RFID was supposed to revolutionize asset tracking, replacing the barcode everywhere. Or at least that was the prediction once tags got under five cents apiece. They still cost seven to fifteen cents, even in bulk, and the barcode is still sitting pretty. [Chouchang (Jack) Yang] and [Alanson Sample] of Disney Research hope to change that.
Instead of tagging every electronic device, they use whatever electromagnetic emissions the device currently produces when it’s powered up. What’s surprising is not that they can tell an iPhone from a toy lightsaber, but that they can tell the toy lightsabers apart. But apparently there’s enough manufacturing and tolerance differences from piece to piece that they appear unique most of the time.
The paper (PDF) goes through the details and procedure. The coolest bit? The sensor they use is an RTL-SDR unit with the radio-mixer front end removed and replaced with a simple transformer. This lets them feed baseband (tuning from 0 to 28.8 MHz) straight into the
DAC ADC and on to the computer which does the heavy math. Sawing off the frontend of a TV tuner is a hack, for those of you out there with empty bingo cards.
If you like statistics, you’ll want to read the paper for details about how they exactly do the classification of objects, but the overview is that they first start by figuring out what type of device they’re “hearing” and then focusing on which particular one it is. The measure that they use ends up being essentially a normalized correlation.
While we’re not sure how well this will scale to thousands of devices, they get remarkably good results (around 95%) for picking one device out of five. The method won’t be robust to overclocking or underclocking of the device’s CPU, so we’re concerned about temperature and battery-voltage effects. But it’s a novel idea, and one that’s ripe for the hacker-rebuild. And for the price of an RTL-SDR, and with no additional per-tag outlay as with an RFID system, it’s pretty neat.
Thanks [Static] for the tip! Via Engadget.
This cat feeder project by [Ben Millam] is fascinating. It all started when he read about a possible explanation for why house cats seem to needlessly explore the same areas around the home. One possibility is that the cat is practicing its mobile hunting skills. The cat is sniffing around, hoping to startle its prey and catch something for dinner. Unfortunately, house cats don’t often get to fulfill this primal desire. [Ben] thought about this problem and came up with a very interesting solution. One that involves hacking an electronic cat feeder, and also hacking his cat’s brain.
First thing’s first. Click past the break to take a look at the demo video and watch [Ben’s] cat hunt for prey. Then watch in amazement as the cat carries its bounty back to the cat feeder to exchange it for some real food.
Continue reading “Hack Your Cat’s Brain to Hunt For Food”
A few months ago Hackaday covered the xNT crowdfunding campaign which aimed at making an NTAG216 based NFC implant for different purposes. I actually backed it, found that standard NFC readers don’t perform well and therefore decided to try using a standard coil as an antenna for better reading performances.
Most NFC readers typically only have a small sweet spot where implant reading is possible. This is due to what we call coupling factor which depends on the reading distance and reader & NFC tag antenna geometries. Having a smaller antenna diameter increases the coupling factor and makes implant positioning easier.
In my detailed write-up you’ll find a good introduction to impedance matching, a process where a few passive components are added in series/parallel with an antenna to bring its complex impedance close to a RF signal transmitter’s. This usually requires expensive tools but allows optimal power transmission at a given frequency.
You may find our xNT coverage here.
It’s kind of a convoluted title, but [Hudson’s] attempt to replace multiple HID Prox cards with one AVR chip didn’t fully pan out. The project started when he wanted to reduce the number of RFID access cards he carries for work down to just one. The cards use the HID Proximity protocol which is just a bit different from the protocols used in most of the hobby RFID projects we see. He ended up taking an AVR assembly file that worked with a different protocol and edited it for his needs.
The device above is the complete replacement tag [Hudson] used. It’s just an AVR ATtiny85 and a coil made of enameled wire. The coil pics up current from the card reader’s magnetic field, and powers the chip through the leakage on the input pins (we’ve seen this trick a few times before). The idea he had was to store multiple codes on the device and send them all in a row. He was able to get the tag to work for just one code, but the particulars of the HID Prox reader make it difficult if not impossible to send multiple codes. The card must send the same code twice in a row, then be removed from the magnetic field before the reader will poll for another combination.
This RFID card has a lot of nice features. But the one that stands out the most is the ability to learn the code from anther RFID tag or card.
You can see that the board includes an etched coil to interact with an RFID reader. This is the sole source of power for the device, letting it pick up enough induced current from the reader to power the PIC 12F683 seen on the upper left of the board. The underside of the PCB hosts just three components: an LED and two switches. One of the switches puts the device in learning mode. Just hold down that button as you move the board into the magnetic field of the reader. While in learning mode a second RFID tag is held up to the reader. It will identify itself and the emulator will capture the code sent during that interaction. This is all shown of in the video after the break. We wonder how hard it would be to make a version that can store several different codes selected by holding down a different button as the emulator is held up to the reader?
If you want to build your own card reader too here’s a project that does it from scratch.
Continue reading “RFID emulator card includes a learning mode”
[João Ribeiro] is an electronics engineer by day, but in his free time he likes to ply his trade on everyday items. Recently he’s been integrating his own microcontroller network to unlock and start his car via RFID. In addition to the joy of pulling apart the car’s interior, he spent time designing his own uC breakout board and developing an RFID reader from a single chip.
He’s working with a 1988 Mercedes that has very little in the way of electronics. It sounds like the stock vehicle didn’t even include a CAN bus so the prelude to the RFID hack had him installing a CAN bus network made up of two microcontrollers. One reads the velocity and RPM while the other displays it on the tachometer. When he began the tag-based entry system he used an RFID reader module for prototyping, but eventually built his own reader around the TRF7960 chip. This included etching his own receiver coil which was mounted in the side-view mirror bracket. To unlock the doors he holds the bracelet up to the mirror and the vehicle lets him in. The video after the break starts with a demonstration of the completed project and moves on to some build videos.
We certainly like the idea of using a bracelet rather than implanting the tag in the meaty part of your hand.
Continue reading “Wristband RFID unlocks car door and starts engine”
This soldering nightmare is a configurable RFID tag which has been built from 7400-series logic chips. The beast of a project results in an iPhone-sized module which can be used as your new access card for security systems that uses the 125 kHz tags. The best part is that a series of switches makes the tag hand programmable, albeit in binary.
Of course this is an entry in this year’s 7400 Logic Competition. It’s from last year’s winner, and he’s spent a lot of time documenting the project; which we love. We were surprised that this many chips can be powered simply by what is induced in the coil from the reader. This is just one of the reasons the 7400-series have been so popular over the years. After working out the numbers, a 64-bit shift register was built to feed the tag ID to the encoding portion of the design. There were many kinks to work out along the way, but once it was functional a surface-mount design was put together resulting in the final product shown off in the video after the break.
Continue reading “Configurable RFID tag from 7400 logic chips”