Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) is rapidly being adopted as a powerful tool used in object tracking[1, 2, 3, 4], access control, telemedicine[6, 7] and inventory management[8, 9]. Its basic architecture endows reader devices with the capability to wirelessly read stored data off of RFID tags. Because of competing standards, there is no unified air protocol for RFID communication. The proliferation of competing standards, paired with the proprietary nature of commercial readers, can make maintaining and upgrading an RFID infrastructure expensive and time-consuming.
Part of the solution that this thesis proposes is an RFID reader which supports custom air protocol implementations. This provides the ability for system administrators to rapidly and inexpensively upgrade their RFID infrastructure to new standards and security policies, without equipment replacement. The flexibility of this reader also facilitates the development of innovative custom RFID protocols within academia.
To further reduce the costs associated with the adoption of a new infrastructure, RFID readers would benefit from supportting ad-hoc wireless networking[11, 12, 13, 14]. This feature mitigates the need for an installed infrastructure and facilitates immediate deployment of RFID systems. The development of a multi-protocol RFID reader with ad-hoc wireless capabilities will be a boon for both the commercial and academic sectors[16, 17]. The negligible infrastructure will mitigate entry costs, and the ability to inexpensively upgrade equipment to the latest RFID standards will reduce lifecycle costs and improve equipment amortization schedules. The ease of re-deployment will further benefit network administrators by providing the ability for zero-cost system reconfiguration. This will result in more effective systems with lower maintenance costs.
To address these stated issues, this thesis outlines the design and implementation of an ad-hoc wireless networking capable multi-protocol RFID reader system, called TelosRFID. The name TelosRFID stems from the system’s combination of Crossbow Telos rev. B (TelosB) ZigBee motes with a custom 13.56MHz RFID reader board.
The TelosB devices employ ZigBee protocol stack layers, implementing a 2.4GHz adhoc wireless network amongst themselves. Custom firmware enables the TelosB motes to construct an ad-hoc ZigBee network and relay RFID tag data from the custom reader board back to a client PC. The client PC runs custom software, developed for this thesis, to display pertinent information regarding tag activity.
The TelosRFID reader board is a custom hardware device that can communicate with 13.56MHz RFID tags. It runs custom firmware in order to control tag communications, manage tag presence monitoring, and relay tag information through the ZigBee network (via its attached TelosB mote).
The system is designed to be demonstratably useful. It performs as described and can be immediately applied to research in the fields of systems engineering, information technology, and wireless air protocol development. Its functionality can be visibly confirmed, and configuration errors are easily detected at every component in the system. This framework provides a reliable and established baseline for future enhancements to the system’s feature set.