History of multiple article electronic identification
system developed in South Africa
In January 1994 the world was surprised to discover that a South African
development was likely to change the future retailing and logistic systems.
Prior to this announcement, other RFID systems had been developed in South
Africa, but none with the impact of this development.
Prior to November 1990, the South African Government Research laboratories
of the CSIR in the Division of Microelectronics and Communications Technology,
had been approached by a motor manufacture to find out if it was possible
to have a very low cost RF transponder to be used for just-in-time manufacture,
the restrictions being that it would need to withstand the heat of the
paint shop while being very cheap. This led to the development of a transponder
that repeatedly broadcast its identity and used a "backscatter modulation"
method. Such a transponder was built using discrete components and extensive
testing carried out to detect such a transponder passing at speed mounted
on a car.
This concept was later modified to provide a design for detecting the
identity of miners working deep in the South African goldmines. Here the
rebroadcast was delayed by a random backoff timer based on the prionciple
that when identifying a few tags in a zone at a time, all the tags would
have some transmission time when they were not jammed by other tags. This
principle is valid if there are only a limited number of sources in the
beam at a time.
None of these concepts could handle many transponders at the same time,
mainly because the tags all respond on a single frequency, many talk at
the same time as they are free-running and do not have onboard receivers
that are able to hear if other tags are talking at any instant.
Supertag® protocol was developed by accident by Mike Marsh. While
attending a management strategy meeting in Pretoria at a place called "Aarbeidsaamheid"
in November 1990, he suddenly realised how a simple protocol could be implimented
that would allow any number of tags to be read. At that stage the development
team was not working on this problem, but just by chance stumbled across
People involved in developing the electronic
identification system (Supertag)(1990-1994)
Members of the TEAM that made RFID possible and gave the world a demonstration
of a trolley
Mining Systems Programme
- Mike Marsh
- Inventor, development team leader, programme manager and negotiator
- Andre Lenarcik
- Developer of RF systems initially for the vehicle project, and then
for the trolley project. Designer of antenna systems, and the RF components
of the transponder.
- Clinton van Zyl
- Designer of the microprocessor and receiver components for the reader.
Involved in the initial testing of the vehicle system and later of the
trolley system.(Currently in the UK)
- Andries van Schalkwyk
- Built the phase lock loop and receiver components and assembled many
tags and the demo system.
- Martin Oosthuizen
- Built the microprocessor components of the receiver, many tags and
assembled the demo system.
- Paul Mekisich
- Built the transmitters together with the notch filters for rejecting
- Martin Walker
- Built the initial discrete component transponder. (Currently in Canada)
- Werner Bremer
- Modelled radiation patterns for inside metal container (Currently in
- Trish Ritter
- Wrote the software used for the trolley demo till.
- Paw Paw Cabrita
- Built the initial wooden trolley system, and the mechanical components
of the scanning system that was used in the Pick n Pay demo. (Currently
- Jack Marx
- Made the mechanical components of the receivers and power supplies
of the vehicle and Supertag system.(Currently in Randburg)
- ... and about another five members of the programme
IC Design Programme
- Hendrik van Eeden
- Converted the original discrete design to a low voltage MOS process
in a foundry in Switzerland. Wrote a software simulator to show initial
simulation regarding error rate. (Currently in Pretoria)
- Lourence Cronje
- Assisted in conversion of discrete design to first multichip implimentation.
- Roy Atkins
- Took over non-digital design aspects and preparation of specifications
after key staff left.
Microelectronic Applications Programme
- Mark Carson (Currently in Pretoria), Gideon Gouws ,Mario
- Collectively developed a method of attaching integrated circuits to
cheap antenna substrates in volume applications.
CSIR Information Services
- Murray Dell
- Comprehensive mathematical model of the performance of a group of tags
Supertag was registered as a trademark by the Council for Scientific
and Industrial Research