Category Archives: RDM630

Book – “Arduino Workshop – A Hands-On Introduction with 65 Projects”

Over the last few years I’ve been writing a few Arduino tutorials, and during this time many people have mentioned that I should write a book. And now thanks to the team from No Starch Press this recommendation has morphed into my new book – “Arduino Workshop“:


Although there are seemingly endless Arduino tutorials and articles on the Internet, Arduino Workshop offers a nicely edited and curated path for the beginner to learn from and have fun. It’s a hands-on introduction to Arduino with 65 projects – from simple LED use right through to RFID, Internet connection, working with cellular communications, and much more.

Each project is explained in detail, explaining how the hardware an Arduino code works together. The reader doesn’t need any expensive tools or workspaces, and all the parts used are available from almost any electronics retailer. Furthermore all of the projects can be finished without soldering, so it’s safe for readers of all ages.

The editing team and myself have worked hard to make the book perfect for those without any electronics or Arduino experience at all, and it makes a great gift for someone to get them started. After working through the 65 projects the reader will have gained enough knowledge and confidence to create many things – and to continue researching on their own. Or if you’ve been enjoying the results of my thousands of hours of work here at tronixstuff, you can show your appreciation by ordering a copy for yourself or as a gift 🙂

You can review the table of contents, index and download a sample chapter from the Arduino Workshop website.

Arduino Workshop is available from No Starch Press in printed or ebook (PDF, Mobi, and ePub) formats. Ebooks are also included with the printed orders so you can get started immediately.


In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Project – Simple RFID access system

In this tutorial you can make an RFID access system. It’s very simple and can be used with a wide variety of end-uses.

Updated 18/03/2013

The purpose of this project is to prototype a basic RFID access system. Although it is not that complicated, this article is my response to a kit reviewed in the Australian “Silicon Chip” (November 2010) electronics magazine. Their article describes the kit in detail – operation, schematic, use and installation. However the code for the microcontroller (PIC16F628A)  is not published due to the kit manufacturer holding copyright over the design.

This is a shame, as many organisations have been quite successful selling open-source kits. So instead of moaning about it, I have created my own design that matches the operation of the original, instead using the ATmega328 MCU with Arduino bootloader. Consider this a basic framework that you can modify for your own access system, or the start of something more involved.


There are pros and cons with the original vs. my version. The biggest pro is that you can buy the whole kit for around Au$40 including a nice PCB, solder it together, and it works. However if you want to do it yourself, you can modify it to no end, and have some fun learning and experimenting along the way. So let’s go!

The feature requirements are few. The system must be able to learn and remember up to eight RFID access tags/cards, etc – which must be able to be altered by a non-technical user. Upon reading a card, the system will activate a relay for a period of time (say 1 second) to allow operation of a door strike or electric lock. Finally, the RFID tag serial numbers are to be stored in an EEPROM in case of a power outage. When a tag is read, a matching LED (1~8) will show which tag was read. There are also two LEDs, called “Go” and “Stop” which show the activation status. The original kit has some more LEDs, which I have made superfluous by blinking existing LEDs.

This is a simple thing to make, and the transition from a solderless breadboard to strip board will be easy for those who decide to make a permanent example. But for now, you can follow with the prototype. First is the parts list:

  • Atmel ATmega328 with Arduino bootloader;
  • 16 MHz resonator (X1 in schematic);
  • ten LEDs of your choice;
  • two normally-open push buttons;
  • two 560 ohm resistors (all resistors 1/4 watt);
  • one 1k ohm resistor;
  • three 10k ohm resistors;
  • one BC548 transistor;
  • three 0.01 uF monolithic capacitors;
  • one 100 uF electrolytic capacitor;
  • one 1N4004 diode;
  • Microchip 24LC256 EEPROM;
  • 125 kHZ RFID module;
  • 125 kHz RFID tags/cards;
  • connecting wire;
  • large solderless breadboard;
  • LM7805 power regulator;
  • relay of your choice with 5V coil (example).

When selecting a relay, make sure it can handle the required load current and voltage – and that the coil current is less than 100mA.

If attempting to switch mains voltage/current – contact a licensed electrician. Your life is worth more than the money saved by not consulting an expert.

And here is the schematic (large version):


Here is the prototype on the solderless breadboard. For demonstration purposes an LED has been substituted for the transistor/relay section of the circuit, the power regulator circuitry has not been shown, and there are superfluous 4.7k resistors on the I2C bus. To program the software (Arduino sketch) the easiest way is by inserting the target IC into an Arduino-compatible board, or via a 5V FTDI cable and a basic circuit as described here.


The Arduino sketch is also quite simple. The main loop calls the procedure readTags() to process any RFID tag read attempts, and then monitors button A – if pressed, the function learnTags() is called to allow memorisation of new RFID tags. Each tag serial number consists of 14 decimal numbers, and these are stored in the EEPROM sequentially. That is, the first tag’s serial number occupies memory positions 0~13, the second tag’s serial number occupies memory position 14~28, and so on. Two functions are used to read and write tag serial numbers to the EEPROM – readEEPROMtag() and writeEEPROMtag().

The EEPROM is controlled via the I2C bus. For a tutorial about Arduino, I2C bus and the EEPROM please read this article. For a tutorial about Arduino and RFID, please read this article. The rest of the sketch is pretty self-explanatory. Just follow it along and you can see how it works. You can download the sketch from hereAnd finally, a quick video demonstration:

So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed reading about this small project and perhaps gained some use for it of your own or sparked some other ideas in your imagination that you can turn into reality.

