Real-Time Spectrum Analyzer Employed in RFID

Oct. 29, 2007
Tektronix reports successful test in Japan.

The RSA6114A Real-time Spectrum Analyzer, created by Tektronix, Inc. has been successfully deployed in testing UHF-band tags contracted by the Japan Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) according to the company. Tektronix, Inc. is a provider of test, measurement and monitoring instrumentation.

The objectives for this testing were to resolve technical issues and to construct a operating model, as well as the formulation of necessary guidelines and rules in relation to usage in preparation for the full-scale dissemination of UHF-band RFID tags. Live RF spectrum displays on the RSA6114A enables researchers to observe success or failure in obtaining RFID channels.

There are a variety of different frequencies and modulation methods used in digital RF applications such as RFID, and each of these requires a specific type of measurement technology. For situations where signals can change instantaneously, such as pulsed RF signals or carrier frequency in frequency hopping systems, accurate meaningful measurements using conventional swept spectrum analyzers are difficult.

Testing of electronic tags was also carried out by Japan Automatic Identification Systems Association (JAISA) in 2006, and at that time situations were discovered in which readings were not effectively conducted due to two technical issues. In the first case "tag confusion" occurred, with mutual interference causing defective signal transmission when using a UHF-band electronic tag system in a multi-vendor environment where space was limited, such as in a warehouse or a distribution facility. In the second case, there were issues relating to maintaining effectiveness when reading electronic tags in real-time, such as on high-speed conveyors, which were caused by a reader not operating correctly when another reader nearby used the same channel. The RSA6114A was deployed for the recent testing to resolve these issues and with these environments in mind.

"Analysis of communication conditions had been impossible with conventional spectrum analyzers where data is not viewable on a timeline, because the data that is transmitted between the reader/writer and card cannot be identified. This problem has been solved with the Tektronix Real-Time Spectrum Analyzer," said Hiroshi Nakahata, RFID Staff, R&D Center, JAISA.

METI will continue to carry out testing for the spread of UHF-band electronic tags in the future, and is planning to make it compatible with the active tag system currently under consideration. Details concerning the methods used for and results of this testing are clarified in a report titled, "Research into ascertaining mutual interference and operation of UHF-band electronic tag systems," from Mizuho Information & Research Institute, Inc.

The research report is published on the METI website: http://www.meti.go.jp/policy/it_policy/tag/2006_UHF_research_1.pdf

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