Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Radio ranging with ultrahigh resolution using a harmonic radio-frequency identification system

Abstract

The accurate sensing of the location of specific objects in an indoor setting is critical for applications including robotic feedback control and non-intrusive structural integrity monitoring. Current optical and ultrasound approaches often suffer from insufficient accuracy, obstruction by other objects, and ambiguous identification. Alternatively, conventional radar-like radio-frequency (RF) methods can suffer from problems such as multipath ambiguity, small time of flight, and limited item recognition. Attachment of a passive RF identification (RFID) tag can provide a unique marker by modulating the backscattering signal, but current systems struggle with high interference and noise, and thus have poor ranging accuracy. Here we show that a 1 GHz harmonic RFID system can provide a ranging resolution of less than 50 micrometres with a sampling rate of greater than 1 kHz. The fundamental limits on ranging precision in our system are traced to the phase noise of the RF source and the aperture jitter of the data converter. The small passive tag required for the approach can be embedded in indoor or underwater objects, as well as within building structures.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: The experimental set-up of the harmonic RFID ranging system.
Fig. 2: The experimental results of ranging variations with respect to the frequency strategy.
Fig. 3: The experimental results of the quasi-static ranging.
Fig. 4: The experimental results of the tag movement and permittivity based on the two-tag structure.

Data availability

The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

References

  1. 1.

    Ni, L. et al. LANDMARC: indoor location sensing using active RFID. Wirel. Netw. 10, 701–710 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Nikitin, P. V. et al. Phase based spatial identification of UHF RFID tags. Proc. IEEE Int. Conf. on RFID 102–109 (IEEE, 2010).

  3. 3.

    Hekimian-Williams, B. et al. Accurate localization of RFID tags using phase difference. Proc. IEEE Int. Conf. on RFID 89–96 (IEEE, 2010).

  4. 4.

    Arnitz, D., Witrisal, K. & Muehlmann, U. Multifrequency continuous-wave radar approach to ranging in passive UHF RFID. IEEE Trans. Microw. Theory Tech. 57, 1398–1405 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Wang, J. et al. RF-compass: robot object manipulation using RFIDs. Proc. 19th Annual Intl. Conf. on Mobile Comput. 3–14 (ACM, 2013).

  6. 6.

    Lesthaeghe, T. J. et al. RFID tags for detecting concrete degradation in bridge decks. http://lib.dr.iastate.edu/intrans_reports/70/ (Iowa State University, 2017).

  7. 7.

    Kulkarni, P. et al. SensEye: A multi-tier camera sensor network. Proc. 13th Annual Intl. Conf. on Multimedia 229–238 (ACM, 2005).

  8. 8.

    Davison, A. J. et al. MonoSLAM: Real-time single camera SLAM. IEEE Trans. Pattern Anal. Mach. Intell. 29, 1052–1067 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Foix, S., Alenyà, F. & Torras, C. Lock-in time-of-flight (ToF) cameras: a survey. IEEE Sens. J. 11, 1917–1926 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Rusinkiewicz, S., Hall-Holt, O. & Levoy, M. Real-time 3D model acquisition. ACM Trans. Graph. 21, 438–446 (2002).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Lingemann, K. et al. High-speed laser localization for mobile robots. Robot. Auton. Syst. 51, 275–296 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Muhammad, H. et al. Development of a bioinspired MEMS based capacitive tactile sensor for a roboticfinger. Sens. Actuat. A 165, 221–229 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Hui, X., Ma, Y. & Kan, E. C. Real-time 3D robotic arm tracking in indoor environment by RF nonlinear backscattering. Proc. ACM S3 Workshop 3–5 (ACM, 2016).

  14. 14.

    Hawkes, E. et al. A soft robot that navigates its environment through growth. Sci. Robot. 2, eaan3028 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Xu, B. et al. Improving RF-based device-free passive localization in cluttered indoor environments through probabilistic classification methods. Proc. 11th Intl. Conf. on IPSN 209–220 (ACM, 2012).

  16. 16.

    Wang, J., Vasisht, D. & Katabi, D. RF-IDraw: virtual touch screen in the air using RF signals. Proc. Conf. on SIGCOMM 235–246 (ACM, 2014).

  17. 17.

    Wang, J. & Katabi, D. Dude, where’s my card?: RFID positioning that works with multipath and non-line of sight. Proc. Conf. on SIGCOMM 51–62 (ACM, 2013).

  18. 18.

    Yang, L. et al. Tagoram: real-time tracking of mobile RFID tags to high precision using cots devices. Proc. 20th Annual Intl. Conf. on Mobile Comput. 237–248 (ACM, 2014).

  19. 19.

    Ma, Y. & Kan, E. C. Accurate indoor ranging by broadband harmonic generation in passive NLTL backscatter tags. IEEE Trans. Microw. Theory Techn. 62, 1249–1261 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Stove, A. G. Linear FMCW radar techniques. IEE Proc. F 139, 343–350 (1992).

    Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Yang, T., Cao, J. & Guo, Y. Placement selection of millimeter wave FMCW radar for indoor fall detection. IEEE MTT-S Int. Wireless Symp. 1–3 (IEEE, 2018).

  22. 22.

    Huang, N. E. Hilbert-Huang Transform and its Applications (World Scientific, Singapore, 2014).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Huang, N. E. et al. A confidence limit for the empirical mode decomposition and Hilbert spectral analysis. Proc. R. Soc. A 459, 2317–2345 (2003).

    MathSciNet  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Chang, N. F. et al. On-line empirical mode decomposition biomedical microprocessor for Hilbert Huang transform. Proc. Biomedical Ciruits and Systems Conf. (BioCAS). 420–423 (IEEE, 2011).

