Communications and Network, 2013, 5, 39-43
doi:10.4236/cn.2013.51B010 Published Online February 2013 (
The Implementation of Electronic Intelligent Tag System
Based on Wireless Sensor Network
Kai Yu, Zhijun Xie, Jiangbo Qian, Guang Jin
College of Information Science and Engineering, Ningbo University, Ningbo, China
Received 2012
Recently, Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) has been widely applied in many fields. In this paper, we design and im-
plement a WSN-based Electronic Intelligent Tag System (EITS) to provide intelligent management of the modern su-
permarkets. As a main transceiver, nRF24L01+ wireless module is used in this system, which will make it possible to
achieve low-power and low-cost for EITS. This system fully embodies the advantages and characteristics of WSN. This
paper will introduce the system architecture, hardware structure and software design in details; and put forward a spe-
cific solution. Finally, we achieve the intelligent management of the mall based on wireless sensor network technology.
Keywords: Wireless Sensor Network; Electronic Intelligent Tag System; Architecture
1. Introduction
Electronic Intelligent Tag System (EITS) is a very typi-
cal application of the Internet of Things (IOT) [1] in the
business world. Electronic Intelligent Tag (EIT) is an
electronic display device, which is placed on the shelf
and can replace the traditional paper price tag [2]. Si-
multaneously, it can process Real-time monitoring of
environment factors such as temperature, light. The solu-
tion of EITS can not only provide enterprises with fre-
quent and effective promotional activities, but also pro-
vide more management and optimize the performance of
the commodity information, as well as other suppliers.
Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) is listed as the most
influential technology in the 21st century and one of ten
technologies to change the world [3]. WSN has broad
application prospects, such as smart home, industrial
automation, medical maintenance, et al, leading the de-
velopment of emerging short-range wireless communica-
tion technology [4].
Currently, EITS is beginning to spring up. Several
well-known supermarkets have started to use the system
in the United States [5]. The system uses RS485 wired
communication, however, which has many defects such
as its complex to wire, difficult to move, limited of
communication distance et al. This article will take full
advantage of the WSN, low-power, low-cost, flexible
cloth mesh, to design an Electronic Intelligent Tag Sys-
tem of a large-scale distribution network.
2. System Overall Architecture
WSN is a short-distance wireless communication net-
work with a great advantage of cost and power consump-
tion. Especially, its flexible networking techno logy is the
basis of the communication of EITS [6]. From the intro-
duction of wireless sensor n etwork technology, we know
that EITS can monitor the warehouse and undertake
wireless transmission of the temperature, humidity and
sunshine about the warehouse or shelves. It could ensure
that goods are in a suitable environment. Furthermore,
the system can achieve real-time, accuracy and secure
data transmission. Updating commodity prices in time
will improve the efficiency of the shopping centers in
various promotional activities.
The architecture of EITS based on WSN is shown in
Figure 1. The architecture consists of seven parts: Sink,
Area Controller, EIT, Handheld Instrument, Server, Data
Management Platform and Point of Sale (POS) terminals.
Sink, which is also called gateway, is responsible for
receiving and sending commands and tag information. It
uplinks with the Server for d ata exchange, and it
Figure 1. Architecture of Electronic Intelligent Tag System
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. CN
downlinks with Area Controllers for information com-
munication. Area Controllers, located in th e middle layer
of the Sink and EITs, store and transmit regional data.
EIT is a terminal device of environment sensing and in-
formation displays. The environment information relates
to temperature and humidity, sunshine, Carbon dioxide.
Its display contents in clude product name, price (original
price, member price and promotional price), date of
manufacture, et al. On the one hand, Handheld Instru-
ment’s function is to modify the product information of
EITs; on the other hand, it can easily get the sensing in-
formation immediately. Server runs a variety of plat-
forms and its main job is to process remote configuration
and management of EITS. Finally, Data Management
Platform can remotely control and manage the super-
3. Hardware Architecture
The core hardware architecture of EITS includes EIT,
Area Controller, Sink and Handheld Instrument. All of
them will be described in the following.
3.1. Electronic Intelligent Tag
Electronic Intelligent Tag (EIT) locates in the bottom
layer of EITS. It could sense the environmental informa-
tion and disp lay commodity-related information. EIT can
be divided into Electronic Sensor Tag (EST), Electronic
Price Tag (EPT), as well as Electronic Mixed Tag (EMT).
