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How To Make Your Own iPhone RFID Reader

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the make-bruce-sterling-proud dept.

Hardware Hacking 46

andylim writes "It's been rumoured for some time now that Apple will include RFID technology in a future iPhone. An RFID-packing iPhone could interact with various objects including opening doors and it could even be used in shops to register items at the checkout. Beating Apple to the RFID punch, last year a company called Wireless Dynamics announced an iPhone RFID accessory called the iCarte, but if you'd rather make your own reader then you'll be interested to know how a research assistant at University College London has managed to build his own RFID iPhone accessory."

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Source of low-cost, small RFID chips? (0, Offtopic)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 4 years ago | (#31473746)

On a side topic, my company is looking for a source of low-cost, small RFID chips. They should be perhaps 1 centimeter (about 1/3 inch) square. Each must have a unique code, but they don't need to be re-programmable. We haven't been able to find a supplier.

Re:Source of low-cost, small RFID chips? (1)

longhairedgnome (610579) | more than 4 years ago | (#31473772)

HAve you checked with Alienware in Fargo, nd?

Re:Source of low-cost, small RFID chips? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31474122)

Check-out Remote Identity (type into google and it should be the first hit).

Why don't RFID tag makers make smaller tags? (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 4 years ago | (#31474638)

Thanks. That's interesting. However, the smallest RFID tags they have are 1.5 inches x 0.89 inches. []

It seems that the limiting factor in RFID adoption worldwide is that all the makers are trying to serve companies who are using RFID tags for large boxes of inventory. There don't seem to be any forward-thinking manufacturers.

Apparently the manufacturers want to charge $1 per tag and want the users to throw the tags away after use.

We need small tags with a limited range. We need each tag to have a unique random number code. We don't need to be able to change the codes.

We need to be able to re-use the tags. (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 4 years ago | (#31475414)

I should have said also that we need to be able to re-use the tags.

Re:Source of low-cost, small RFID chips? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31474892)

About the closest I could found was this one:

TI will sample them to you to try them out or you can buy them here:

We just need the RFID chip to say, "I'm 5633984." (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 4 years ago | (#31476356)

That's excellent. They're the right size, the smallest I've seen. However, in 10,000 quantities they cost $2.65. I'm surprised they are so expensive. That's more than the cost of an entire 8088 microprocessor. []

We don't need a lot of functionality. We just need the RFID chip to say, "Hi, I'm 5633984." Or, whatever number was permanently assigned.

Re:We just need the RFID chip to say, "I'm 5633984 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31476542)

If you are interested in quantities that high talk directly with the people at TI they will get you in touch with your district rep. Digikey specializes in lower quantity sales so they aren't the best to deal with if you are ordering over a thousand.

Re:Source of low-cost, small RFID chips? (1)

nicnic2 (1767352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31477152)

try in Taiwan, Something like the stick18 (18mm dia) or Tag13 (13mm dia) products with a are more reasonably priced. While the chips are quite small the tags need an antenna and the smaller it is the shorter the reading range.

Looks good. (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 4 years ago | (#31478654)

Thanks very much. That has likely saved me many hours of looking. I had looked before and called several companies, and gotten no help.

Re:Source of low-cost, small RFID chips? (1)

Richy_T (111409) | more than 4 years ago | (#31481106)

Check out Intersoft ( They resupply the tags and sell several readers, including ones that plug straight into the serial port of whatever device you'd like. I used to work for them. The owner is a nice guy and will be happy to discuss applications and options.

Looks good. (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 4 years ago | (#31489626)

Thanks very much. I will investigate.

Vaporware (3, Insightful)

manyxcxi (1037382) | more than 4 years ago | (#31473752)

The iCarte reeks of vaporware. Show me a video of it in action, show me a datasheet not riddled with buzzwords. Hell, show a tentative price or release date. How would you program it? How would you take the pay and go info off of a debit/credit card? Also, if it is so easy to take that info off of a card, how worried should consumers be about their security?

Re:Vaporware (0)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31473960)

I wonder if iCarte has applied for a patent for "RFiD accessory for iPhone with lowercase 'i' in name"? (I know, I know, but the USPTO is pretty accommodating these days) If so, will try to sue the guy in London for 'rolling his own'? That may fund their next round of marketing smoke.

