AirFuel RF Revolutionizing RFID


Radio Frequency identification (RFID) tags (postage stamp-sized battery-free stickers with an embedded chip and antenna) are all around us these days. They can be found on everything in brick-and-mortar stores to assist in asset tracking, logistics, checkouts, minimizing leakage, and even tracking athletes in races (for example, in a marathon). These thin, battery-free electronic stickers are getting a technological boost from wireless power. In a recent conversation with Sanjay Gupta, President of AirFuel Alliance, he highlighted how AirFuel RF™ wireless power technology empowers the humble postage-sized form factor with some fantastic new capabilities.

So, let’s get started with an introduction to RFID tags. RFID tags are battery-free devices that communicate their identity to an (RFID) reader by modulating their identity on the RF signal generated by the reader. These RFID tags have been instrumental in authentication and tracking thanks to their low cost and simplicity. However, given that they do not have a power source, they are limited in functionality and unable to perform even the most basic sensing and associated computing and communication functions.

This is where AirFuel RF wireless power technology comes into play. The AirFuel RF standard is designed to wirelessly deliver power to devices over a distance, akin to Wi-Fi for wireless power transmission. In AirFuel RF wireless power systems, a power transmitter, much like a WiFi Access Point, transmits power that can be received by one or more power receivers simultaneously. The received power can be stored in a super-capacitor or a battery for operating a sensor, a microprocessor, or perhaps just light an LED. 

Both RFID and AirFuel RF wireless power systems operate within the 915 to 930 megahertz ISM band and enable receivers (UHF RFID tags or AirFuel RF devices) that look similar — not too different from – a postage stamp. 

The similarities, however, end here. Unlike UHF RFID, the AirFuel RF wireless power standard opens doors to incorporating new functionalities. The energy received from an AirFuel RF Transmitter can be used for sensing, manipulation of sensed data, and finally, its communication to the cloud.

AirFuel RF is a game-changing technology that enables the traditional UHF RFID form factor to gain new superpowers—the capability to offer real-time insights into the environment they inhabit, such as temperature, humidity, light, acceleration, location, and others. Recall the energy received from an AirFuel RF receiver, which can be used to power (electronic) sensors and a microprocessor for processing the sensed data. 

AirFuel RF wireless power technology use-cases extend far beyond traditional RFID applications. The possibilities are limitless, from complex supply chain management to securing vaccines and protocols in hospitals to retail shelf displays powered by E Ink. By leveraging harvested energy for more than just communication, AirFuel RF transcends the boundaries of conventional RFID, ushering in a new era of efficiency, sustainability, and connectivity.

AirFuel RF wireless power-enabled devices also use standard communication protocols like Bluetooth Low Energy (and others in the future) to communicate the sensed data. This enables AirFuel RF-enabled devices to seamlessly integrate into existing communication ecosystems, allowing for effortless data retrieval on familiar devices such as smartphones and laptops. This democratization of data access heralds a new era of accessibility and innovation. 

In summary, AirFuel RF wireless power technology is emerging as a catalyst for transforming the UHF RFID industry. The question arises—does traditional RFID technology become obsolete in the face of such innovation? Perhaps not obsolete, but certainly overshadowed by the rise of AirFuel RF wireless power and its ability to propel us into a future limited only by our imagination.