The value of small form factor RFID readers is not difficult to understand – it is a combination of simplicity, utility and low cost that makes them a popular choice among application developers. Any industry can benefit from being more efficient, yet many are apprehensive to put resources or systems (RFID being an example) in place to make it happen, because of any number of barriers to entry – “it’ll cost too much,” “it’ll be too invasive,” “it’ll be difficult to integrate with our current operations.
ThingMagic’s USB RFID Reader is one answer to these concerns, particularly for users developing and deploying interactive read/write applications. Its small form factor allows users to deploy without affecting existing infrastructure. The reader’s ability to be controlled and powered by a PC means plugging into a USB port is typically all that’s necessary to integrate with existing hardware systems. And, its low cost makes it an easier investment decision. The variety of industries that the ThingMagic USB RFID Reader has made its way into shows this versatility.
Writing information to an RFID tag is easy enough when it involves something as simple as scanning workers’ ID badges into a system, but this becomes significantly more difficult when the tag you need to scan is attached to an enormous airplane part you can’t necessarily just drag over to any old reader. Companies like Honeywell Aerospace have begun applying high-memory RFID tags to various parts they manufacture so that they can be tracked from birth through their eventual use by airlines, and repair if necessary. To write and read information on these tags, which often reside on difficult to reach parts, Honeywell uses simple and portable USB RFID readers provided by ThingMagic that can be easily plugged into a laptop. Using a USB RFID reader to write and read these high-memory tags allows aerospace companies to easily attach information part descriptions, manufacture dates, part numbers, and serial numbers to the equipment being moved around a plant and even to other countries.
Healthcare environments – hospitals, clinics, etc. – depend on accuracy perhaps more than any other industry, as errors could potentially affect not only just business, but individuals’ health and well-being. A recent deployment by XECAN (watch video), a leading provider of smart RFID systems for healthcare, fixes ThingMagic USB readers to the desktop PCs in hospital exam rooms. Doctors can then scan their badge upon greeting a patient and have immediate access to that patient’s profile in the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system.
The time saved by not having to repeatedly enter login credentials for different software applications allows doctors more time to see patients and focus on care, letting the technology handle logistics. The entire process becomes more efficient and accurate, reducing potential errors and, in turn, lowering costs for patients, healthcare providers and insurers. And it involves little more effort from employees than simply touching their IDs to a desktop USB RFID reader. Download XECAN Case Study
These types of readers are just as often applied in fast-paced, often outdoor environments as part of athletic deployments, and can be used to easily replace the guesswork involved in athletic competition with structure and automation for accuracy.
When you consider the logistics of racing sports, for instance, it’s obviously important to have accurate time recording measures in place for properly determining winners and statistics. What’s often neglected, however, (and which we’ve blogged in the past) is the need to monitor for fair play – a lesson Rosie Ruiz taught us all the hard way in 1980 when she became the “fastest” female runner in the history of the Boston Marathon (until investigators discovered she’d skipped most of the race).
To protect the integrity of racing sports, companies like RFID Timing deploy RFID systems to keep track of athlete information and monitor their progress at different checkpoints throughout a race. In these types of deployments, a USB reader could be used to encode and check UHF tags before they’re placed on a racer’s number prior to an event. The readers are also used to scan athletes’ tags in various locations, for instance at the point where a runner would pick up his or her race pack. Automating a process like this ensures an athlete’s details are correct in a timing system’s database.
Though you’ll typically see these types of readers on a desk plugged into a PC or laptop, use cases have evolved in parallel with the explosion of social media to popularize RFID-powered social media kiosks at event functions. Showing the more casual and entertaining side of RFID, providers like ODIN (watch video) put together interactive kiosks that allow people to more easily engage with others and share enjoyable moments from the events they attend. Users who touch their conference ID badge to an RFID-powered kiosk and choose to attach it to their social media accounts can then easily share updates, check-ins, and photos from the variety of sessions, booths, or events they visit.