Re:Vaporware (0)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 4 years ago | (#31474000)

Datasheet without buzzwords.....

Should we dress as butlers, and serve it to you on a silver platter, sir?

If you want to know more, why not contact the company?

And while you've used that vast intelligence of yours to raise the security 'buzzword', why don't you find out more about the topic? There's this little search engine called google. You could find information out really easy that way! Maybe the buzzwords would make sense, and you'd find out more about the implications of RFID technology as it applies to everyone! Yay!

Vaporware? Nooo... (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 4 years ago | (#31474188)

Being just a concept so far, I believe that it should be referred to as ideaware.
Or would that be iDeaware?

Near Field Communication (NFC)
NFCIP-1 and ISO 18092 compliant
Supports contactless payment
Peer to peer communication
Data exchange speed up to 424 kbps
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
ISO 14443A/B compliant
ISO 15693 compliant
Supports NXP MIFARE®
Supports NXP MIFARE DESFire ®
Supports I-CODE® SLI
Supports Texas Instrument Tag-it(TM) HF-I
Read, write and search 13.56 MHz HF RFID tags
Integrated SAM (Secure Access Module)
SmartCard compliant JCOP OS
NXP MIFARE® Classic 1K tag emulation
Made for iPod (MFI) accessory
Supports iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS
Charge iPhone and iTune Sync via mini-USB
Compact and Reliable Snap-On Design
Extends iPhone length by 16.5mm (0.65")
62.1 x 26.5 x 12.3 mm (2.4" x 1.0" x 0.5")
Available in black or white color
Read/Write Range
Up to 4.0 cm (1.5") for NFC
Up to 5.0 cm (2.0") for ISO 14443A/B
Up to 6.0 cm (2.5") for ISO 15693
Range depends on tag configuration, orientation
and environment
Low Power Consumption
90 mA (typical) RFID Read/Write mode
5 mA (typical) Contactless Payment mode
Features and specifications subject to change. V0.4

Re:Vaporware (1)

numbski (515011) | more than 4 years ago | (#31488032)

Heck, I'd like to get my hands on one of those card skimmers they have hooked to iPod touches in the apple store! Dang the evil you could do...

can someone please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31473782)

post pages with the latest up to date technical specs on rfid range capabilities?

i remember years ago reading something on 'backscatter' technology which allowed for better range, but my question is mainly regarding range possibilities... like, can you make the equivalent of the 'bluetooth sniper rifle' for reading rfid at extended ranges?

Visions of Shadowrun 4ed (1)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 4 years ago | (#31473816)

In the 4ed Shadowrun setting computing and wireless communications are ubiquitous, and every legal person has to have a "commlink", a small personal computer broadcasting his/her personal ID at all times. Nonpersons, such as the player characters, has to have a fake ID or be arrested on the spot. Due to the large amount of computing power available, the only real use for personal high-performance computing is breaching computer security (it makes more sense in the fluff...) - the most popular solution is thus to have one cheap commlink with a fake ID, and one illegal either hidden on the PCs person or implanted in the skull as cyberware.

Re:Visions of Shadowrun 4ed (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#31473928)

Role-players scare me.

Re:Visions of Shadowrun 4ed (0)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#31473982)

Role-players scare me.

Says the person who every day is a friend, a child, an adult, a coworker, a consumer, a citizen, a geek, nevermind all the other divisions that create your own self-identity. You say role players scare you, but you fail to see just how pervasive role playing is in your own daily life.

Re:Visions of Shadowrun 4ed (1)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 4 years ago | (#31474028)

Actually, I'm rather bad at role-playing as such, as I cannot do that; I only have one identity, and act with shallow emotions when other things are needed. Role-playing to me is thus more akin to writing, because if I project the character onto myself, I can only be me.

Time for the RFID-enabled hat (1, Funny)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 4 years ago | (#31473890)

Ya know, cause I like hats. And doors piss me off when they don't open.

Congratulations to Apple for embracing an infomercial sales pitch -- it opens doors! it can bake a cheesecake perfect every time! do you want an omelet?! presto!

