RFID reader on a Raspberry Pi

Inexpensive components for the SPI interface let you upgrade a Raspberry Pi 4 to a display system for zero-contact RFID-based data acquisition.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags have become indispensable in industry and government, as well as the wholesale and retail spaces. The inexpensive transponder chips can be found on clothing labels, identification cards, and credit cards. Armed with just a Raspberry Pi and an RFID kit, you can read the data from these chips and view it on a display.

In this project, I read serial numbers from RFID tags stuck on 3D-printed pumpkins – a slightly different kind of detection task. To do this, I connect an RC522 [1] RFID kit and a 1.8-inch ST7735 serial peripheral interface (SPI) thin-film transistor (TFT) display [2] to a Raspberry Pi 4. Together, the two modules can cost less than $15 (EUR15, £14) in online stores. The pumpkins contain simple RFID tags [3], also available for very little cash. Although at first glance the project seems clear-cut and sounds as if it should work right away, check out the “Mishaps, Misfortunes, and Breakdowns” box to find out what can go wrong.

The circuit diagram in Figure 1 shows how the modules connect to the Raspberry Pi, along with two pushbuttons and LEDs for testing purposes. The KiCad layout of the project is included in the download section of this article [4].

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