RFID Augmented Module for Smart Environmental Sensing (RAMSES)

The evolution of RFID technologies over the years is spurring the advent of new and fascinating applications beyond the simple object identification and tracking in supply chains. For example, the small form factor and perpetual self-powered operation of passive RFID tags are expected to be key aspects of the approaching Internet of Things (IoT), where everyday networked objects with sensing and computation capabilities will interact with each other to create smart environments. To date, the integration of communication, computation, sensing, actuation, and storage functionalities in passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags has raised a broad interest from both academia and industry. Nevertheless, available solutions lack all the primary characteristics required by future RFID-based sensing applications, e.g., the full compliance with RFID standards and regulations (most devices need specific settings for the reader), a satisfactory operating range (comparable to that of conventional UHF passive tags), a variety of on-board sensors, high expansibility, and programmability.

Recently at the EML2, we have developed RAMSES (RFID Augmented Module for Smart Environmental Sensing), a long-range, self-powered, Gen2-compliant RFID Tag with sensing and computing capabilities. RAMSES exploits a new-generation RFID chip with dual communication interface: a wired I2C interface managed by a microcontroller and a wireless UHF interface for communication with standard RFID Gen2 readers. RAMSES is fabricated using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) low-cost discrete components on an FR4 substrate, operates both in fully passive and battery-assisted-passive (BAP) modes, and is equipped with temperature, light, and acceleration sensors. In fully passive mode, RAMSES employs an RF-dc rectifier enhanced by a dc-dc charge pump in silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology to harvest energy from the RFID signal emitted by the interrogating reader. In addition, the harvester implements a supervisory mechanism that wakes up the RAMSES MCU only when the available on-board energy is sufficient to perform sensing and I2C-RFID communication tasks. Compared with available academic and commercial products, RAMSES exhibits superior performance in terms of maximum communication distance with the reader, sensing capabilities, and configurability. Moreover, unlike application-specific

integrated circuit (ASIC) products, the printed-circuit-board (PCB) design offers flexibility to integrate new sensors or actuators and to embed RAMSES into electronic devices for further expanding the range of applications, e.g., toward heterogeneous wireless sensor networks.

RAMSES is gaining the attention of important organizations and institutions, such as Impinj and RFID Journal, which have recently published publicity articles about RAMSES on their websites:

Impinj Blog article: http://resources.impinj.com/h/i/18536840-exploring-ramses-an-innovative-uhf-rfid-tag-with-sensing-and-computing-capabilities

RFID Journal article: http://www.rfidjournal.com/articles/view?11869/2

RAMSES schematics, MCU source code, and multimedia contents can be found in the RAMSES wiki page http://ramsesrfid.pbworks.com, while additional, exhaustive details about RAMSES architecture, design strategies, experimentation, and application scenarios are available from our publications listed below.

Bibliography

[1]   D. De Donno, L. Catarinucci, and L. Tarricone, “RAMSES: RFID Augmented Module for Smart Environmental Sensing,” IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement, vol. 63, no. 7, pp. 1701—1708, July 2014.
[2]   D. De Donno, L. Catarinucci, and L. Tarricone, “A Battery-Assisted Sensor-Enhanced RFID Tag Enabling Heterogeneous Wireless Sensor Networks,” IEEE Sensors Journal, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 1048—1055, April 2014.
[3]   D. De Donno, L. Catarinucci, and L. Tarricone, “An UHF RFID Energy-Harvesting System Enhanced by a DC-DC Charge Pump in Silicon-on-Insulator Technology,” IEEE Microwave and Wireless Components Letters, vol. 23, no. 6, pp. 315-317, June 2013.
[4]   D. De Donno, L. Catarinucci, and L. Tarricone, “Enabling Self-Powered Autonomous Wireless Sensors with New-Generation I2C-RFID Chips,” 2013 IEEE MTT-S International Microwave Symposium Digest (MTT), Seattle, WA, June 2013.