New RFID reader ICs fit power, size and cost constraints of embedded and consumer applications

April 05, 2012 // By Paul Buckley
austriamicrosystems has unveiled two new RFID reader chips that offer a route to RFID implementation in embedded, portable and consumer devices.

The AS3993 is an EPC Class 1 Gen 2 RFID reader IC which implements all the relevant protocols, including ISO 18000-6C, the ISO 29143 air-interface protocol for mobile RFID interrogators, and ISO 18000-6A/B (for operation in direct mode).

Highly integrated – it includes an on-chip VCO and power amplifier – it offers a complete set of RFID features including Dense Reader Mode functionality and support for frequency-hopping, low-level transmission coding, low-level decode, data framing and CRC checking.

The AS3980, a sister device to the AS3993, is also an EPC Class 1 Gen 2 RFID reader IC which offers a high level of integration and RF performance. But by removing certain functions, such as support for Dense Reader Mode and Direct Mode, austriamicrosystems has produced a device which is perfectly suited to cost-constrained consumer applications such as the authentication of branded consumables.

Both the AS3993 and AS3980 operate at low power, typically drawing just 75 mA on a supply voltage of 3.3 V. This means that these advanced RFID reader ICs are suitable for use in portable and battery-powered equipment such as mobile phones.

Packaged in a 7 mm x 7 mm QFN outline, the ICs benefit from fabrication process technology unique to austriamicrosystems to deliver high sensitivity of -90dBm, while providing high immunity to the effects of antenna reflections and self-jamming. This is critical in mobile and embedded applications, in which antenna design is often compromised by cost or size constraints. High sensitivity enables end-product designs to achieve their required range while using a simpler and cheaper antenna, thus reducing system bill-of-materials cost.

When used in a stand-alone end product, the AS3993 or AS3980 only require the addition of a simple 8-bit microcontroller to create a complete RFID reader system. Because they are highly integrated and implement the required RFID functions on-chip, they can also be used alongside an embedded processor, the low processing overhead meaning that an RFID co-processor