Re:Time for the RFID-enabled hat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31474032)

despite the fact that you will get modded down by the /. hivemind movement, i couldnt agree more.

bad part is that this particular 'kitchen sink' allows for anyone with your phone to get into your house and/or car also. maybe even make purchase at the gas station when they install more of those 'speedpass' rfid type devices which will almost certainly be made to be compatible with this.

i would have posted under my account, but i forgot my password years ago. stopped signing in when i went from way positive karma to massively neg'd karma literally overnight with three posts that were totally out of harmony with the /. hivemind.... iirc, i could after that only post one time per day from my account. AC is less stipulated than my several year old account ;(

Re:Time for the RFID-enabled hat (1)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | more than 4 years ago | (#31474324)

It can let me in the door at work when I forget my badge at home?

Convenience over security? (1)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 4 years ago | (#31474720)

Before I get too mean, I should offer up that I admin databases. And if everything is a nail to a man with a hammer, everything is a hacking threat to a DBA.

I've seen too many people too gullible let strangers do too many things with their credentials, phones and credit cards to think twice about whether users should be hiking around with a security stick in their pocket -- the answer is a resounding NO, NO, NO, NO-NO-NO, NONONONO, NOOOOOOOO!!!!"

Re:Time for the RFID-enabled hat (1)

RDW (41497) | more than 4 years ago | (#31474632)

Don't knock it - we were supposed to have all this in one device by 1999! []

' functions as a security key (restricting access to sensitive and command areas), a transponder (instantly pinpointing the position of its carrier), an audio/visual communications unit, and a programmable computer.'

Re:Time for the RFID-enabled hat (1)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 4 years ago | (#31475722)

Sounds good.

Now how do we get all the Apple fanbois on the Moon at once and then blast it out of orbit?

Incidentally, as a British sci-fi fan and Gerry Anderson nut, Space 1999 is a very sore point with me... an interesting a promising first series, then the Americans and Fred "The producer with a CV full of final series of popular TV shows" Freiberger got their hands on it and we ended up with a shapechanging alien being substituted for the great Barry Morse!

Mobile phones have had Suica RFID for a few years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31473898)

Suica (or Pasmo) is the RFID system for trains passes in Japan. Mobile phones have had them built in since at least 2007.

And a reader is not the same as having an RFID token. The system is asymmetric.

Nokia has had RFID phones since 2006 (3, Informative)

mspohr (589790) | more than 4 years ago | (#31473932) []

Nokia has had a few RFID phones since 2006. This is not a new invention.

Re:Nokia has had RFID phones since 2006 (1)

gb7djk (857694) | more than 4 years ago | (#31474164)

And the Japanese have had them even longer...

Re:Nokia has had RFID phones since 2006 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31477112)

Yeah, and ours are quite useful. I used mine to get to work today (I mean, I didn't ride it, I use it to pay for the train.) When I go to Starbucks in a little while, I will use it to pay for my coffee too. Faster than credit card or cash, no signing required, and no messy change to carry around.

Re:Nokia has had RFID phones since 2006 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31474986)

Does new models have it, I don't think so? Sadly I think this might be another case where Nokia cannot capitalize because they only did the hardware.

I can imagine for the next iPhone release: Out comes Steve Jobs in his turtleneck, and with a little tap on iPhone, the Harley Davidson starts it's engine. Next thing you know he drives it to garage by opening the door with iPhone too! Audience is mesmerized, how is that possible? And some of us would be mesmerized why would Steve Jobs drive Harley Davidson.

Yes it is the software these days. Nokia have done software, but oh they are so gruesome to configure and clunky to use.

I wonder is it possible in future to copy my iKey in my local locksmith? I suppose not. Apple probably takes few bucks for copying the keys too.

Re:Nokia has had RFID phones since 2006 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31475736)

If Apple hasn't done it yet then it is.

Wait... (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31474094)

You're telling me that a small general purpose computer(albeit a deliberately locked down one) with a serial port can be connected to a variety of serial peripherals, including RFID readers? Somebody fetch the smelling salts, I feel faint.

