Apple Wants To Integrate RFID—Both Reader And Transmitter—Into Its Touchscreens

Written by Evan Schuman
April 21st, 2011

Apple on Tuesday (April 19) added to its lengthy list of Patent applications (its Patent applications now have their own tagline: “All The Privacy Violations That Are Fit To File.”) with a way to make the iPhone/iPad’s touchscreen act as both an RFID reader and an RFID transmitter. And (for you early Saturday Night Live fans) possibly a dessert topping.

“The RFID antenna can be placed in the touch sensor panel, such that the touch sensor panel can now additionally function as an RFID transponder. No separate space-consuming RFID antenna is necessary. In one embodiment, loops (single or multiple) forming the loop antenna of the RFID circuit (for either reader or tag applications) can be formed from metal on the same layer as metal traces formed in the borders of a substrate,” the filing said before describing its potential uses.

“After reading the RFID tag to identify an item, the handheld device can then access the Internet or the store’s intranet to get price and other information, such as product specifications and the like. In this manner, price and other information can be updated by the store as needed. Alternatively, the RFID tag can simply provide fixed price and other information to the reader. The handheld device can act as an RFID tag configured to provide information to an RFID reader,” the filing said.

“This embodiment can include a badge reader function, where a user can simply swipe the handheld device close to an RFID reader to gain access to a building, room, file cabinet, desk drawer, computer, workstation, copy machine, facsimile machine and the like,” the filing said. “In another embodiment, the handheld device can be a remote unit configured to be used as a credit, debit or gift card, so that the device can be used to pay for items, services, train or subway fares, etc., at gates, vending machines and the like.”

Not scared of what this thing could morph into? How’s this:

“Electronic article surveillance (EAS) systems can operate in the microwave range and use capacitance dipoles, which are electrodes coupled to nonlinear circuit elements. Accordingly, in alternative embodiments of the invention operating at microwave frequencies, instead of a continuous loop antenna, the RFID loops can be replaced with two patches (the two patches representing a dipole antenna, connected together with a capacitance diode) on one of the touch sensor panel layers,” the filing said. “The two patches can perform both a receive and a transmit function, while the capacitance diode can perform a crude control circuit function. RFID tags formed in this manner may only be able to relay back the existence of the tag in the form of a signal at the frequency of the second harmonic of the transmitted frequency. In addition, because the desired wavelength is a quarter wave, the frequency range of the RFID reader for RFID tags in the microwave range needs to be in the hundreds of MHz to GHz range.”


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