 54 is inactive. For near field operation, the transmit multiplexer 48 provides the up-converted outbound signal or signals 58, to the near field coil structure 54 and the receive multiplexer 50 provides inbound signal or signals 60 to the receiver section 44. In near field mode, the far field antenna structure 52 is inactive.

FIG. 5 illustrates one embodiment of the transmit multiplexer and transmitter section of the RFID reader 40 in more detail. The transmitter section 42 includes a current source 100 and input transistors 102, 104. The transmit multiplexer 48 includes multiplexer transistors 106, 108, 110, 112. The multiplexer transistors 106, 108 are coupled to the input transistors 102, 104 and to the RFID far field antenna structure 52. The multiplexer transistors 110, 112 are coupled to the input transistors 102, 104 and the RFID near field antenna structure 54. Each of the multiplexer transistors 106, 108, 110 and 112 include an activation input (e.g., a gate) A1 through A4, respectively.

In operation, the current source 100 is modulated based on the outbound modulation information 56 from the baseband processing module 46. In an embodiment, the current source 100 is in the ultra high frequency range. The input transistors 102, 104 are coupled to the current source 100 to receive the modulated oscillation signal 114. In combination, the current source 100 and the input transistors 102, 104 produce the up-converted outbound signal 58.

In far field mode, the transmitter section 42 is operable to transmit a signal to activate the activation input A1 of multiplexer transistor 106 and activation input A2 of multiplexer transistor 108. The multiplexer transistors 106, 108 are then operable to output the up-converted outbound signal 58 to the far field coil structure 52. In near field mode, the transmitter section 42 is operable to transmit a signal to activate the activation input A3 of multiplexer transistor 110 and activation input A4 of multiplexer transistor 112. The multiplexer transistors 110, 112 are then operable to output the up-converted outbound signal 58 to the near field coil structure 54. Thus, the transmitter section 42 is operable to signal the transmit multiplexer 48 to activate the first set of transistors 106 and 108 to transmit in far field mode and to activate the second set of transistors 110 and 112 to operate in near field mode. Alternatively, the baseband processing module 46 or the processing module 66 may signal the transmit multiplexer 48 rather than the transmitter section 42.

FIG. 6 is a schematic block diagram of an embodiment of a transmitter driver circuit module 120 in a transmitter section 42 of the multi mode RFID reader 40. The transmitter driver circuit module 120 includes a power amplifier 122 with outputs coupled to gates of the input transistors 102, 104. A plurality of capacitors 124 a through 124 n are configurably coupled to the outputs of the power amplifier and to the gates of the input transistors 102, 104. A plurality of inductors 126 a, 126 b, 126 c and 126 d are configurably coupled to the outputs of the power amplifier 122 and to the gates of the input transistors 102, 104.

In operation, the power amplifier 122 and capacitors 124 a through 124 n and inductors 126 a through 126 d form a resonant output that can be tuned to the desired frequency of the up-converted outbound signal 58. The capacitors 124 a through 124 n and inductors 126 a through 126 d are configurably coupled to the outputs of the power amplifier and to the gates of the input transistors 102, 104 such that the resonant output may be tuned to the desired frequency. Often capacitors on an integrated circuit or chip have a large tolerance due to process variations and so the configurably coupled capacitors 124 a through 124 n can be tuned to overcome this issue.

The multi-mode RFID reader 40 thus provides near field and far field mode operation. By operating in both near field and far field mode, the RFID reader 40 provides multi-standard, multi-technology option for use in multiple applications. As such, the RFID readers are not limited to only near read or far read applications but can be used in both type applications and are operable to be switched from near field mode to far field mode or from far field mode to near field mode to accommodate different types of RFID tags and differing distances between the multi-mode RFID reader and an RFID tag. In one embodiment, the near field and far field mode operation are both in the UHF range. Though the range of communication is smaller (e.g., <5 mm) in near field mode using UHF signals than at lower frequencies (such as HF and LF), such UHF near field RFID communications are well suited for near read applications, such as inventory items, monitory paper authentication, passports, credit cards, etc. The near field UHF operation of the RFID reader 40 also has more efficient operation near fluids, such as fluid medication bottles.

As may be used herein, the terms “substantially” and “approximately” provides an industry-accepted tolerance for its corresponding term and/or relativity between items. Such an industry-accepted tolerance ranges from less than one percent to fifty percent and corresponds to, but is not limited to, component values, integrated circuit process variations, temperature variations, rise and fall times, and/or thermal noise. Such relativity between items ranges from a difference of a few percent to magnitude differences. As may also be used herein, the term(s) “coupled to” and/or “coupling” and/or includes direct coupling between items and/or indirect coupling between items via an intervening item (e.g., an item includes, but is not limited to, a component, an element, a circuit, and/or a module) where, for indirect coupling, the intervening item does not modify the information of a signal but may adjust its current level, voltage level, and/or power level. As may further be used herein, inferred coupling (i.e., where one element is coupled to another element by inference) includes direct and indirect coupling between two items in the same manner as “coupled to”. As may even further be used herein, the term “operable to” indicates that an item includes one or more of power connections, input(s), output(s), etc., to perform one or more its corresponding functions and may further include inferred coupling to one or more other items. As may still further be used herein, the term “associated with”, includes direct and/or indirect coupling of separate items and/or one item being embedded within another item. As may be used herein, the term “compares favorably”, indicates that a comparison between two or more items, signals, etc., provides a desired relationship. For example, when the desired relationship is that signal 1 has a greater magnitude than signal 2, a favorable comparison may be achieved when the magnitude of signal 1 is greater than that of signal 2 or when the magnitude of signal 2 is less than that of signal 1.

While the transistors in the above described figure(s) is/are shown as field effect transistors (FETs), as one of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate, the transistors may be implemented using any type of transistor structure including, but not limited to, bipolar, metal oxide semiconductor field effect transistors (MOSFET), N-well transistors, P-well transistors, enhancement mode, depletion mode, and zero voltage threshold (VT) transistors.

The present invention has also been described above with the aid of method steps illustrating the performance of specified functions and relationships thereof. The boundaries and sequence of these functional building blocks and method steps have been arbitrarily defined herein for convenience of description. Alternate boundaries and sequences can be defined so long as the specified functions and relationships are appropriately performed. Any such alternate boundaries or sequences are thus within the scope and spirit of the claimed invention.

The present invention has been described above with the aid of functional building blocks illustrating the performance of certain significant functions. The boundaries of these functional building blocks have been arbitrarily defined for convenience of description. Alternate boundaries could be defined as long as the certain significant functions are appropriately performed. Similarly, flow diagram blocks may also have been arbitrarily defined herein to illustrate certain significant functionality. To the extent used, the flow diagram block boundaries and sequence could have been defined otherwise and still perform the certain significant functionality. Such alternate definitions of both functional building blocks and flow diagram blocks and sequences are thus within the scope and spirit of the claimed invention. One of average skill in the art will also recognize that the functional building blocks, and other illustrative blocks, modules and components herein, can be implemented as illustrated or by discrete components, application specific integrated circuits, processors executing appropriate software and the like or any combination thereof.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification340/10.1
International ClassificationH04B7/00
Cooperative ClassificationH04B5/0012, H04B5/0087, H04B5/0062
European ClassificationH04B5/00C
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Mar 20, 2008ASAssignment
Owner name: BROADCOM CORPORATION, CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:ROFOUGARAN, AHMADREZA REZA;ROFOUGARAN, MARYAM;SHAMELI, AMIN;REEL/FRAME:020682/0672
Effective date: 20071004