FAQ

We are continuously adding to this list of FAQs. Please always check here first to find the answer to your question. If you are unable to find the answer then please contact us with your question.

About RFID

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a technology that incorporates the use of electromagnetic coupling in the radio frequency (RF) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum to uniquely identify an object, animal, or person. An object (typically referred to as an RFID tag) is applied to or incorporated into a product, animal, or person for the purpose of identification and tracking. The advantage of RFID is that it does not require direct contact or line-of-sight scanning. An RFID system consists of three components: an antenna and transceiver (often combined into one reader) and a transponder (the tag). The antenna uses radio frequency waves or magnetic (inductive) energy to transmit a signal that activates the transponder. When activated, the tag transmits data back to the antenna. The data is used to notify a computer that an action should occur. The action could be as simple as raising an access gate or as complicated as interfacing with a database to carry out a monetary transaction.

Passive RFID is where the RFID tag’s power is derived from the Reader’s electromagnetic or inductive field. The RFID tag has no battery and is typically low-cost, robust and can last “forever”. The tag stores energy from the Reader’s electromagnetic/inductive field and passes information back to the Reader by modulating the Reader’s own radiated energy.

Three frequency groups are commonly used: LF (Low Frequency), HF (High Frquency) and UHF (Ultra High Frequency) (LF = 125/134KHz, HF = 13.56MHz, UHF 850-950MHz). LF and HF systems typically use magnetic or inductive energy so the operating range is low and usually less than 20 cm. UHF systems use radiated electromagnetic (RF) energy and reflected modulation similar to “Radar”. UHF RFID systems can have ranges up to 10 metres.

LF, HF and UHF passive tags are low-cost, simple devices. Short range LF and HF Readers (range 10cm) can be low-cost also. Longer range UHF Readers (up to 10m) are more complex systems and are relatively expensive.

Active RFID is where the RFID tag has its own power source (typically a small battery). The tag is actually a transceiver and responds to received commands from the Reader and “actively” transmits data back. Active tags can use any ISM or licensed frequency band, the most common being 433MHz, 850-950MHz and 2.4GHz. The range is dependent on both the tag and Reader transmitter power and receiver sensitivity. Active tags typically spend long periods “asleep” to prolong battery life. Range can be 10’s of metres to several kilometres.

Active tags can be relatively large and have a finite life (batteries need to be changed) and are significantly more expensive than passive tags. Active Tag Readers use a similar level of technology to the tags and can be relatively inexpensive. Some tags can use “passive” circuitry to “wake up” and then “actively” transmit data, this technique offers longer battery life.

For LF (125/134kHz) or HF (13.56MHz) passive RFID systems, the reading range is dependent on the Reader antenna size and the tag antenna size. LF and HF RFID systems use magnetic or inductive energy and typically small tags will give small range.

For a proximity LF Reader (like RWD-QT for Hitag, EM4102, etc), maximum reading range will be about 15cm using 7cm diameter Reader antenna and credit card sized tag. For a proximity HF Reader (like RWD-MICODE for Mifare, ICODE), maximum reading range will be about 5-7cm for Mifare and 10cm for ICODE using 7cm diameter Reader antenna and credit card sized tag.

For UHF (850-960MHz) passive RFID systems, the reading range is dependent of the Readers transmitting power and receiver sensitivity and the physical environment. Low-frequencies penetrate materials and liquids better. Higher frequencies (particularly UHF) can be absorbed and blocked by liquids and reflected by hard materials.

Many RFID technologies are proprietary and use patented technology and protocols defined many years ago when RFID was first used for simple applications such as access control. More recently ISO standards have been defined for different frequencies and transponder technology. These ISO standards can define the modulation techniques and communication protocols but often the memory size, security features (encryption etc) are still proprietary to one manufacturer or another.

Examples of RFID standards are:

ISO11784/785, 134kHz “animal tags”
ISO14443A, 13.56MHz Mifare cards/tags
ISO15693, 13.56MHz ICODE cards/tags
ISO18000-6B/6C, 850-950MHz UHF Gen1/2 EPC cards/tags
Many popular passive tag types are widely used and regarded as “standards” but are actually proprietary technology from one company or another. In many cases the technology has been licensed to other manufacturers to allow even wider use.

Yes, we support the most popular “standard” and “proprietary” RFID card/tag technology including: Hitag1, Hitag2, HitagS, EM4102, MIFARE Classic 1K, MIFARE Classic 4K, MIFARE Ultralight, MIFARE ProX, Smart-MX (DESFire) and ICODE.

Only with UHF passive RFID.  HF and LF use inductive coupling which is limited in range to a few centimetres (typically a maximum of between 1cm and 20cm, depending upon reader and tag antenna sizes, transponder protocol and environmental conditions).  UHF uses backscattering which is effectively the tag reflecting or not reflecting the transmission from the reader to the tag back to the reader.  The reflection is “modulated” using Amplitude Shift Keying (ASK) by the tag to achieve superimposition of the data it is sending onto the RF signal reflected back to the reader. The reader “decodes” this data into a stream of 1’s and 0’s.

