Food and Liquid Sensing in Practical Environments using RFIDs

Unsoo Ha, Junshan Leng, Alaa Khaddaj and Fadel Adib. Usenix NSDI 2020


We present the design and implementation of RF-EATS, a system that can sense food and liquids in closed containers without opening them or requiring any contact with their contents. RF-EATS uses passive backscatter tags (e.g., RFIDs) placed on a container, and leverages near-field coupling between a tag’s antenna and the container contents to sense them noninvasively. 

In contrast to prior proposals that are invasive or require strict measurement conditions, RF-EATS is noninvasive and does not require any calibration; it can robustly identify contents in practical indoor environments and generalize to unseen environments. These capabilities are made possible by a learning framework that adapts recent advances in variational inference to the RF sensing problem. The framework introduces an RF kernel and incorporates a transfer model that together allow it to
generalize to new contents in a sample-efficient manner, enabling users to extend it to new inference tasks using a small number of measurements. 

We built a prototype of RF-EATS and tested it in seven different applications including identifying fake medicine, adulterated baby formula, and counterfeit beauty products. Our results demonstrate that RF-EATS can achieve over 90% classification accuracy in scenarios where state-of-the-art RFID sensing systems cannot perform better than a random guess.