June 25, 2007

How to Build Your Own RFID Door Lock

A person's home is his castle. While most of us can't equip our castles with the traditional means of security like moats, turrets, and iron maidens, you still can spruce up and secure your place with the use of some more modern technology. This high-tech option might not be as visually imposing as an alligator-filled moat, but it still can be an effective means of keeping out invading hordes. No, I'm not talking about lasers or anything else quite so complicated (or dangerous, for that matter). What you need is an RFID door lock.

RFID technology already is used as a means of security in many different forums, so it isn't a big leap to bring this technology into home applications. You can set up an RFID door lock several different ways, but I'll cover the simplest way here. One big thing to remember is that you absolutely want to set up this system with a backup, so that you can gain entry if you experience a power outage. Getting locked out is bad enough, but getting locked out when you had an alternative method to get in is worse, so plan ahead.

This system for setting up an RFID lock is a standalone method, meaning it doesn't need to be hooked up to a computer to work. While the idea of having everything in your house wired to your computer might sound cool, and heck, might actually be cool too, this is a much more versatile system that will save you some wiring hassles to connect your computer to the door (unless you want to keep your computer right by the door, then by all means hook them up.) You can find instructions on how to hook up that kind of system here.

Materials and Tools

In order to start you're going to need to get your hands on a few basic electronic components as well as some RFID-specific ones. You will need:

Step 1: Install the Deadbolt and RFID Reader

Once you have your materials handy it's time to start getting your system hooked up. For simplicity's sake, I'm going to assume that the door you're installing this lock on already has a deadbolt that you're replacing with the RFID deadbolt. If it doesn't, I won't go into how to put in a deadbolt, but any deadbolt you purchase should come complete with detailed instructions on how to install it. You also can consult the ever-knowledgeable Internet [Video/Audio]. I'm going to assume that if you're able to build an RFID door lock that you'll be able install a deadbolt.

Providing you've got the door prepared to put the deadbolt in, you'll need to get all the parts of it together. You'll replace the old deadbolt by putting the power deadbolt in its place. Once you've got the deadbolt and faceplate in the place you want it, you'll need to figure out a good orientation for your RFID reader. Ideally, you'll want to place it as close to the deadbolt as you can, as wires will need to run between the RFID reader and the deadbolt. You can place the reader either on the side or to the bottom of the deadbolt faceplate, but make sure that your wiring connectors are facing out towards the deadbolt, or you'll see some ugly wiring hanging out. Don't screw anything down just yet, as you'll need to lift it up in a minute.

Now you need to make room for the wires to go under the faceplate. Break out your trusty pliers and use them to bend up the edge of the faceplate just a tad where the wiring connectors meet it. Place a piece of cloth between the faceplate and the pliers to avoid scratching up your shiny new faceplate. Check the wires to make sure they fit under the slight bend.

Step 2: Wire the RFID Reader

Your RFID reader now needs to be wired to the electronic deadbolt. You should see four pins standing out on the edge of the reader, and those four pins correspond to 4 different functions: Common Collector Voltage (VCC), Enable, Serial Out (SOUT), and Ground (GND). First, tie the Enable pin to the Ground pin by soldering a cable between them. You'll want to do this on the back of the jumper block so that the wire connecting the two doesn't muck up your other wires.

Next, you'll need to solder a wire to each of the VCC, SOUT, and GND pins. Make sure the wires have a little extra length to them, as you don't want to come up short later. After the wires are soldered, trim the pins back so there won't be anything to keep your reader from butting up against the faceplate.

Next, you'll run the wires through the deadbolt hole along with the wiring for the electronic deadbolt. Make sure your reader wires are under the part of the faceplate you pulled up so they won't crimp. You also want to make sure the wires are out of the way of the deadbolt mechanism. Then, you can finally screw the deadbolt and the reader onto the door.

To finish this part of the project, you'll need the cover for your large plastic project box. Sit the cover over the reader and mark the spot where the wires exit. Trim the plastic off at this spot, much like you did for the faceplate, to keep your wires from getting smashed. Then, you can screw this onto your door as well. Again, make sure this is as close to the faceplate as possible. You want the wires to be covered as much to protect them from the elements and from any other sources of damage.