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Moving Forward with Arduino – Chapter 15 – RFID Introduction

Learn how to use RFID readers with your Arduino. In this instalment we use an RDM630 or RDM6300 RFID reader. If you have an Innovations ID-12 or ID-20 RFID reader, we have a different tutorial.

This is part of a series originally titled “Getting Started with Arduino!” by John Boxall – A tutorial on the Arduino universe. The first chapter is here, the complete series is detailed here.

Updated 21/02/2013

RFID – radio frequency identification. Some of us have already used these things, and they have become part of everyday life. For example, with electronic vehicle tolling, door access control, public transport fare systems and so on. It sounds complex – but isn’t.

To explain RFID for the layperson, we can use a key and lock analogy. Instead of the key having a unique pattern, RFID keys hold a series of unique numbers which are read by the lock. It is up to our software (sketch) to determine what happens when the number is read by the lock.  The key is the tag, card or other small device we carry around or have in our vehicles. We will be using a passive key, which is an integrated circuit and a small aerial. This uses power from a magnetic field associated with the lock. Here are some key or tag examples:

In this tutorial we’ll be using 125 kHz tags – for example. To continue with the analogy our lock is a small circuit board and a loop aerial. This has the capability to read the data on the IC of our key, and some locks can even write data to keys. Here is our reader (lock) example:


As you can see from the 5mm graph paper, the circuitry is quite small, and the loop is somewhat fragile. For installation and use, it would be wise to mount the loop aerial inside something strong and protective.

Our use for the RFID equipment is to have our sketch make a decision based on the unique tag number. For example, it could be used as a switch to turn on and off something, perhaps an alarm system or a computer. It could control an electric door strike (lock), or activate a series of lights to one’s personal preference. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. I hope that with your existing knowledge you can implement this RFID equipment into your next prototype or product.

First of all, let’s do a basic test – what happens when we read a tag?  To do this we need to connect our reader to the Arduino or compatible board, and see what comes out when we read a card. The connections are quite simple:



Note that all the GND pins are connected together. Now upload the following sketch:

You may need to remove the wire from the RFID reader to Arduino before uploading the sketch, then replacing it after the upload. From the reader data sheet.pdf (our version is the TTL model), the reader sends out serial data from the TX pin at 9600 bps. We will read that data using the serial input (digital pin zero on the board) and display it on the serial monitor box to see what it looks like. The LED activates (rather dimly) when reading is taking place. Here is the sketch to use.

Once the sketch has been uploaded, open your serial monitor box, and wave a tag over the antenna. You should have a reading similar to the video below, however your tag number will be different.

Excellent – simple numbers that we can work with. For example, one of my tags returns: 2,51,69,48,48,49,65,51,53,70,50,69,51,3 and another returns 2,51,67,48,48,67,69,49,48,68,53,51,55,3. Note that both start with 2 and end with 3, so the unique tag details are the 12 integers between the 2 and 3. One could read the data as characters or hexadecimal numbers by altering the data type in the sketch from int to byte, but for simplicity I am working in integers. Now all we need to do is fashion sketches to recognise the tag number(s) we want to use, and perform an action based on which tag number is used (or do something when a tag is read, but not the tag you want).

In the following example, (download) the sketch reads the 14 integers returned from the card reader when a tag is swiped. These integers are placed into a fourteen element array, which is then compared against arrays holding the numbers my “allowed” tags. If an allowed tag is read, the green LED comes on, if a disallowed tag is read, the red LED comes on. Of course you could have the digital outputs controlling other things using a switching transistor or a relay. Below is the schematic:


And a short video in action:

Excellent – now we are getting close to something useful. The example above could make a simple door control, or an over-engineered cookie jar.

Now for some more practical uses of RFID and Arduino. In the past we have worked with real time in many chapters, and also have stored data using a microSD card shield

We will build on our previous example by adding time and date logging for all accesses to the system, successful or not. This could be used again for door access, payroll calculations as a modern-day punch-clock, or even a simple logging device to see what time the children arrive home when you aren’t around to check. So we will need a microSD shield, and some sort of DS1307 breakout board or shield.

When using more than one shield together, be mindful of the pins you will need to use. For example, my DS1307 shield uses analogue 4 and 5 (for I2C interface), and the microSD shield uses digital 10 to 13.

The sketch for this example is quite simple – the good thing about programming for Arduino is that just like the hardware shields, sketch procedures and functions can be very modular and reused quite easily. If you are unsure about the microSD shield, please read my instructional review. Most of the code can be copied from that microSD shield article’s demonstration sketch, which I have done for this example. The sketch writes the time, date, tag number, and read status (accepted/rejected).

However there is one caveat when using the microSD shield – the file needs to be closed before the card can be removed for examination. In practical use, our RFID system would be usually on most of the time, so a method will needed to activate the card write function. This has been implemented with a function bossMode() that is called when a certain tag is read – one may call this the supervisor’s card. Once this particular tag is read, the file is annotated as closed, reading stops, and the LEDs blink alternately when it is safe to remove the card. A simple reset after the card is reinserted will start the reading again.

Here is the sketch. The schematic is the same as Example 15.2, with a few simple additions – the use of the microSD card shield, and the DS1307 real time clock shield. If you are using a DS1307 breakout board wired in separately, please use the following schematic as a guide:


Now here is a short video clip, with the addition of the ‘boss mode’ shutdown sequence:

And finally, here is an example of the text file that was produced from a recent test run:


As you can see, it is easy to reproduce expensive time-keeping systems with our own equipment and some time. We have some RFID projects in … the project section.


Have fun and keep checking into Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column, or join our Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.