Login| Sign Up| Help| Contact|

Patent Searching and Data


Title:
NEAR FIELD COMMUNICATION RING
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2018/020055
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A near field communication ring that can be read by nearby NFC-enabled devices. The ring comprises an annular shell and a near field communication transponder mounted on the annular shell. The near field communication transponder has a coil antenna that has a plurality of turns that each extend around the entire circumference of the annular shell. The rings has various potential applications including, for example, contactless payment, ticketing on mass transit systems, operation of NFC door locks or other access systems, identity authentication, venue or event entry/ticketing and the sharing of information with NFC-enabled smartphones.

Inventors:
CAMPBELL, Phil (London Greater London W1H 1DP, W1H 1DP, GB)
Application Number:
EP2017/069355
Publication Date:
February 01, 2018
Filing Date:
July 31, 2017
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
FIFTH DIMENSION DIGITAL LTD (78 York Street, London Greater London W1H 1DP, W1H 1DP, GB)
International Classes:
A44C9/00; G06K19/04; G06K19/07; G06K19/077; G06Q20/32; G07C9/00; H01Q1/22; H04B5/00; H04W4/00
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CARTER, Stephen et al. (Mewburn Ellis LLP, City Tower40 Basinghall Street, London Greater London EC2V 5DE, EC2V 5DE, GB)
Download PDF:
Claims:
Claims

1. A ring for wearing on a user's finger, the ring comprising:

an annular shell; and

a near field communication transponder mounted on the annular shell;

the near field communication transponder having a coil antenna that has a plurality of turns that each extend around the entire circumference of the annular shell.

2. A ring according to claim 1 , wherein the coil antenna includes at least 5 turns.

3. A ring according to claim 2, wherein the coil antenna includes at least 8 turns.

4. A ring according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the turns of the coil antenna are spaced from one another across the width of the ring.

5. A ring according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein a surface of the annular shell has an annular recess extending around its entire circumference, the coil antenna being mounted in the recess.

6. A ring according to claim 5, wherein the recess is in a centre portion of the annular shell and edge portions of the annular shell extend radially inwards or outwards either side of the recess.

7. A ring according to any one of the preceding claims, further comprising an annular cover, wherein the near field communication transponder is encapsulated between the annular shell and the annular cover.

8. A ring according to claim 7, wherein the annular cover is a resin seal.

9. A ring according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the annular shell is formed from a ceramic.

10. A ring according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the coil antenna is a wound metal wire coil.

1 1 . A ring according to any one of claims 1 to 9, wherein the coil antenna is formed by a conductive track carried on a flexible substrate.

12. A ring according to claim 1 1 , wherein the near field communication transponder comprises an NFC chip and the NFC chip is also carried on the flexible substrate.

13. A ring according to any one of claims 1 to 9, wherein the coil antenna is directly applied to the inner surface of the annular shell.

14. A ring according to claim 13, wherein the coil antenna is directly applied to the inner surface of the annular shell by electroplating.

15. A ring according to claim 13, wherein the coil antenna is directly applied to the inner surface of the annular shell by laser direct structuring.

16. A ring according to any one of claims 1 1 to 15, wherein the coil antenna includes a series of parallel track sections that extend circumferentially around the annular shell, with a tail end of one track section being joined to the leading end of an adjacent track section by a track step section that extends in a width direction across the annular shell.

17. A method of manufacturing a wearable ring according to claim 1 , the method comprising:

providing an annular shell;

mounting a near field communication transponder within the shell, so that a coil antenna of the transponder extends all of the way around the inner circumference of the shell; and

applying a cover over the transponder to encapsulate the transponder between the annular shell and the cover.

18. A method according to claim 17, wherein the near field communication transponder comprises a flexible substrate on which the coil antenna is formed, the step of mounting the transponder in the shell comprising positioning the flexible substrate within the annular shell.

19. A method according to claim 17, wherein the step of mounting the transponder in the shell comprises directly forming the coil antenna on the inner surface of the shell.

20. A method according to any one of claims 17 to 19, wherein the annular shell is ceramic.

21 . A method according to any one of claims 17 to 20, wherein the cover is a resin seal and the step of applying the cover comprises applying the resin seal in liquid form over the transponder after the transponder is mounted within the annular shell and curing the resin seal to solidify it.