Step 3: Install the Deadbolt Control Box

Now you'll need to connect your deadbolt control box to the keypad. First, pull your RFID wiring through the hole in the back of the keypad towards the front. Then you can connect the keypad connector block to the pins provided (this should be pretty self explanatory, there's only one place these wires can go). Make sure your wires are clear of all the moving parts and screw the control box into the door.

If you're using the Powerbolt deadbolt as recommended, it should be easy to rig up to use RFID. There should be two very clearly marked 'Open' and 'Close' contacts on the circuit board. You'll want to solder two wires (again, make sure they're extra long) to the left side of the 'Open' contacts. Now, if you've done this right, you should be able to test the lock. Insert some batteries into the deadbolt and touch the ends of the two wires together. This should cause the system to spring to life and unlock the deadbolt. If it works, give yourself a little pat on the back. If not, perhaps a little smack on the forehead would be appropriate.

Now you can put the faceplate back on the system, but make sure you pull the two 'Open' wires either out through the side or through the notch provided, it's up to you.

Step 4: Build the BASIC Stamp Carrier Board

Now to the fun part! This is where you'll get to put together all your little electronic components. This can be a bit confusing as it's the most complicated step, so make sure you take it slow and step by step to avoid any mistakes.

  • First, you'll need to solder the 24 pin IC Socket (make sure the notched side is at the top) and the reed relay to the carrier board.
  • Add the voltage regulator to the mix.
  • Solder the input lead on the voltage regulator to the VIN pin on the stamp (pin 24 on the IC socket) and then ground pin on the regulator to the VSS pin on the stamp (pin 23 on the IC socket).
  • Finally, solder some DC capable wires to the VIN and VSS pins on the regulator (every pin, with the exception of the output pin, on the voltage regulator should have something attached to it at this point).
  • To connect this to your RFID reader, solder the VCC lead wire from the reader to the output pin on the voltage regulator.
  • Next, solder the SOUT wire to pin 18 on the IC Socket (I/O pin 13 on the stamp). Then take the remaining wire from the reader, the GRD wire, and attach it to the GRD pin on the voltage regulator.

Next you'll connect the deadbolt control box to the mix. Solder the 'Open' switch wires to the two switched pins on the reed relay. It doesn't matter which you solder where, so take your pick, you can't mess it up (well, I guess you technically could, but you'd really have to try hard).

Now, you've need power going to the reed relay. Solder one of the coil leads to pin 14 on the IC socket (I/O pin 0 on the stamp) and the other to pin 4 on the IC socket (the second VSS pin on the stamp and the GRD). Once these leads are connected you can solder your protection diode over the leads. This isn't just for the fun of soldering something else. You must have this part to keep the electric current from damaging your components when you cut the power to the relay.

Take the diode and solder the end with the colored band to the coil that is connected to pin 14. Then solder the side opposite the colored band to the lead that's connected to GRD. All you need now is to finish up!

Step 5: Finish Up

Only a few more things to do and you'll be done. You'll need to program your BASIC microprocessor. The easiest way to do this is to buy a microprocessor that can be hooked up to your computer for easy programming. Then, with the use of a battery, you can simply download the programming needed from the web [BS2 file] and make a few minor tweaks. You'll need to input the number of tags you have authorized to open the door, as well as load in the IDs for each of those tags to make sure they can open the door.

Once it's programmed you'll need to insert it into the carrier board. Make sure to line up pin 1 on the microprocessor with pin 1 on the IC socket. Then, power it up by connecting the 9V power to the DC power leads attached to the VIN and VSS on your stamp.

Now, before you finish up, give it a test run. Wave an authorized tag over the reader. It should unlock the deadbolt.

You can now finish up by putting the carrier board in your remaining project box. Again, you'll need to cut a tiny notch to let the cords through without getting pinched. Hot glue the carrier board to the project board cover, then put the lid on and screw it shut. Attach the box to the door using screws or glue.

Finally, you'll need to find a way to support the power supply. Wire gutters or even tape can work to run the wires along the door and to the adapter. And that's it! Simply plug it in and you're finished.

RFID doesn't need to be limited to commercial security measures, as it can be a great project for your home as well as a spiffy bit of technology. So, while you may not have had the glory of installing a castle-grade security measure, you can at least impress your friends with your soldering skills and your ability to open your door with a wave of a hand.