Sarcasm aside, of course, this seems like one of those situations where the hardware is utterly uninteresting; but the applications, once the boring hardware is broadly available could well be quite interesting, and possibly in unexpected ways(though, with RFID, not necessarily the good kind of unexpected).

Re:Wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31475996)

(though, with RFID, not necessarily the good kind of unexpected).

It's a phone... if you don't want to be tracked then take out the battery.

Re:Wait... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31476852)

RFID is (in most contexts) arguably worse for tracking than the combination of cellular modem and GPS that the handset already has, so that isn't really the issue.

I'd be more worried, as an off the cuff guess, about what RFID could do to allow you to be tracked by other people's phones. Given RFID's use in inventory management, some contactless ID and payment card systems, and eventually individual consumer goods(once they get the price down a bit), the odds are good that most people will be carrying at least a few of them in the near future, if they aren't now. If, hypothetically, you were an entity who had your software running on some thousands or millions of RFID-capable, internet connected, GPS located, mobile phones, you might be able to do some interesting stuff. Hard to say for certain.

Re:Wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31478234)

Not only that, but RFID normally has a very short range. The train passes, Edy, etc. only work from a few CM. In fact, they tell people to "touch" it, (you don't quite have to touch it, but that makes people get it close enough).

Re:Wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31493036)

The other reason they ask people to touch is that it tends to make people hold it in place long enough to be read. If you just swipe it past the reader will often fail to read it.

This is a old news! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31474264)

Japanese phones have already included the RFID technology for many years.. We are in the dark age!

The Question is (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31474686)

What sort of RFID are they trying to implement ?

If they want the iPhone to open doors and such, then simply stick an RFID chip somewhere in or on the iPhone and be done with it.
I mean, the chips are so small, the end user can do this with very little fuss. Heck if you can stick an RFID tag in your dog, cat, wallet, keyring, credit card, and even yourself, well then this is really a non newsworthy item.

If they want to read RFID tags, then that's a different matter all together.

There are many RFID standards, as well as different freqs. On top of all this, there are going to be range issues,
(I.E. you wont be able to have a huge antenna inside an iPhone) so thats going to limit your range to around 5cm for reading tags).

And then what is the average iPhone user going to use this for ?
I can think of quite a few applications for this, but I dont see businesses shelling out for iPhones to read RFID tags, when there are purpose built reaers on the market that sell for a fraction of the cost of an iPhone

Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31477016)

One of the main things stopping me from getting an iPhone is that the normal Japanese phones have "seifu keitai" (wallet phone) features, which the iPhone doesn't. I use this all the time at stores, and for the train. If iPhone implements the RFID as Sony's "Felica" brand, then it will be compatible with Suica (the train pass) and everything else used by these phones.

If they don't, well then... not so useful.

btw the term "RFID" bothers me. I originally thought that referred to some specific standard (which it seems to, since it has version numbers), but then I have seen it used for any kind of RF tags. There is a very big difference between the passive anti-theft tags, and f.e. the felica chips which have encryption and read/write built in.

Will there be an App for... (2, Interesting)

Kitkoan (1719118) | more than 4 years ago | (#31478392)

An RFID reader on an iPhone, and RFID credit cards being hacked [] since 2008, wonder if someone will make a jailbroken only app for getting the information? Not like people think twice when they see someone playing with a iPhone in public. (while the video shows that the card pretty much needs to touch the card, the tech is getting better last I heard so the distance is getting further away and still getting the information. Plus set the program up, put your phone in your pocket and ride the bus/trains during rush hour, that would get some even with those short distances since your pretty much side by side.)

iCartel (1)

kiehlster (844523) | more than 4 years ago | (#31480904)

First, I thought they were mentioning the iCartel accessory for the iPhone. I always wanted a device I could attach to my iPhone to go around using anti-competitive measures to regulate store prices. RFID reader? Not quite as exciting.

RFID Readers To Everyone! (1)

FordPrefect276709 (1346539) | more than 4 years ago | (#31492568)

Yes, I fancy the idea of having RFID readers in the hands of millions and credit card / biometric passport reading software right there at the app-store.

No irony. There's NOTHING that makes (insecure) RFID vanish faster from cc/passports!

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