The new Rocky100 RFID chip for battery free sensor tags is being tested by multiple companies. What’s the RFID innovation on top of the old Andy100 chip?

We have been working with passive RFID innovation – battery free sensor tags – for almost 9 years now. You’ve watched videos, read articles, seen demos in trade shows or even tested different products by now.

Farsens is all about chip design. The RFID IC that made all those sensor and actuator tags work was the Andy100. This chip was designed by Farsens with the idea of using external devices without requiring batteries on them, just as a passive RFID tag would – but including sensor data on the communication on top of the unique identification number.

We have had very successful developments over the years. Amongst the solutions we are helping develop you can find:

  • Agriculture – Irrigation based on battery free RFID sensor data. Depending on the specific application you may want to work with handheld readers – small greenhouse – or RFID reader equipped drones/rovers.
  • Rotor temperature monitoring – Using battery free RFID sensors to monitor temperature in rotor of electric motors and generators.
  • Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) – Using battery free strain gages to monitor deformation on pillars of buildings, bridges or tunnels for example. Also, using moisture sensors in different materials to identify potential issues.
  • Pick-to-Light – Visual help in picking/maintenance processes where we use battery free RFID LED devices to indicate which box/container/item to pick or select.

As much of a technical advance these battery free sensor tags have been, there have always been requests for enhancement of the performance of these sensor and actuators tags. The main limitations of the tags for our customers have been:

  • Read range. 2 meters read range for battery free sensors is a great advance from previous solutions such as LF or HF sensor tags – typically around 0.1 meters read ranges for similar antenna sizes. However, those 2 meters are very tight or not good enough depending on the application.
  • Size of the tags. While the dipole antenna is optimizing read range, it’s size for the 2 meter read range is quite long. Reducing antenna size decreases communication range of course so it’s often an uncomfortable trade off.
  • Power available. RFID tags harvest energy from the RF field created by the RFID reader. The energy is so low that only very low power electronics can be powered up. More power means access to different sensors, actuators or devices.
  • No option to make the tags work as battery assisted passive (BAP). This basically limited the ability of the customers to increase range of the tags at the expense of using batteries if needed.
  • Complex electronics. Working battery free with sensors and microcontrollers requires a good thought on the design of the electronics. To make sure peak power consumptions do not prevent your systems from working, we introduced a startup circuit in our designs early on.
RFID innovation: Rocky100 vs. Andy100 based tags

RFID innovation: Rocky100 vs. Andy100 based tags

While is not a deal breaker, having lots of components in an RFID tag is never a good idea in terms of cost and manufacturing.

  • User memory space. The ANDY100 chip used user memory addresses as a bridge to communicate with the sensors but no memory space was left for customer to store any data.

It didn’t take us long to start thinking about improvements to the sensor tags. Antenna designs and electronics designs provide advantages to different customers but these advantages are generally limited to the specific application you design them for. The good news is that they can be designed and implemented with a reasonable amount of effort.

On the contrary, optimizing the RFID chip offers general improvements that are applicable to all sensor tags, from increasing read range to allowing the tags to be smaller while maintaining performance. No need to say that if you design a new chip you can implement new features that are being requested by your customers.

Our thoughts and efforts in RFID innovation led us to sketch up a new chip that would outperform the ANDY100 in all tests that came to our minds. That’s how the new chip was born.

Our ANDY100 was named after the original founder of the company – Andrés. This new Rocky100 chip was named after the major contributor to the designs of the initial stages of Farsens’s chips: Roc.

And the RFID innovation to develop battery free RFID sensors goes on.