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June 19, 2007

How to: Wire Your House with RFID

Despite criticism concerning security   and personal privacy   issues that surround RFID, the technology has become popular and commonplace   in the retail environment. But there's no reason why these new technologies   should be confined to stores and inventory   systems; they can be useful at home as well. RFID can be hooked up to almost   anything electronic around the house, especially devices that usually require   users to carry around keys or use access codes. RFID chips and cards can replace   these conventional items and give your home a more futuristic and unarguably   cooler feel.

So whether you're an RFID   tagged geek or just a tech enthusiast looking for new gadgets, wiring your   home with RFID can be an exciting and beneficial project. Here are a few ways   where RFID can be integrated into your home to make your life easier and more   convenient:

Door Locks: For those sick of carrying around multiple keys   or who frequently leave the keys in the door, an RFID door lock could be a good   option. There are a couple of different ways to set up an RFID door lock, but   the simplest method is to buy a pre-packaged system like the My   Key 2300. This lock comes with 8 RFID keys, auto and manual lock modes,   and a burglar alarm. It can't be picked since there's nothing to pick, and it   comes with an external forced lock feature that keeps it from being opened through   a mail slot or window. The system isn't free from drawbacks, however. It comes   with a hefty price tag ($300) and it isn't recommended that it be exposed to   rain or snow (which might be a difficult objective to achieve for an outside   door).

If you're looking for a cheaper DIY way of hooking up your door with RFID it'll   take some elbow grease and a few small components. There are numerous   ways of going about this chore, depending on your budget and whether or not   you want the system hooked directly to your computer. You'll need a few basic   electronic components like circuit boards, relays, and a project box as well   as an electronic door strike (the same kind that are used to "buzz"   people in). And, if you'd like, an electronic keypad deadbolt can be added as   well. Amal   Graafstra provides detailed instructions for this project in his book, RFID   Toys. I would reproduce the project here, but it's detailed and encompasses   several pages.

Keep in mind that you'll also need a few tools for the job and some delicate   tinkering. The system itself is relatively simple, however, and will allow you   access to your door with the use of a RFID tag or chip and can also be made   fancier since it's hooked up to your PC. You can use the system to set up email   alerts when people come or go, or set up timers to only allow certain doors   to be accessed at pre-scheduled times.

Pet Doors: Pet   doors can be a great way to let dogs and cats in and out without actually   having to open the door for them each time. Yet, these doors aren't without   their drawbacks. If you have a large dog the door can be wide enough for a squirrelly   burglar or other unwanted animals. One way to keep out unwanted visitors is   to put in an RFID access device on your door. There are a couple of ways to   accomplish this. First, you need to consider whether you would like your animal   to have an embedded   chip, like those used to ID lost animals at almost all animals shelters,   or if you'd like to simply have your pet wear a   collar with the RFID device attached. Both have their benefits and drawbacks,   so it's really up to you. After you've considered what your pet will wear, you   also need to consider what kind of door you want to use. There are RFID systems   available that are pre-wired and set up that allow you to simply install the   pet door, no electronics knowledge required.

If you're really into doing it all on your own, you can install an RFID reader   to just about any pet door that has a locking mechanism. However, since the   reader system would have to sit outside the pet door itself, it might not be   the most attractive option if you're worried about aesthetics. You'll also want   to consider the relative range of the RFID system that you're installing, since   some can only have a range of up to 4   inches. The principal for setting up the pet door lock is the same as that   for a larger door lock, except that you'll need to allow the reader, and the   chip for that matter, to be in a place where your pet will be able to access   it easily and not get left out in the cold.

Computer Logon: With security being a big issue these days,   new and innovative ways to secure your data and workstation are always a welcome   addition to your tech repertoire. RFID can actually be a quick and easy way   to lock down your data when you're away from your desk. One of the simplest   ways to implement RFID to your computer is to use a simple USB system like PCProx.   PCProx uses RFID to block access to your computer when you leave the immediate   vicinity. When you return, you simply wave an RFID card over the reader and   you are immediately signed back into your system. To make it more secure, as   cards can and do get lost, users can add a special PIN.

If you want to be a little sneakier about your RFID logon capabilities, you   can fix up a regular keyboard so that an RFID reader is hidden inside. As you   can read here,   you'll need to be a little electronically savvy and also have a steady hand.   All you'll need is the RFID reader and compatible tag, a working keyboard, some   open source software, and you're ready to go. Why would you want your RFID access   to be secret? While the chances are slim, it is possible that someone could   find out your tag ID and duplicate it, gaining access to your computer. If no   one knows you have RFID access installed in the first place they can't take   advantage of your privacy.