Description:
Near Field Communication Ring

Field of Invention

This invention relates to near field communication (NFC) rings that can be read by nearby NFC-enabled devices. Rings in accordance with the embodiments of the present invention have various potential applications including contactless payment, ticketing on mass transit systems, operation of NFC door locks or other access systems, identity authentication, venue or event entry/ticketing and the sharing of information with NFC-enabled smartphones for example. The ring may be a ring for a user to wear on their finger. Alternatively, the ring may be sized to wear around e.g. the user's wrist (as a bracelet).

Background

Near field communication (NFC) can be used for one- and two-way communication between two devices when held in close proximity to one another (typically within about 4cm of one another). The standards defining NFC communications protocols are well known to the skilled person.

Contactless smartcards using NFC or other short range RFID protocols have been in use for many years for applications including building access systems and, particularly over the last decade, for contactless ticketing on mass transit systems (e.g. London Transport's 'Oyster' card) and contactless payment (e.g. "MasterCard Contactless"). More recently, there has been a growing trend to use NFC-enabled smartphones in place of smartcards, especially for contactless payments.

Other alternatives to smartcards have also been proposed in recent times, for example using passive/unpowered NFC chips embedded in key fobs, tags, wristbands, rings and labels/stickers.

US 2015/0042450 (McLear) describes one example of a wearable NFC device, specifically a ring. The ring can be used to communicate with NFC-enabled devices, such as digital door locks (to unlock the door) and smartphones/tablets (e.g. to transfer data from the ring to the smartphone or tablet).

Summary of Invention

In general terms, the present invention proposes a near field communication (NFC) ring that can be worn by a user and can communicate with other NFC-enabled devices, for example to transact a payment, provide identification, unlock a door or transfer data. In particular, the invention proposes to use an NFC transponder that has a coil antenna with several turns that are wound on the inside of the ring and extend the whole way around the inner circumference of the ring. This form of antenna can provide improved coupling with other NFC-enabled devices compared with more conventional planar or curved NFC antennas.

In a first aspect, the invention provides a ring for wearing on a user's finger, the ring comprising an annular shell and a near field communication transponder mounted on the annular shell, wherein the near field communication transponder includes a coil antenna that has a plurality of turns that each extend around the entire circumference of the annular shell.

Typically, the near field communication transponder will be mounted within the annular shell and the turns of the coil antenna will extend around the inner circumference of the annular shell. Alternatively, however, the transponder could be mounted on the outside of the shell and the coils could extend around the outside of the annular shell, or components of the transponder could be mounted both within and on the outside of the annular shell.

In some embodiments, the coil antenna includes at least 5 turns, at least 8 turns or at least 10 turns, or more. The antenna can be approximately tuned by using an appropriate number of turns, based on the required diameter, with appropriate spacing between the turns. Fine tuning can be achieved using one or more capacitors in the transponder circuit.

In some embodiments the turns of the coil antenna are spaced from one another across the width of the ring. This provides a 'solenoid'-type antenna. In some embodiments, the turns are all equally spaced from one another. As noted above, the spacing between the turns can be selected to assist in tuning the antenna.

In some embodiments of the ring, a central portion of the inner surface of the annular shell is recessed (with respect to the edges of the ring) to form an annular channel within which the coil antenna can sit. This helps to accurately locate the coil antenna and also makes it easier to secure the antenna in place. In some embodiments the channel is symmetrical across the width of the ring, which means that the ring will perform equally well whichever way round it is worn.

In some embodiments, the NFC transponder, including the coil antenna, is secured in place and sealed from the surrounding environment (at least in a water-resistant or waterproof manner) by an annular cover (e.g. an inner, annular cover in the case where the coil antenna is within the shell), which may be a resin seal. Encapsulating the components of the NFC transponder in this way can help protect the components from dirt, damage and tampering, as well as water. This encapsulation between the inner cover (e.g. resin seal) and annular shell can be particularly effective in the case where the shell has an annular recess as discussed above so that the NFC transponder (and especially the antenna) are

encapsulated within the recess.