  25. 25.

    Hong, Y. & Bao, Y. FPGA implementation for real-time empirical mode decomposition. IEEE Trans. Instrum. Meas. 61, 3175–3184 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Currie, N. C. & Brown, C. E. Principles and Applications of Millimeter-wave Radar (Artech House, Norwood, 1987).

  27. 27.

    TI mmWave Sensors: The world’s most precise millimeter wave sensor available today on a single chip; http://www.ti.com/sensors/mmwave/overview.html.

  28. 28.

    IMPINJ RAIN RFID Connectivity Devices; https://www.impinj.com/platform/connectivity/.

  29. 29.

    Mayordomo, I. et al. Design and implementation of a long-range RFID reader for passive transponders. IEEE Trans. Microw. Theory Techn. 57, 1283–1290 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Fletcher, R., Marti, U. P. & Redemske, R. Study of UHF RFID signal propagation through complex media. Proc. Anten. Propag. Soc. Int. Symp. 747–750 (IEEE, 2005).

  31. 31.

    Capdevila, S. et al. Water infiltration detection in civil engineering structures using RFID. Proc. 2016 6th Eur. Conf. on Antenna and Propagation (EUCAP) 2505–2509 (IEEE, 2012).

  32. 32.

    Benelli, G. et al. An RFID-based toolbox for the study of under-and outside-water movement of pebbles on coarse-grained beaches. IEEE J. Sel. Top. Appl. Earth Obs. Remote Sens. 5, 1474–1482 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Ma, Y., Hui, X. & Kan, E. C. 3D real-time indoor localization via broadband nonlinear backscatter in passive devices with centimeter precision. Proc. 22nd Ann. Int. Conf. on Mobile Comput. Network. 216–229 (ACM, 2016).

  34. 34.

    EPC radio-frequency identity protocols generation-2 UHF RFID; http://www.gs1.org/.

  35. 35.

    Bolic, M., Simplot-Ryl, D. & Stojmenovic, I. RFID Systems: Research Trends and Challenges (John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, 2010).

  36. 36.

    Nan, T. et al. Acoustically actuated ultra-compact NEMS magnetoelectric antennas. Nat. Commun. 8, 296 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Hui, X. & Kan, E. C. Monitoring vital signs over multiplexed radio by near-field coherent sensing. Nat. Electron. 1, 74 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Ma, Y., Hui, X. & Kan, E. C. Harmonic-WISP: a passive broadband harmonic RFID platform. Proc. IEEE MTT-S Int. Microw. Symp. 1–4 (IEEE, 2016).

  39. 39.

    Hui, X., Ma, Y. & Kan, E. C. Code division multiple access in centimeter accuracy harmonic RFID locating system. IEEE J. Radio Freq. Identif. 1, 51–58 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Yu, F., Lyon, K. & Kan, E. C. A novel passive RFID transponder using harmonic generation of nonlinear transmission lines. IEEE Trans. Microw. Theory Techn. 58, 4121–4127 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Li, W., Bao, X., Li, Y. & Chen, L. Differential pulse-width pair BOTDA for high spatial resolution sensing. Opt. Exp. 16, 21616–21625 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Ma, Y., Rong, H. & Kan, E. C. Millimeter accuracy passive tag ranging via second harmonics RF backscattering against body movement interference. Proc. IEEE Glob. Com. 448–454 (IEEE, 2014).

  43. 43.

    Ma, Y. & Kan, E. C. Passive ranging by low-directivity antennas with quality estimate. Proc. IEEE MTT-S Int. Microw. Symp. 1–4 (IEEE, 2015).

  44. 44.

    Yeager, D. J., Sample, A. P. & Smith, J. R. in RFID Handbook: Applications, Technology, Security, and Privacy (eds Ahson, S. & Ilyas, M.) 261–278 (CRC Press, Boca Raton, 2008).

  45. 45.

    Rasilainen, K. et al. On design and evaluation of harmonic transponders. IEEE Trans. Antennas Propag. 63, 15–23 (2015).

    MathSciNet  Article  Google Scholar 

  46. 46.

    Prete, M. D. et al. Exploitation of multi-sine intermodulation for passive backscattering UWB localization. Proc. IEEE MTT-S Int. Microw. Symp. 262–265 (IEEE, 2018).

  47. 47.

    Andia Vera, G. et al. Exploitation of harmonic signals generated by the UHF RFID chips: new promises for the radio frequency identification technology. Proc. 2017 XXXIInd General Assembly Sci. Symp. of the International Union of Radio Science 1–4 (IEEE, 2017).

  48. 48.

    Ken, T., Hanssmon, H. & Wellings, A. J. Analysing real-time communications: controller area network (CAN). Proc. Real-Time Syst. Symp. 259–263 (IEEE, 1994).

Download references

Acknowledgements

This project is supported by Department of Energy (DoE) of the United States under the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) project numbers: DE-AR0000528 and DE-AR0000946. The authors thank G. C. McLaskey and A. Lal for discussions.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

X.H. and E.C.K. perceived the fundamental concepts and brainstormed the design of experiments together. X.H. conducted all the experiments, data processing and manuscript preparation. E.C.K. supervised the project direction and helped with revisions of design and writing.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Xiaonan Hui.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figures 1–10

Supplementary Video 1

Real-time experiment with 25 μm step size in water.

Supplementary Video 2

Real-time experiment with 5 cm round trip in water.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Hui, X., Kan, E.C. Radio ranging with ultrahigh resolution using a harmonic radio-frequency identification system. Nat Electron 2, 125–131 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41928-019-0219-0

Download citation

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing