Reference Design for eBadge Applications

Article By : Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio

Atmosic Technologies and E Ink have announced a reference design for eBadge applications.

Atmosic Technologies and E Ink have announced a reference design for eBadge applications. The project incorporates Atmosic’s ultra-low-power M-Series Bluetooth low energy semiconductor technology for the Internet of Things (IoT).

Markets and Markets estimated the smart badge market to be approximately $33 million by 2025 with a CAGR of 9.6% from 2020 to 2025. The growth of smart badges can be attributed to the convenience and security of transactions and their tamper-proof storage of user information and identity.

A digital card display requires about 99% less energy than the LED displays common in televisions and many mobile technologies. And of particular value to eBadge developers, digital paper requires no energy at all to display a static image.

David Su, CEO of Atmosic Technologies, explained how the new solutions, offered as part of the joint Atmosic-E Ink project with one of E Ink’s 2.9″ or 3.7″ black-and-white displays, support ultra low-power and enable long, multi-year battery life, which can be extended using optional on-chip energy harvesting. This low-power eBadge can also provide visual updates, including photos, location information, alert messages, and text messages. The use of energy harvesting can give the eBadge a virtually unlimited battery life.

David Su added, “Atmosic has the unique ability to store extra energy on a super-cap which can further help reduce the battery size thereby enabling streamlined industrial designs. For example, in a key board application: For continuous typing (5 keys/sec), the ATM-based keyboard consumes 90uA. For the keyboard in connected idle mode, the ATM-based keyboard consumes 7.5uA.”

Digital paper

E Ink’s digital paper is made up of particles inside microcapsules that are coated on a layer of thin-film and act as a form of ink. Instead of pressing ink permanently onto the paper, the ink particles are automatically recycled to form new letters and images when the display image is updated. Energy is consumed only when an electric charge rearranges the particles to form a new image. In this way, digital paper is actually very similar to the traditional paper we experience in a book. The images we read in a book are static and no energy is needed to display them. Energy is only used when we burn a tiny amount of calories to turn the page physically.

ePaper displays are not like LCD screens that use a backlight to illuminate the pixels and show images to the human eye. E Ink’s technology is a reflective display, leveraging the ambient light, and using similar pigments found in that of ink and paper. E Ink’s black and white electronic ink system is made up of millions of tiny microcapsules, each about the diameter of a human hair. Each microcapsule contains negatively charged white particles and positively charged black particles suspended in a clear fluid. When a positive or negative electric field is applied, corresponding particles move to the top of the microcapsule where they become visible to the viewer. This makes the surface appear white or black at that spot.

Figure 1: eBadge system (Source: SafePass)

eBadge for Industry

In the era of Covid-19, location tracking offers a more efficient way to conduct contact tracing. When infections occur, organizations can quickly determine which SafePasses have arrived within a specified radius of other eBadges, and report this information to health authorities to support their contact tracing efforts. As many organizations move to a hybrid model where employees might work from home two or three days a week, they will be seen less often within a corporate complex. When hundreds or thousands of employees see each other in person much less frequently, some may be perceived as virtual strangers who may or may not belong to the complex. This will make it even more important for people to be easily recognizable with a highly visible eBadge at all times.

Figure 2: e-Badge Reference Design (Source: Atmosic)
Figure 3: Schematic of eBadge (Source: Atmosic)

David Su pointed out that the low power budget offered by Atmosic’s solutions allows developers to add a range of features to build a secure and cost-effective eBadge solution that can run on the same battery for multiple years. For IoT applications at the edge, energy can be harvested from RF signals in the air to power a Bluetooth chip or can combine a tiny supercapacitor chip with a fingernail-sized solar cell.

Thanks to the special characteristics of electronic ink, there is no need to power the screen continuously: just supply energy when the electrical is needed to move the pigments. This saves energy and the battery can last for more than a month.

The kit is used vertically or horizontally with a small CR2032 button battery. “The eBadge provides visual updates including a photo, location information, warning messages and text messages. The use of energy harvesting can give the eBadge virtually unlimited battery life,” said Su.

The platform leverages Atmosic’s M-series. To radically reduce dependence on batteries for IoT, Atmosic has developed three innovative technologies in this series: Lowest Power Radio, On-demand Wake-up, and Controlled Energy Harvesting. Atmosic adopted a wireless agnostic approach to determine the most energy-efficient basis for its first IoT connectivity solutions.

This article was originally published on EE Times Europe.

Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio holds a Ph.D. in Physics and is a telecommunication engineer and journalist. He has worked on various international projects in the field of gravitational wave research. He collaborates with research institutions to design data acquisition and control systems for space applications. He is the author of several books published by Springer, as well as numerous scientific and technical publications on electronics design.

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