UHF passive RFID systems can achieve ranges of several metres.  The disadvantages of UHF systems are that they are more sensitive to disruption by the environment, they are absorbed by liquids and reflected by hard surfaces.  UHF systems are also a lot more expensive than LF and HF systems (10-50 times more expensive per reader, tags are similar in price).  UHF systems can more easily be “eavesdropped” and therefore are less secure.

About Eccel Technology Ltd (IB Technology)

For LF (125/134kHz) or HF (13.56MHz) passive RFID systems, the reading range is dependent on the Reader antenna size and the tag antenna size. LF and HF RFID systems use magnetic or inductive energy and typically small tags will give small range.

For a proximity LF Reader (like RWD-QT for Hitag, EM4102, etc), maximum reading range will be about 15cm using 7cm diameter Reader antenna and credit card sized tag. For a proximity HF Reader (like RWD-MICODE for MIFARE®, ICODE®, NTAG2x, NTAG4x), maximum reading range will be about 5-7cm for MIFARE® and 10cm for ICODE® using 7cm diameter Reader antenna and credit card sized tag.

(COMING SOON) For UHF (850-960MHz) passive RFID systems, the reading range is dependent of the Readers transmitting power and receiver sensitivity and the physical environment. Low-frequencies penetrate materials and liquids better. Higher frequencies (particularly UHF) can be absorbed and blocked by liquids and reflected by hard materials.

Please contact us via e-mail: sales@eccel.co.uk

We will try to answer you as soon as possible.

The Readers solutions…

Are real-world engineered and proven in volume.
Are pin and host command compatible.
Are designed for low power and can have an average power consumption of down to 20 nano amps (Power Down mode).
Use the same design philosophy and firmware modules making it easy to move between solutions.
Have a strong road map from evaluation to high-volume production.
Are customisable to meet your exact needs.
We provide outstanding support in the form of detailed datasheets/ user manuals, free software tools, free software examples, low cost development hardware and email, video and Skype engineering support

You should buy from us because…

There are end-market products in use today using Eccel Technology Readers that have been operating continuously 24/7 for the past 10 years without “missing a beat”.
Our expertise and partnerships mean we can help develop and manufacture complete solutions from “concept” to finished “end-market” product.
We are NXP authorised developers which gives us access to the latest information, not yet in the public domain, and support.

We can…

Develop a bespoke solution.
Work with our partners to develop complete software/hardware design and product solutions, including custom plastic moulding, CE/FCC approval, Windows applications, Smartphone applications etc.
Provide RFID and design expertise.
Manufacture from low to high volume in the UK and off-shore.

Eccel Technology Hardware Solutions

Our RFID readers have all the hardware and software necessary to use straight away. They have many features and simple highly optimised host commands to make interfacing to a microcontroller or computer an easy task. Programmable parameters allow automatic output of serial number and card Block data without host intervention as well as commands for reading/writing, etc.

Our products are all supported by evaluation/ development boards along with PC software for configuration of the products and the sending and receiving of test commands and data. In addition, there are connectors for input and output signals to them and useful component attachments such as LEDs and sounders.  Different interface options are provided such as logic level serial, I2C, SPI, RS232, USB and WiFi/Bluetooth (coming soon).

To further aid evaluation and speed up product development using our devices, we offer extensive free software libraries and consoles for C, C#, Linux, Java, Arduino, RaspberryPi.  We offer a free Windows client interface program and a Windows configurator program.  This enables users with little or no technical knowledge to implement an RFID system without the need for any complex circuit design or coding skill.

Our mature products are supported by a development kit comprising of RWD modules for 125KHz and 13.56MHz, a universal baseboard providing antennas and PC USB interface, and a selection of common protocol RFID cards (Mifare1K, Icode-SLi, HitagS2048, Hitag2, EM4102).  There are also free Windows terminal programs to connect this to a PC for rapid evaluation.

All of our products are available to order from our website www.eccel.co.uk/products/  , and many are sold and supported worldwide by our partners RS Components (Allied) and TME.

For LF and HF systems, not by much.  Generally the larger the antenna of both the reader and the tag, then the larger the range will be of the system. However, ranges beyond 20cm are not possible with our readers due to the power limitations of the chipsets used but primarily due to the fact that LF and HF use inductive coupling which transfers energy only over a short separation distance. Typically you should consider LF and HF designs only for separation distances <15cm.

Tag manufacturing tolerances also play a big part in effective, repeatable range. For most applications where the design only needs operation of 2-5cm, standard and fairly wide tag manufacturing tolerances are not a problem. However, in designs where range is pushing the limits of the technology, then tight tag manufacturing tolerances will be required to achieve the required repeatable performance. We can provide both standard tolerance manufactured tags, and more tightly tuned manufactured tags accordingly.

For UHF systems, then antenna choice, complexity, gain and design can greatly influence range and real-world performance. Extensive application and environmental specific benchmarking of tags and reader antenna systems in-situ may be required to achieve a robust implementation,  unless the range required is well beneath theoretical maximums (typically an order of magnitude or more beneath). So for example, a UHF system with no liquid or surrounding metal issues that has a theoretical range of 5 metres will need little or no system and component  benchmarking to achieve a range of 50cm, but would require extensive component and system benchmarking to achieve a robust range of 2-3 metres.

Our A1 module has a user selectable choice of either I2C or SPI interface.  Our B1 module and the UART version of our Chilli products have a 3.3V serial UART interface.  The Chilli-USB-B1 uses an FTDI chipset to provide a “virtual COM port” USB interface for Windows to communicate with using the readily available drivers from http://www.ftdichip.com/FTDrivers.htm. The Chilli-RS232-B1 uses a RS232 converter chipset to convert the 3.3V serial UART into a RS232 port. This is compatible with PC (Personal Computer) RS232 ports, as well as PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) RS232 ports.

Coming soon we will add products that can communicate via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth or USB/UART. Interface to the device by Wi-Fi will be using a built in web interface on the devices and can therefore be done remotely via the Internet by users, thus making the products IoT enabled. These products will also offer full firmware upgradeability/ changeability via the web interface, enabling bug fixes and firmware enhancements to be implemented on products regardless of their age and location (provided that they have Internet access).

A module is designed to be embedded on a user’s PCB as a component.  It provides an easy, quick and low cost way to add RFID functionality to your design.  You will need to add an antenna and power supply and possibly a communication translator if communication other than logic level serial/ I2C/SPI is needed, for example USB or RS232.  Examples of our module products are :  RFID-A1; RFID-B1, RWD-Micode, RWD-Mifare; RWD-QT; RWD-Hitag2; RWD-QT-LP-SMT.  These products are all small footprint and designed to mount as a component onto your host PCB.  Please see individual product datasheets on our website for further information on the usage and interface requirements of these products.  We also provide antenna design files for free on our website and can offer low cost custom antenna design as required.

A reader (for our mature products these are called OEM readers) incorporates a built in PCB track antenna.  On some of our products such as the Chilli range, we provide the user the ability to disconnect the built in antenna and use an external antenna if this is better for the application.  Readers also provide interface options such as USB and RS232 for direct connection to a PC or PLC.  Our reader products also provide simple connection points for the user to wire in signals to and from our products such as digital IO, ADC inputs, DAC outputs, PWM outputs.  So it is very straightforward to make an RFID system that drives LEDs and/or relays etc from these products.

Yes, our modules to mount onto your PCB just like any other electronic component are very low cost and we support volume pricing.  Please contact us for volume pricing for quantities that are higher than 250 off units.

Yes. All Eccel Technology (IB Technology) products use Industrial temperature grade components (-40 deg to + 85 degrees C).

Our Chilli-B1-RS232 product is further supplied with a voltage regulator and is capable of direct connection to the RS232 port of a PLC and can be powered by the PLC voltage of 24V DC. Output connections from the PLC to the board would require level shifting to the 3.3V level of the components on the Chilli-B1-RS232 board. Inputs to the PLC from the board would  require level shifting from 3.3V to 24V, as required by the PLC. Open Drain FETs and pull-up resistors or ULN2003/2803 Darlington drivers and pull-up resistors (if high current drive is required) work well for this purpose.

Noise on the power supply rails is the enemy of any RFID Reader system. Our power supply filtering datasheet shows “worst case” power supply filtering. Please note that the filter is ONLY needed for noisy power supplies.

For typical evaluation we just recommend using a high value, low ESR capacitor (220+uF) across the 3.3V and ground lines to “smooth out” the current pulses. The use of the high-value, low ESR cap across the rails acts as a reservoir to help “soak up” these pulses. You should consider adding additional overvoltage protection if you are not sure about the quality of the power supply.

You don’t need the 3.3V filtering and protection if you have a good clean 3.3V supply.

The largest consumer of power on our products is the RF circuitry. On our products, we give the user the capability to switch ON/OFF the RF circuit as he/she requires. Thus giving the potential for huge power consumption savings.

Our readers also automatically “poll” to power up the RF circuitry and look for tag presence, then power it back down again. The user has full control over how frequently this “polling” occurs.  This too gives great ability to hugely reduce the overall product power consumption.

On our new products such as A1, B1 and Chilli etc, we further provide two low power modes of “Sleep” and “Power Down”. These provide current consumption in the low µA and nA respectively. (Please see our datasheets for more details and actual figures.)

Yes.  All of our products can operate in a stand-alone autonomous mode.

Our newer products such as A1, B1, Chilli etc.. can all be user configured to simply output the serial number of any tag they receive, as well as carry out a PWM output on a pin that can be user configured in length, frequency and duty cycle.  They can also work from a user entered “white list” of allowed tags and not from any tag that is not on this list.

All of this configuration can be easily achieved using our free of charge “Configurator” windows software.

The older RWD and OEM products have a more basic user configurable stand-alone capability, but again can output the serial number of any tag received or only those on a stored “white list “ of serial numbers.

Using this stand-alone mode feature of our products along with our free Windows configuration software, any user can implement a RFID access system with no coding being required and minimal electronic/electromechanical hardware being added.