The structure of the three tags is basically the same, the
main difference of which is that whether it has Sensor
Module and LCD Modu le or not. The structu re of EIT is
shown in Figure 2. The Sensor Module integrating vari-
ous sensors, such as temperature, humidity, pressure,
light, et al, is used to collect local environmental infor-
mation. The LCD Module mainly displays price-related
information of commodities, as well as local sensing in-
formation. Wake-Up [7] Module triggers the processor
external interrupt to wake up the sleeping EIT. In order
to improve the mobility of EIT, the EIT uses the battery
power supply.
The Transceiver Module of EIT adopts low-cost and
good performance nRF24L01+ [8] chip produced by
Nordic company. The nRF24L01+ is a single chip 2.4
GHz transceiver with an embedded baseband protocol
engine, suitable for ultra-low power wireless applications.
Figure 2. The structure of Electronic Intelligent Tag (EIT).
It has up to 126 RF channels to choose. We can operate
and configure the nRF24L01+ through a Serial Periph-
eral Interface (SPI). The chip also has the feature of
automatic acknowledgment and automatic retransmission.
As a result, low current consumption is the main feature
of the chip, 26µA in Standby-I Module, even 900nA in
Power down Module [9].
The EIT will take the 16-bit ultra-low power micro-
controller MSP430 as the Processor Module. Further
more, we choose MSP430F4132 [10] microcontroller
here. Its current consumption has reached µA level. Be-
nefiting from its 16-bit CPU and efficient RSIC instruc-
tion system, the processor can achieve 125ns instruction
cycle at 8MHz. MSP430F4132 possesses SPI Module,
communicating with nRF24L01+, and temperature sen-
sor, directly sensing ambient temperature. The most im-
portant characteristic is its LCD driving controller that
can directly drive LCD displays by creating the ac seg-
ment and common voltage signals automatically.
The EIT should own energy conservation so that bat-
tery in tag can work for a desirable time, and the energy
conservation algorithm should also be considered [11].
The EIT works on sleeping mode and wake-up mode
periodically. It can change the operating mode automati-
cally according to the strength of the received RF signal.
Detecting the remaining voltage of battery is another
function of the EIT [12]. When their voltage is below a
certain threshold, the tags will automatically enter pow-
er-down mode, and send feedback information to the
3.2. Area Controller
The structure of Area Controller, shown in Figure 3,
consists of Processor Module, Wireless Communication
Module and Power Supply Module. Processor Module
uses 32-bit standard RISC processor based on the
ARMv7-M, providing high density performance line and
efficient code efficiency [13]. Here, this system will se-
lect STM32F103VET6 [14], built-in to up to 512 K bytes
of Flash memory and 64K of SRAM, operating on
72MHz frequency. The processor has a wealth of periph-
eral resources. For example, three transceivers could be
Figure 3. The structure of area controller.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. CN
K. YU ET AL. 41
controlled by its three SPI interfaces respectively. Fur-
thermore, the CPU can also be embedded operating sys-
tem µC/OS-II, to provide efficient management and
scheduling. For compatibility with the network commu-
nication protocol of EITS, Wireless Communication
Module still uses the nRF24L01+ RF chip in receive
mode, transmit mode and transceiver mode respectively.
While, in order to achieve large-scale distribution net-
works, the front-end of Tr ansceiver Module adds a power
amplifier to improve communications transmission ca-
pacity. Area Controller can be powered over Ethernet or
AC power.
3.3. Sink
The structure of Sink is shown in Figure 4. To reduce
the cost of research and development, structure of Sink is
similar with Area Controller. In other words, it is a
scaled-down version of Area Controller. Processing and
memory unit uses STM32F103VET6 based on the Cor-
tex-M3 core. The communication unit uses nRF24L01+
and Power Amplifier as transceiver. Asynchronous
communication between Sink and the Server can be im-
plemented through RS232, RS485 or Ethernet.
