Long range battery-less PV-powered RFID tag sensors

by   Sai Nithin R. Kantareddy, et al.

Communication range in passive Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) front-end devices is a critical barrier in the real-world implementation of this low-cost technology. Purely passive RFID tags power up by harvesting the limited RF energy transmitted by the interrogator, and communicate by backscattering the incident signal. This mode of communication keeps manufacturing costs below a few cents per tag, but the limited power available at the tag undermines long-range deployment. In this paper, we present an approach to use Photovoltaics (PV) to augment the available energy at the tag to improve read range and sensing capabilities. We provide this extra-energy to the RFID integrated circuit (IC) using minimum additional electronics yet enabling persistent sensor-data acquisition. Current and emerging thin-film PV technologies have significant potential for being very low-cost, hence eliminating the barrier for implementation and making of PV-RFID wireless sensors. We reduce the long-range PV-RFID idea to practice by creating functional prototypes of i) a wireless building environment sensor to monitor temperature, and ii) an embedded tracker to find lost golf balls. The read range of PV-RFID is enhanced 8 times compared to conventional passive devices. In addition, the PV-RFID tags persistently transmit large volumes of sensor data (>0.14 million measurements per day) without using batteries. For communication range and energy persistence, we observe good agreement between calculated estimates and experimental results. We have also identified avenues for future research to develop low-cost PV-RFID devices for wireless sensing in the midst of the other competitive wireless technologies such as Bluetooth, Zigbee, Long Range (LoRa) backscatter etc.


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