SBIR PI: Navid Yazdi (Evigia Systems, Inc); Phase II Proposal #0956908; SBIR PD: Murali Nair

ERC: Wireless Integrated Microsystems (WIMS) Engineering Research Center; University of Michigan; Yogesh Gianchandani, Director

NSF invites funding requests from current Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Phase II grantees to perform collaborative research with an Engineering Research Center (ERC). The goals of this collaborative effort are to provide a mutually beneficial research and commercialization platform where SBIR/STTR Phase II grantees can perform collaborative research with ERC faculty, researchers, and graduate students, to strengthen the capacity of their firms, and/or speed the transition of ERC advances to the marketplace.

In accordance with the NSF solicitation NSF 10-617, Evigia Systems, Inc has submitted a request for additional funding. The sub-awardee identified in the funding request is the University of Michigan. This proposal meets the requirements of the solicitation NSF 10-617.

In attempting to use record environmental changes by scavenging the energy associated with such changes, the proposed collaborative work explores important fundamental concepts for microsystems. The project brings together the long-range ultra-low energy wireless circuits developed at the University of Michigan Engineering Research Center for Wireless Integrated Microsystems (WIMS) with Evigia's batteryless sensor labels with embedded non-volatile memory. The development of such Microsystems is synergistic with research now being pursued in WIMS. The ultra-low power wireless circuit technologies developed at ERC if not combined with low-power sensing and electronics will not provide the wide advantage over competing technologies. The ultra-low power batteryless sensing, digital memory and electronics technologies developed by Evigia will meet the initial demands of the market as these circuit blocks dominate the power consumption in batteryless operation, yet cannot hold the market position over time without maintaining a longer-range operation over competing technologies and solutions that will be introduced over time.

Long range unpowered wireless sensors have clear and compelling uses. There is an identified market and need, from object tracking to environmental and infrastructure monitoring. The proposal to store the small amount of energy needed to run the chip for a short while on a MEMS isolated on-chip capacitor is, if not entirely novel, a good design choice. The suggestion of using a Walton voltage multiplier to gather energy from even weak RF radiation fields over time is an excellent reuse of an existent concept in a novel application. This proposal rests solidly on developed engineering.

The proposal has the potential to give consumers and industrial users an improved sensor. This sensor can store and report the health of the product, thereby reducing waste and improving the logistics of the delivery system. Students and faculty members will gain valuable experience by interaction with an SBIR company. Students will gain important experience from using actual industrial processes that will make them able to contribute to a multi-discipline team as soon as they graduate.

Project Report

The objective of this project is to develop long-range wireless miniature smart sensor labels that continuously track and record exposure to the environmental conditions, and directly store the sensed data in digital CMOS non volatile memory (NVM) without requiring any external power source or requiring to be placed in an interrogator RF field at all times. While the need for automated wireless condition monitoring is well-established, wide deployment particularly for monitoring perishables, fresh produce, and sensitive goods, has been hindered by price, form factor, and short wireless communication range. To address this unmet market need, the NSF funded Evigia SBIR Phase II project entitled "Batteryless Wireless Smart Labels with Embedded Non Volatile Memory" resulted in development of the sensors, non volatile memory (NVM) CMOS RFID chip, and batteryless sensing and on-chip digital data storage technologies. The developed RFID chip operates in a short-range (1’s-10’s inches) under a near field communication (NFC) protocol, i.e. ISO15693 at 13.56MHz HF band. This SBIR-ERC project aims to address broader markets that require longer range(up to 60 feet) operation using industry standard widely-deployed ISO 18000-6 / Gen2 RFID infrastructure. This project progresses towards this goal by: i) advancing the long-range ultra-energy wireless circuits technology developed at the University of Michigan NSF Engineering Center for Wireless Integrated Microsystems (WIMS ERC), and ii) developing digital circuits implementing the long range ISO18000-6/Gen2 RFID protocol at Evigia, and iii) combining both of these developments with the Evigia technology for batteryless sensor labels with embedded non volatile memory. As a result of this collaboration between WIMS ERC and Evigia, commercial long-range smart sensor label products could become available in the near future. The research program involves the development of an RFID-sensor smart label employing CMOS circuitry and MEMS sensor chips. This research and development is jointly pursued by Evigia and by the University of Michigan. High performance CMOS RF circuitry are developed by the University of Michigan, building on the long-range, 900MHz telemetry architecture already demonstrated by the WIMS ERC. Evigia has developed and demonstrated a complimentary protocol engine and sensor interface. The Evigia team has implemented the ISO18000-6/Gen 2 protocol engine on a field programmable gate array (FPGA) platform and tested successfully using the sensor non volatile memory (NVM) chips that were developed in the NSF funded SBIR effort. The FPGA platform functions as the digital controller and implements the ISO18000-6 command execution, anti-collision, and data communication & framing. This enables use of industry standard UHF RFID readers to interface with the system and test the overall operation including sensor functions. The FPGA platform also implements the sensor mapping, configuration, and serialization. This verified implementation will be implemented onto a silicon CMOS chip along with the RF front-end and NVM array circuitry in the next stage of the development. The University of Michigan group has developed energy efficient RF circuitry required for the UHF RFID-sensor label wireless operation. These include: i) A power management circuit unit comprised of a RF-DC converter (rectifier), two low-dropout regulators (LDOs), and a bandgap voltage generator. ii) A UHF demodulator and backscatter transmitter for data communication. iii) Clock recovery and generation. The developments under this project will lead to superior wireless smart sensor label products addressing the cold-chain management, logistics, and infrastructure monitoring market needs via their sensing functionality, extended wireless range, price points and form-factors. These sensor labels track the external conditions such as temperature, humidity, shock/vibrations, record events automatically, and transmit the stored data when interrogated. The smart sensor label technology developed under this project also opens up the ability to physically distribute low cost and form factor, batteryless wireless sensors, and expand emerging applications and markets including infrastructure monitoring and personal safety. The new applications would leverage the fact that such low-cost, small, and wirelessly connected sensors are the building blocks for distributed wireless sensors as part of the Internet of Things (IoT).

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP)
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Rathindra DasGupta
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Evigia Systems Inc.
Ann Arbor
United States
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