The resin is preferably selected to have an inert nature, to be attractive to look at and scratch resistant. In some embodiments the resin is safe for food use and/or use in children's products. The resin is preferably non-toxic (when correctly mixed and fully cured) and will not cause a reaction on skin. One example of a suitable resin that can be used is a two component resin including the resin itself (e.g. a Bisphenol-A based epoxy, containing Polyglycidyl Ether) and a hardener (e.g. including a Cycloaliphatic Polyamine). The base form of the resin may be transparent. In some embodiments, a colourant is added to the resin mix to colour the resin with a desired level of opacity. The resin may be one that is specifically intended for use in jewellery and the decorative arts industries to mimic glass enamel. Typically such resins are very hard and have a distinctive vitreous nature, providing vivid and deep colours in the hardened material (and deliberately does not resemble plastic). Key attributes of resins (or other materials used for the annular cover) in some embodiments of the invention are one or more of: hardness, scratch-resistance, inertness, non-toxicity, attractiveness, colour/opacity flexibility and water-resistance.

In some embodiments, the annular shell is a ceramic, for example a Zirconia ceramic (Zr02). Other potentially suitable materials for the annular shell include: wood, plastic, glass, carbon fibre and solid resin. In some embodiments it may also be possible to use a suitably configured metal shell. Key attributes of the shell, in embodiments of the invention, typically include one or more of: high permeability to electromagnetic fields; low-conductivity; scratch- resistance; rigidity; hardness; water-resistance; and attractiveness.

The coil antenna can take any of a number of appropriate forms. It may, for example, be a wound metal (e.g. copper) wire coil. This type of antenna is inexpensive and simple but could lead to assembly problems.

A more preferable form of antenna is to form the coil antenna as a continuous conductive track carried on a flexible substrate (e.g. as a flexible PCB). The conductive track of the antenna could, for example, be printed or etched onto the substrate in a known manner. Taking this approach, the other components of the NFC transponder (including the NFC chip) can also be mounted on the flexible substrate. The flexible substrate, carrying the antenna and NFC chip, can have a cylindrical (i.e. ring shape) form of an appropriate diameter, so that it can easily be located within the annular shell of the ring. Especially in the case where the shell has an annular recess to locate the flexible substrate carrying the antenna, the flexibility of the substrate means that it can be flexed inwards past the lips of the recess and will then flex back into shape to retain itself within the recess even before the resin seal (or other cover) is applied.

Another possibility is to form the coil antenna directly on the inner surface of the annular shell. Any of several suitable forming processes may be employed, for example

electroplating or laser direct structuring.

In some embodiments, the antenna is designed to be manufactured in a flat state and then rolled and ends of track sections on the flexible substrate connected together to form a continuous coil. In order to achieve this, a preferred form of the coil antenna includes a series of parallel track sections that extend circumferentially around the annular shell, with a tail end of one track section being joined to the leading end of an adjacent track section by a track step section that extends in a width direction across the annular shell. This track layout simplifies assembly of the antenna and enables better precision in the finished antenna as the tracks can easily be aligned when the flexible substrate is rolled into a cylinder. The same track layout can be used when forming the coil antenna directly on the surface of the annular shell.

In a second aspect, the invention provides a method of manufacturing a wearable ring, the method comprising:

providing an annular shell;

mounting a near field communication transponder on the shell, so that a coil antenna of the transponder extends all of the way around the circumference of the shell; and

applying a cover over the transponder to encapsulate the transponder between the annular shell and the cover.

Rings manufactured in accordance with embodiments of this method may have one or any combination of two or more of the features discussed above in the context of the ring of the first aspect of the invention.

For example, the near field communication transponder may comprise a flexible substrate on which the coil antenna is formed, the step of mounting the transponder in the shell comprising positioning the flexible substrate within the annular shell. Alternatively the step of mounting the transponder in the shell may comprise directly forming the coil antenna on the inner surface of the shell.

As noted above in the discussion of the first aspect of the invention, the annular shell may be ceramic and the cover may be a resin seal. The resin seal may be applied in liquid form over the transponder after the transponder is mounted within the annular shell and then cured to solidify it. Preferably the resin is cold-processed to avoid heat damage to the components of the NFC transponder, especially the NFC chip.

Brief description of drawings

An embodiment of the invention is described below, by way of example, with reference to the accompanying figures, in which:

Fig. 1 shows an exterior view of a contactless payment ring in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

Fig. 2 shows an outer shell component of the ring of fig. 1 in a pre-machining state (1 ) and in a post-machining state (2);

Fig. 3 shows a dimensioned cross section of the shell component of the ring of fig. 1 ;

Figs. 4(a), (b) and (c) show three alternative forms of coil antenna that could be used with rings in accordance with embodiments of the present invention; and

Fig. 5 illustrates the manner in which the contactless payment ring of fig. 1 can be used to complete a transaction.

