Learn how RFID development kits can help you save time and resources when you attemp to develop your own battery-free RFID sensor family.

Battery-free RFID sensor electronics are not rocket science. If you have a basic understanding of low power electronics and radio communications, you are well on your way to develop your own wireless battery-free sensors.

Keep it simple, s***

Yes, you guessed it: do not start from designing your own ICs for the complete solution. You are better off by selecting the proper market available components and just assemble them. This is where the basics of electronics and RF will come handy.

Example of testing PCB

Example of testing PCB

Battery-free RFID sensors are all about low power electronics: if you understand that the power an RFID tag can harvest is very limited – this is part of were radio communications are required – you’re already half way to the solution.

Take advantage of available resources

Once you have selected the components that best fit for your application I would always recommend you start by testing with development kits. A development kit should allow you to run preliminary tests without much effort, thus providing you the means to assess the feasibility of using that component in your solution.

RFID development kits should provide you with the means to run preliminary tests without you having to figure out the architecture and layout of the PCB. Moreover, if they provide you with with a proper display SW for you to get the data the better – not having this will force you to work on RFID SW development.

Some manufacturers will also make their designs public. Documentation such as Bill Of Materials (BOM), architecture and layout files will be a great resource once you want to develop your own solutions, not based on the RFID development kits but just from the RFID IC.

RFID IC most likely to be the key component of your design

If you are developing your own battery-free RFID sensors and want to work at component level, chances are high that your key component will be the RFID IC.

Testing RFID ICs properly when developing sensor tags is not easy since most RFID IC manufacturers are focused on standard RFID.

My recommendation is to look for manufacturers that provide you with specific RFID development kits and resources for sensor tags.

Spider and Medusa development kits from Farsens

Spider and Medusa development boards from Farsens

As good examples of what we’ve been discussing about I can share:

  • Free design files – all products in our website include free downloadable design files under their ‘Technical Documentation’ section. These files include BOM, architecture and gerber files for the specific product. See a temperature sensor example.
  • Proper IC development kits – our Medusa and Spider tags are thought for testing purposes. Spider includes our proprietary ANDY100 IC with a start-up circuit to save you some headaches while the Medusa also includes an MSP430 low power microcontroller, which will allow you to work at the firmware level.
  • Free testing SW. Unluckily, working with battery-free sensor tags is not the standard yet. Reader manufacturers will provide you with standard SW but it will not allow you to directly read sensor tags. Farsens provides free testing SW for different reader models and OS so you do not have to work on it from the begining.

Do not get overwhelmed by ‘wireless’, ‘battery-free’ and ‘sensors’ tags and start your basic testing with a proper RFID development kit!