DesignCon 2014, even the badges are cool

So I got to pop into DesignCon 2014, the signal integrity, test, and high-speed schematic and PCB design show here in Silicon Valley. In addition to seeing some great panels and vendor displays, I got to see industry favorites like Dave Bursky, Martin Rowe, and Patrick Mannion. Sure EDN has lots of nice coverage, here, here, here, and here. Most of my analog pals love DesignCon. It’s not just a show with hundreds of exhibitors; it is a conference with keynotes, classes, and panel discussions.

But the thing I love about these UBM shows is that even the badges can teach you something. I noticed the printed part of my badge was paper.


This badge from DesignCon 2014 is printed on paper.

Thing is, when I looked on the backside of the paper there was a thin plastic disk covering up something with a small bump.


In the backside, you can see a small disk in the center. What caught my eye was the small bump at the bottom of the disk.

So what is an analog guy to do but peel back the disk?


Peeling back the plastic cover reveals a spiral antenna and an RFID chip.

The RFID chip spans the end of the loop antenna, while the other side of the circle has the underside connection with 9 vias to complete the loop.


The white cover disk is applied over a clear disk that has a spiral antenna and an RFID chip. The clear disk is printed on both sides so the spiral can form a loop with a back-side connection with 9 vias on each end.


Here you can see that the RFID system is itself printed on a clear disk.


Here is a close-up of the underside trace and the vias on each end. This is all made from conductive ink that is printed on fast and cheap.


A close-up of the chip. It’s made by a competitor to Atmel, so I have covered up the logo or cropped it out from the previous pics. It’s not just a competitor; it is where my boss worked previously.

The RFID chip may not have encryption like Atmel’s RFID chips, not sure if show badges are a secure application. But it still astounds me we can afford to print antennas and chips on paper badges meant to be thrown away after the event.


Here is a side-shot of the RFID chip. It is powered by an RF field you apply to the spiral, and then modulates the energy received to communicate with the transmitter. There is no battery in the badge.

So there you have it. A show so cool even the badges can teach you electronics. The next big UMB Tech show  here in the Valley is EE|Live! which is a super-show that has the Embedded Systems Conference along with some other major attractions. Atmel is a sponsor of the IoT (Internet of Things) track and we are submitting at least one paper. I will be sure to attend as will the hundreds of embedded engineering pals I know in the Valley. And my own Analog Aficionados party is Sunday, February 9th2014. Steve Taranovich is signed up, as is EDN VP/Brand Director Patrick Mannion.

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