A cool use case we’ve blogged in the past was for the Olympics this past summer when candy company Cadbury partnered with the social media tech company dwinQ to set up a large, purple, inflatable booth – the Cadbury House – that was RFID-enabled. Prior to entering the Cadbury House, visitors could tap their event badges to a ThingMagic USB RFID reader and then choose to link the badge to their Facebook account. From that point on, other readers throughout the attraction would automatically pick up visitors’ badges and give them different options for sharing content, such as a photo opportunity with an added backdrop of participants receiving Olympic medals in front of a large crowd. They reported that an impressive 75% of attendees opted to link their Facebook pages, checking in 5824 times and sharing 8958 photos. Download ODIN Case Study
The value of this type of reader, regardless of whether it’s found on a racetrack or in a hospital exam room, is that it can be easily deployed to provide immediate results. These types of readers are designed to plug simply into existing infrastructure so as to offer a quick solution that doesn’t disrupt ongoing operations already in place. The variety of applications – creative and entertaining like Cadbury to complex like aerospace parts tracking – shows its versatility. Because there are so few strings attached, virtually any industry could see improvements in performance, efficiency, or accuracy with desktop USB RFID readers.
The Intelligent Hospital Pavilion at HIMSS in New Orleans earlier this month made it EASY to see the BIG value of RFID for improving the quality of patient care. Scenarios from the Pharmacy, OR, ICU and ED demonstrated how information is coordinated from diverse patient care environments with Near Field Communications (NFC), RFID, RTLS (real time locating systems), sensors and wireless technologies.
RFID has proven its worth in healthcare and continues to improve procedures and enhance workflows across a variety of areas, including:
Medication Management – ensures the right medication is delivered at the right time in the right dose by the right staff via the right means, as well as optimizes inventory of medication in the pharmacy.
Equipment Tracking – identifies the location and travel patterns of many types of valuable assets in real-time, resulting in reduced product loss, reduced capital equipment purchases & leases, improved maintenance levels, and enhanced patient services.
Patient/Staff Workflow – tracks the travel patterns of staff, patients and personnel in real-time for access control, improved patient & staff workflows, reduced wait times, and integration into anti-abduction, wander prevention, and hand hygiene solutions.
Departmental Loss Prevention – proven to deliver an ROI in a short period of time by saving high value assets from being mistakenly discarded.
Several of our blog posts cover the well-established use cases mentioned above. Check them out here: RFID in healthcare.
More recently, we’ve seen how this intelligent tracking can work regarding medical equipment. For example, scientists at GE Global Research recently won a $2.5 million contract with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to develop an RFID system for their hospitals that will automate the transporting, cleaning, and storing of surgical tools.
GE’s system, which uses ThingMagic readers for its prototype designs, is the newest in a collection of smart RFID technology we’re seeing emerge in the healthcare space.
By leaving room for error in the management of surgical tools, hospitals can not only open their patients to the risks of infection, but may also slow surgery setup and turnaround times and inaccurately report their inventory. The system GE is looking to implement would use robotics to automate the transportation, cleaning, and sterilization processes but RFID would function as the brains of the operation to ensure the right tools are sterile and in the appropriate operating rooms at the right time. Together, the RFID and robotics elements would automate the collection of dirty tools from an operating room, delivery to a sterile processing center, sorting, cleaning, and sanitation post-surgery. For the next operation, tools would be automatically built into kits, sterilized, and stored until the next doctor needs them delivered to a different operating room.
The Department of Veteran Affairs, known to be early adopters of innovative IT solutions in healthcare, didn’t stop there. They also recently awarded a $543 million contract to HP Enterprise Services to put a Real Time Location System (RTLS) in place for the millions of assets at their 152 VA medical centers. An important part of this system will be the platform provided by Intelligent InSites - a ThingMagic partner - which will be applied to a number of RFID-enabled use cases, including everything from monitoring hand hygiene and tool sterilization to managing emergency department and operating room workflows. The deployment will offer the VA an unprecedented level of visibility and analytical intelligence, not only improving hospital efficiency and compliance, but also strengthening patient care and satisfaction.
Though RFID appears in different capacities throughout hospital systems – be it in dispensing medication, queuing patients, delivering surgical tools, or managing medical records – the goal behind deploying these systems remains the same: improved patient care.
Contributors: Debbie Power, ThingMagic
Robots have certainly undergone their share of transformation over the years – from the stereotypical robot in “Lost in Space” to the child-friendly WALL-E – and I think Kevin Ashton, in a recent RFID Journal article, made a good point in arguing that robots have managed to shed creepy images, but have yet to make the complete transition to being human-like.
One ongoing limitation is that robots have not been able to have a true dialogue with humans - like that between Luke Skywalker and C-3PO, who boasted to be fluent in "over six million forms of communication"! Can RFID bridge this communication gap?