3.4. Handheld Instrument
Handheld Instrument is a smart hand-held device, which
can be used to extract the data of EIT as well as modify
the display information of merchandise. The Handheld
Instrument can not only wake up the electronic price tag
and modify data, but also access the sensor date from
sensor tag. With the TFT-LCD display, you can send
operating instructions, check the accuracy of product
information, and observe the feedback information and
data. Power can be sup plied by rechargeable lithium bat-
tery. Figure 5 is the structure of Handheld Instrument.
4. Software Design of the EITS
The system software design consists of two parts: em-
bedded software and visualization management software.
Embedded software is mainly used for collecting data,
sending forwarding d ata, controlling energ y consumption
and monitoring the status of devices. Visualization man-
agement software is operated by managers. They can
Figure 4. The structure of Sink.
control the purchase of goods, adjust commodity prices,
monitor changes of the local environment, and check the
history data in the s up ermarke t s .
4.1. Communication Architecture
EIT, Area Controllers and Sink communicate with each
other in the multi-hop manner, forming the cluster net-
work structure [15]. Server provides the interface for the
underlying communication and application software, and
converts the sending and receiving packets in a standard
format. The system can be divided into five layers,
shown in Figure 6.
The physical layer provides the signal modulation and
wireless transceiver. The data link layer determines the
pattern radio channel used and allocates the limited
wireless communication resources [16]. The network
layer is mainly responsible for routing generation and
routing selection. Unlike traditional wireless communi-
cation routing protocols, protocols of WSN depends on
the specific application. Hence, the system will apply
directed diffusion routing protocol. Processing Layer
plays a role of processing and controlling information.
Moreover, application layer refers to the monitoring and
management software, detailed in next section.
Figure 5. The structure of handheld instrument.
Figure 6. Architecture of software.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. CN
In recent years, due to such features as low cost, ease
of deployment, increased coverage, and enhanced capac-
ity, there are a growing number of new protocols for
WSN. The concept of cross-layer design is based on ar-
chitecture where different layers can exchange informa-
tion in order to improve the overall network performance
[17]. To maximize the lifetime of a wireless sensor net-
work, mobile Sink [18] is a wise choice. In this way, the
sink travels along nodes with few energy or large com-
munication to balance the network for longer life.
4.2. Management Software of EITS
Management software of EITS, that is also called EITSV,
is implemented. EITSV is designed to be an interface
between users and the server. EITSV provides some tools
to simplify deployment and visualization. It also makes it
easy to connect to a database, to display products infor-
mation, and to observe the status of EITs and Area Con-
trollers as well as regional environment information. If
an exception occurs, there will be alert notifications. All
of display information, status information and control
commands will be stored in database.
The structure of EITV, shown in Figure 7, consists of
four parts: EIT View, AREA View, SINK View and
SENSOR View. Merchandise information (name, pro-
duction place, price, et al) and status information (re-
gional environment, operating voltage, devices status, et
al) will show to users through EIT View. EIT, owning
the unique ID, can be identified by the system automati-
cally. Whenever it joins into the network or leaves the
network will be visualized. AREA View and SINK View
are used to monitor operating status and load fluctuation
of SINK and Area Controllers for intelligent manage-
ment. SENSOR View makes the sensing data manage-
ment and analysis more conveniently, which will ensure
that the entire system is in a secure environment.
5. Conclusions
In this article, we take full advantage of wireless sensor
network technology to give a whole solution for Elec-
tronic Intelligent Tag System, providing intelligent man-
agement for supermarkets. The EIT will replace the ex-
isting paper tag to improve the efficiency of the malls.
Figure 7. The structure of EITV.
Sensing information of supermarkets will make super-
markets more secure. This system has been applied in
practical projects. The results show that the system has
high efficiency, low labor costs and good reliability.
Therefore, we should further popularize the EITS to ben-
efit our supermarkets.
In the further work, this system will be extended to the
whole supply chain, forming a supply chain management
system. The commodity, environment, vehicle and re-
lated persons could be managed more efficiently. In brief,
the successful application of EITS will play an important
role in promoting the development of the Internet of
6. Acknowledgements
This work is supported by the Major Scientific & Tech-
nology Specific Programs of Zhejiang Province for key
industrial project (No. 2011C11042), the National Natu-
ral Science Foundation of China (No. 60902097), the
Natural Science Foundation of Zhejiang Province of
China (No. Y1090571), the Natural Science Foundation
of Zhejiang Province (Y12F020065).
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