Detailed description

The invention is exemplified in the following discussion with reference to a contactless payment ring. It will be appreciated, however, the rings in accordance with embodiments of the invention can be used for other near field communication (NFC) applications, such as ticketing on mass transit systems, operation of NFC door locks or other access systems (e.g. automotive entry systems such as for car doors), identity authentication, event/venue ticketing and the sharing of information with NFC-enabled smartphones for example. Referring to fig. 1 , the contactless payment ring includes an outer shell, which in this example is formed from a Zirconia ceramic, and an inner, shaped resin seal. An NFC transponder (not visible in fig. 1 ) is encapsulated between the outer shell and the resin seal.

As best seen in fig. 2, the outer shell is ring-shape and has a recess or annular channel extending circumferentially around its inner surface defined between lips at opposite edges of the ring. This recess / annular channel is configured to receive the NFC transponder, as discussed further below.

Fig. 3 shows a cross-section through the outer shell. The recess/channel and the lips at either side of the recess/channel can be clearly seen. The shaded area depicts the ceramic body of the outer shell. The dimensions on this figure are in mm. Rings can be offered in a number of different sizes without changing the cross-sectional dimensions; only the ring diameter need change.

The main components of the NFC transponder are an NFC chip and an antenna. In accordance with the present invention, the antenna is a coil (or solenoid) form antenna with multiple turns that extend around the entire internal circumference of the ring. Opposite ends of the coil antenna are connected to the chip.

One exemplary transponder construction is illustrated in fig. 4(a). The transponder shown in this figure is formed as a flexible PCB. The turns of the coil antenna are printed or etched onto a flexible substrate in a known manner, with opposite ends of the coil being connected to the chip (see in the 'front' view).

The flexible substrate is itself formed as a cylinder, having a diameter that closely corresponds to the inner diameter of the outer shell of the ring so that it can be assembled into the recess/channel on the inside of the outer shell. Preferably the flexible substrate is pre-formed as a cylinder and the antenna track and other components of the NFC transponder are applied to the cylindrical substrate. Alternatively, the antenna track and other components of the transponder could be applied to the substrate in a flat state and the substrate could subsequently be rolled to form the cylinder, whilst ensuring that the sections of track on the substrate are appropriately aligned and joined to one another to create the continuous coil of the antenna. Especially in the latter case, the coil antenna can include a series of parallel track sections that extend circumferentially around the annular shell, with a tail end of one track section being joined to the leading end of an adjacent track section by a track step section that extends in a width direction across the annular shell (as seen in fig. 4(a)). This makes it easier to precisely align and join the track sections when the flexible substrate is rolled into a cylinder.

Once the flexible substrate, having the antenna formed thereon and NFC chip mounted thereon, has been seated in the recess/channel of the outer shell, the resin seal can be applied over the top to encapsulate the flexible substrate, thus protecting the components of the NFC transponder from water, dirt, damage and tampering.

Figs. 4(b) and 4(c) illustrate alternative approaches to forming the coil antenna. Specifically, fig. 4(b) illustrates a simple copper wire coil. Whilst this form of coil is simple and

inexpensive, it is likely to result in a bulkier ring.

Fig. 4(c) illustrates an approach in which the coil antenna is fabricated directly on the inner surface of the outer shell. The track of the antenna may, for example, be laid down on the inner surface of the shell by electroplating to selectively metalise the surface of the shell, with a laser being used, if necessary, to remove unwanted metal material. Another approach is to use laser direct structuring to metalise specific areas of a reactive plastic on the inner surface of the shell.

By using a coil antenna wound in the manner proposed here, the contactless payment ring can be optimally coupled to an NFC-reader (e.g. a regular contactless payment card reader) when the axis of the ring is perpendicular to the surface of the reader. This orientation is best achieved, as shown in fig. 5, by the person wearing the ring uses a knocking-type action.

The contactless payment ring described above is one exemplary implementation of a ring in accordance with an embodiment of the invention. The skilled person will appreciate that many modifications can be made to the specifically described features within the scope of the present invention. For example, in other embodiments the ring may be large in diameter so that it can be worn as a bracelet rather than a finger ring.