A few years ago, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Duke University embarked on a project where they used ThingMagic readers with robots in a healthcare setting. With long-range read capability, the robot named EL-E can move freely while still being able to detect RFID tags in various locations, and a finger-mounted, short-range antenna enables her to interact with a tagged object, such as handing a stethoscope to a physician. EL-E can also assist physically-impaired people, giving them the appropriate medicine bottle when they are unable to help themselves. We’ve blogged before about how improving the patient experience can also accelerate the patients’ recovery. A robotic right-hand-man could allow nurses and physicians to spend more time researching, talking to and engaging with their patients, and therefore being able to treat the individual.
Check out another robot from Georgia Tech's Healthcare Robotics Lab - GATSBII - a PR2 robot from Willow Garage outfitted with patch antennas and a ThingMagic M5e reader, as seen on CNN’s The Big I show!
More recently, and right here in Boston, we are seeing more investment in robot technology with companies like Rethink Robotics looking for new ways to make our industries more efficient and cost-effective. Their flagship product, Baxter, is designed to fit seamlessly into a manufacturing environment to take certain types of work off the hands of employees. Because of the enhanced level of interaction between human and robot, the robot can perform risk-posing tasks such as climbing a tower to do repairs, or repetitive, assembly line work that could free up people to do more complex, value-added tasks. In doing so, people can become more productive and the business is more efficient. And we all know that greater efficiency is the key to success in today’s economy.
The video below demonstrates how Baxter interacts with humans.
With RFID tags becoming more ubiquitous , can this be the technology that breaks down that communication barrier between robots and people?
It may be a while before we can think of a robot like C-3PO as our wing-man, but with RFID we may be able to more naturally interact with the next generation of robots – not in Hollywood - but in the business arena.
The national discussion about our healthcare system remains a hot topic, including what can be done to reduce healthcare costs while increasing the quality of patient care. As part of this equation, hospitals are constantly struggling with the task of managing inventory and budgets in order to keep costs in line. We’ve introduced the prospect of using RFID to solve many challenges in the healthcare market including cost control, and honestly, the opportunities seem limitless. Check out some of our previous posts to learn more.
In addition to improving cost control, healthcare facilities around the world are continuously improving processes related to the five “rights” of medication administration – an extremely important element of patient care. The five “rights” include:
- Right patient
- Right drug
- Right dose
- Right route
- Right time
ThingMagic partner, MEPS Real-Time is taking a lead in this area by offering the RFID enabled INTELLIGUARD Automated Dispensing Cabinet!
MEPS has partnered with ThingMagic and is using the M5e embedded UHF RFID module to manage high-value, critical-dose medication dispensing and delivery to patients. By design, INTELLIGUARD’s real-time item level visibility prevents drug expiration losses and reduces unnecessary inventory and costs.
A brief case study:
Sharp Memorial Hospital is San Diego’s largest emergency and trauma center. Sharp has 5,000 products in its formulary with around $2 million in inventory at any given time. At Sharp, like other hospitals, some drugs are infrequently prescribed, but Sharp can’t risk NOT having them in stock. Previous inventory process often resulted in significant loss due to expiration and the traditional dispensing cabinets that required manual counting and barcode scanning were prone to errors.
INTELLIGUARD Automated Dispensing Cabinets from MEPS Real-Time were put in place at Sharp Memorial Hospital. These cabinets automatically read the contents of each drawer in real time, eliminating the need for manual scans and alerting the staff of upcoming expiration dates.
Over the course of an 8 month study, Sharp confidently reduced PAR levels while eliminating fear factor buying. In addition, no medications expired unused and there were no stock-outs.
The bottom line? INTELLIGUARD Automated Dispensing Cabinets – powered by ThingMagic RFID - are a proven solution for helping pharmacists manage drug inventory while reducing costs, increasing employee efficiency, and maintaining the highest level of patient care. Check out the video case study below to learn more!
You could fill in the blank with any number of words. Business benefit from the Speed of RFID, ...from the Accuracy of RFID, ...from the Efficiency of RFID, ...from the Personalization of RFID, ...from the Profitability of RFID …you get the picture.
All you have to do is check out the list of industries represented at this year's RFID Journal LIVE! conference. It is a pretty broad list, illustrating the value and reach of the technology: Defense/Aerospace; Health Care/Pharmaceutical; Manufacturing/Operational Efficiency and Retail/Apparel.