Garage Door Opener: With the morning scramble out the door,   it's easy to forget to shut to garage door amidst the chaos. With an RFID system   it's possible for that problem to be a thing of the past, and also to make your   garage more secure by making sure it opens only for you and only you. There   are, of course, places that would be more than happy to install such a   system for you. These, however, can be extremely expensive, especially if   you get all the extra features (many offer services that turn lights, music   and other household things on when you arrive home).

If you can't pay for the convenience of a full installation, you can install   a simpler system on your own. You'll need an RFID reader and tag, a transmitter   and a receiver, and this simple   design for an RFID garage door opener. The system will cause the garage   door to open automatically when your car, which contains the RFID tag, approaches.   The tag isn't embedded in this design, which allows you to move that tag from   car to car if necessary. It can also be modified to automatically shut the door   after a certain period of time or when the car reaches a certain distance from   the house.

Electronic Safe: Some people simply can't remember numbers,   and combinations can be a real challenge. If you're one of these people, or   if you want to add a different element to your safe system, you can modify your   electronic safe so that it opens with both an RFID card or tag and the electronic   keypad that it came with. For those safes with RFID chips embedded, this can   be an additional means to secure the contents in that safe.

The RFID safe is assembled in a similar way to the other RFID locking systems.   An RFID reader is embedded into your safe and installation will vary slightly   depending on the model. You'll also need a USB programmable board. The software   to program it is open source and programming details   can be found on that site. You can also hook up the reader to a small LCD light   to let you know if your tag is being read and that the reader is appropriately   powered.

These are just a few ways that RFID can be used around the house; if you're   creative you can figure out how to hook up many other household items to your   RFID system as well. Be advised that many of these projects do require a certain   degree of skill or knowledge about electronics and circuitry, or at least the   ability to follow directions very carefully. Still, if you have the patience   and the skill you can use these ideas to up your technology coolness factor   significantly by installing some RFID devices around your house.

June 12, 2007

15 Surprising Ways RFID Will Affect Your Life in 2007

If you're an RFID fanatic, you know how RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) will affect your life this year. In fact, you may dream about how this technology will change the world within the next decade - either in positive or negative ways. But, for those who haven't a clue about RFID proliferation and how these chips and their readers will modify your lifestyle, then the following list might surprise you. In fact, it may help you change your life today and become tech-savvy for 2008.

Continue reading "15 Surprising Ways RFID Will Affect Your Life in 2007"

May 16, 2007

RFID Gazette - Wed May 16, 2007

This is a roundup of recent RFID news and views.

While many small vendors cannot use the volume of RFID tags to make the ROI (Return on Investment) worthwhile, some companies are finding it. A trailer dealership near Toronto, Canada is using RFID to manage over a 1,000 trailers in four lots and claims they've had a return on their investment since the installation last September. [via RFID Journal]

RightTag Acquired
RightTag, an RFID equipment manufacturer, has just been acquired by Inova Technology. RightTag were the first company in the RFID industry to manufacture a 13.56 Mhz Bluetooth-enabled scanner.

NCR Division Acquired
NCR's Systemedia Division's RFID assets have been acquired by The Kennedy Group, who provide RFID labels, packaging and other products. [via RFID Update]

May 15, 2007

RFID Gazette - Tues May 15, 2007

This is a roundup of recent RFID-related news and views.

Tracking Steel
ThyssenKrupp Steel has managed to run a successful test on a thousand tagged steel slabs using EPC UHF RFID tags. The slabs were shipped from Brazil to Germany and tracked along that route. As a result, they'll continue the process for 100,000 slabs per year, maybe more, using special SATO FlagTag RFID labels. [via RFID Journal]

A Japanese RFID Island
Depending on what country you're in, RFID tags are an everyday thing or their not. In Japan, there's a plan to set up a special tech zone on an island where RFID tags will be ubiquitous. Not only that, they'll use the zone to monitor elderly patients, the movement of pedestrians, and more.

Passive RFID Tag Market Growing
The passive RFID tag market is expected to grow to nearly US$500M by 2013, compared to just under $125M in 2006. This information comes courtesy of a Frost & Sullivan report.