NFC-based embedded system self-test

Today, electronic products are everywhere, whether it is cars, white goods, entertainment equipment, wearable devices, have been integrated into the square of our lives. The rapid adoption of electronic systems is due to the emergence of large-scale integrated electronic devices such as very complex computationally intensive microcontrollers and SoCs (system-on-chip). Today, with the increasing complexity of white goods and electronics design, designers have to pay attention to the ease of use and ease of troubleshooting.

Complex design is in urgent need of internal debugging information. It is necessary to understand what is happening inside the computing unit. If a system error or failure occurs, the error can be retrieved and checked at various stages of the product life cycle, as shown below.

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Figure 1: System check at each stage of the product life cycle

Product development and engineering:

For embedded systems, product reliability monitoring and certification processes may take a long time to view product performance. The feasibility of the manual monitoring system is not high and the efficiency is low. Big data analysis is not difficult, and specific analysis methods are needed.

For intermittent or conditional errors, the error can only be corrected after the event and error have been properly recorded. Developers can view the error data at any time, output it to the outside for analysis, take up a small amount of memory space, or need to dump internal information.


System self-tests and error codes or messages help to ensure product development and manufacturing quality, optimize test time and production testing, and even after-sales support.

If an error occurs, the system will indicate which components are not communicating properly and cause an error to occur. Technicians can easily test or troubleshoot and repair the product.

Logistics log:

Some important products may require specific modes of transportation and logistics. These product systems can record electronic data about the environment and handling methods, such as collisions, humidity and temperature, in internal memory.

Customers can analyze these data at the destination to verify compliance with the recommended shipping and handling methods.

Field Service:

Users can use the smartphone to retrieve the internal information of the on-site installation. This information is very useful to the equipment maintenance service provider. It can help the company to inform the staff to prepare for the repair, which not only saves the number of on-site maintenance, but also saves the repair time.

System debugging method currently in use
Despite the limited ability of LED indicators, LED screens and LCD screens to provide error messages, new smart connections can provide users with more information, opening up a new dimension for acquisition, commissioning, Quality Inspection and test time optimization and after-sales support. way.

New intelligent connection debugging method based on NFC:

Most embedded systems have internal non-volatile memory for storing certain system parameters. When this EEPROM memory is changed to a dual interface EEPROM, wireless communication technology can also be used to read error messages and system health status data.

The active RFID tag is a very economical error code recording medium that can retrieve the internal data of the electronic tag through the NFC interface.

NFC, also known as short-range communication, is a 13.56 MHz carrier-based wireless communication technology based on RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). When one NFC device is close to another NFC device, communication can be interconnected. Most mobile phones today have an NFC interface that communicates with active tags, allowing users to exchange information between different devices.

In the case of consumer electronics, active tags are very useful for self-tests. After the system is powered on, the self-test will check all the components of the system and write the health status to the active tag to facilitate reading the data during the factory quality check. If all the parameters are normal, the product can be shipped.

The one-step test concept of the whole system can also save the product's residence time on the production line. It only takes a few seconds to read the health of the system. Design a very simple application software for the user to view the error on the smartphone or reader. information.

If a system error occurs, the system will indicate which components are not communicating properly and cause errors, so that the technician can test or debug the system and repair the product.

This method can also be used for after sales service. Users only need to bring the smartphone close to the control panel of the white appliance to read the internal information of the product through NFC, and also send the information to the central server via WAN network such as Wi-Fi or GPRS, and automatically submit the complaint.


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Figure 2: System Health Check Smart Connection Technology

Implement NFC intelligent connection debugging:

An embedded system with a microcontroller can test internal logic circuits and connected peripherals, update self-test reports on the smartphone via NFC, and issue test commands on the phone to further analyze internal system problems.

NFC is a very economical, noise-free communication solution that is compact enough to be easily integrated into small systems.

Most people today have smartphones. Users can use the Android mobile app test system to view preliminary test information on the screen, including the type of error. For a better understanding, the following is an example of a pedometer system. The figure below is a block diagram of the pedometer system:


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Figure 3: Wearable pedometer system block diagram

The wearable pedometer uses the STM32L series of microcontrollers. The STM32L reduces application power consumption and provides the right processing power. With on-chip peripheral interfaces such as SPI, I2C and ADC, it is ideal for designing low-cost, low-power solutions.

The dynamic NFC/RFID tag chip M24SR64-Y accepts read and write commands sent by the 13.56 MHz RFID reader or NFC phone via the I2C interface, helping to establish a low-cost RF communication connection between the pedometer and the handset, with built-in EEPROM memory. Used to save system status and other related information.


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Figure 4: Wearable pedometer and PCB board

In order to use the system troubleshooting function without opening the system, we have developed an Android mobile app that can communicate with the system without physical contact. Dynamic NFC/RFID tag ICs can communicate with RFID readers even without the need for a power source. Check the health of the system, establish a communication connection, and bring the phone closer to the pedometer.

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Figure 5: NFC-based troubleshooting system


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Figure 6; mobile phone screen display system status
There is an interrupt pin on the dynamic NFC / RFID tag IC. When the NFC signal is detected, the interrupt pin sends an interrupt signal to the main controller to wake up the system. By using the interrupt function, the system can run the configured tasks, check the health of the system, and write health status data in the NFC tag. Then, the system status information in the NFC tag is read by the mobile phone, and the system is displayed on the screen. Status, for example, a "System OK" message pops up on the screen to indicate that the system is fully functional. Otherwise, a "system failure" pops up and the fault area is indicated.

in conclusion:

System intelligent connectivity provides users with many Benefits , from product manufacturing to after-sales lifecycle, helping to reduce overall product cost. In the current smart connection technology, NFC technology is economical, and the power and space requirements are very low. Whether it is a small-sized product or a large-sized home appliance, NFC is a good choice for wireless communication.

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