Reading RFID tags

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Original Assignment

Interface your PIC with an RFID reader (see here) and demonstrate recognition of various RFID tags.


Rfid pic.jpg

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a generic term used to describe technology that uses radio waves to identify objects via transponder tags. The tags emit a radio frequency that translates to a unique serial code which corresponds with its identification which is read by an RFID reader. Active RFID transponders contain their own battery supply which allows a constant signal, but they are bulky and expensive, therefore they are usually restricted to larger objects such as crates for shipping supplies. With passive RFID transponders, the RFID reader emits a radio frequency which causes a coiled antenna in the RFID transponder tag to generate a magnetic field which powers the RFID transponder. This generated power allows the RFID transponder tag to emit its specific radio frequency to the reader which it uses to identify the tag.

The mechatronics lab uses the Parallax RFID Card Reader, Serial (#28140) and kit [1]. The reader reads passive RFID transponder tags up to 4 inches away from the reader. The RFID communicates using rs232 and transmits a 12-byte ASCII string. The first byte (start byte) is always $0A and the last byte (stop byte) is always $0D. These bytes are represented as characters not integers. The 10 middle digits are the 10 unique id digits that are unique to every RFID transponder. It outputs at a baud of 2400.


Rfid diag.jpg
Rfid cirt.jpg

It is very simple to connect the RFID reader to the PIC. All you need to do is plug the RFID reader into your breadboard and then connect the inputs to the RFID reader to the PIC. In our example we powered our RFID reader off the PIC, so we connected the VCC to the +5 on the PIC and the GND to the ground on the PIC. The RFID reader needs to be powered by a 5V source. Its specified limits on input voltage are 4.5V to 5.5V. The RFID reader is enabled when the /ENABLE pin is set to ground, and not enabled when it is set to 5V. A red light turns on when it is enabled, and a green light turns on when it is not enabled. When the RFID read is idle, it uses 10mA of current, while when it is active, it uses 100mA of current.

We used the TTL-232R cord to output the RFID tag from the PIC to the PC as a proof of concept for our setup. For more details on how the TTL-232R cord works, see the TTL-232R page.

A summery of the connections:

PIC RC6 to TTL-232R Yellow Wire (note: this is output signal to view on PC)
PIC GND to TTL-232R Black Wire (note: this is connecting the grounds together)


The following code reads in the RFID tag from the RFID Card Reader and then writes it out to a ps232 connection. In our tests we used a TTL-232R with a baud of 2400. This allows you to view the RFID unique ID on the computer.

   RFID_Input.c J.Cooper and C.Ryan 2009-2-04
   Read in from RFID Card on pin RC7
   Write out RFID unique number on pin RC6
#include <18f4520.h>
#use delay(clock=40000000)         // 40 MHz crystal on PCB
#use rs232(baud=2400, UART1)      // hardware UART; uses  RC6/TX and RC7/RX

int16 i;
char value[12];//12 values of tag ID

void main() {
     output_low(PIN_D7); //Set enable to low

     for (i=0; i<12; i++) { //read in the 12 values
     printf("rfid# %c %c %c %c %c %c %c %c %c %c \r\n", value[1] value[2] value[3] value[4] value[5] value[6] value[7] value[8] value[9] value[10]); //display 10 unique id digits

In order to see how to read the printf output, please see the TTL-232R page. Be sure to use a baud rate of 2400 and not the baud rate used the example on that page.

Further Reading

Product Website

Data Sheet

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