Among the companies within these industries are several that are working with ThingMagic to bring innovative solutions to market, improve productivity, and gain a competitive advantage. We are proud to be working with many award winners and presenters at RFID Journal LIVE! 2012 and years past. Check 'em out here:
Keonn - Winner of "Coolest Demo" Award at RFID Journal LIVE! 2012
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S. - Presenter - Improving Supply Chain Logistics: Using RFID to Speed Up Inventory Management at Disney. Check out the RFID Journal article on the solution here: RFID Helps Disney Employees Get Into Character
Seeonic - RFID Journal LIVE! 2012 Best in Show finalist
Gerry Weber International - RFID Journal LIVE! 2011 Best RFID Implementation Award
The Disney Family Cancer Center - RFID Journal LIVE! 2010 Most Innovative Use of RFID Award
The RFID Journal Awards recognize companies that have distinguished themselves by their successful use of RFID or introduction of a valuable new RFID product or services. A full list of award winners at RFID Journal LIVE! 2012 can be found here. A full list of the Coolest Demo Contest participants are listed here. We know who are favorites are! How about you?
As we gear up for HIMSS, we’re reminded of the benefits that RFID has brought to healthcare – tracking expiration dates of prescription medications, preventing surgical equipment loss, making processes more efficient, personalizing a patient’s experience – the list goes on and on. Let’s add another to the list - one that merits special attention. It’s the use of RFID to promote cancer awareness.
In Polk City, Florida, a group of breast cancer awareness activists held a Big Pink Ribbon event where thousands of individuals wearing pink ribbon t-shirts assembled for the cause. Each person was counted by team captains with check lists, hand tally counters and of course, RFID! Why did they want such a precise count? What better way to garner attention than to get into the book of Guinness World Records!
The University of South Florida Polytechnic, UPM RFID and Borda Technology used RFID readers, UHF tags and custom software to accurately identify each individual and provide a 100% accurate, real-time count of the total number of participants. The RFID solution included:
- Lanyards for all participants with UHF RFID tags, which supported the EPC Gen 2 RFID standard
- An RFID reader at the entrance portal with four downward-pointing antennas to count participants
- Software with a custom asset-tracking solution
The tags were used for precision counting with built-in redundancies. The readers captured participant data and transmitted that information to a custom asset-tracking software program. The RFID system would have immediately alerted the organizers if they had set the new world record for largest human-awareness ribbon. But it wasn’t in the cards this time. Even though the event didn’t make it into the book of Guinness World Records, they had a great turnout fulfilling their first objective - to educate more people about finding the cure for breast cancer.
We like how they showed another way in which RFID can be easily integrated into everyday lives. As you may remember, one of our missions last year was to promote awareness for RFID via our RFID100 campaign. Hopefully greater awareness of RFID and the cure for breast cancer will help each other succeed.
In our last post about RFID in healthcare, we explored the benefits of Passive UHF RFID.
RFID in general presents many benefits for the healthcare industry, such as high value asset tracking, materials management, patient and staff workflow, and being used to support compliance with industry mandates and regulations including Sarbanes-Oxley, JACHO and OSHA. Because of the variety of applications and departmental functions that can be supported by an RFID visibility solution, selecting the right solution, or even the right project to begin with, can be daunting.
Many hospitals have Wi-Fi infrastructures for their voice and data processing needs. However, few have the density of Wi-Fi access points necessary for accurate real-time location tracking. Implementing a new WLAN infrastructure, or even just updating the Wi-Fi coverage, can be costly. Even with the necessary Wi-Fi coverage, RTLS/Wi-Fi based tags may not work well for certain applications. Such hurdles can include large tag size, time-limited battery life, required periodic re-calibration to maintain location accuracy and limitations in high interference areas like radiology.
Implement Passive RFID First
While RFID technologies can help achieve certain objectives and lower costs, it is still necessary to consider the cost of infrastructure changes and time commitment required from hospital IT staff. With this in mind, a proven and practical approach is to start with low cost and easy to implement Gen2 Passive RFID. It limits the work required to the existing infrastructure and helps control costs. Gen 2 passive readers and tags can utilize the existing data processing network infrastructure and, in many cases, do not require extensive IT staff involvement to deploy. By utilizing lower cost, easy to deploy passive RFID-based systems as the initial step, hospitals can significantly improve productivity, offer enhanced patient services, and improve quality of care within current budget and IT program restraints – while having invested in a platform for growth.
A variety of reader and tag combinations allows hospitals to choose where they would like to deploy a Passive RFID visibility solution, usually based on where the need is greatest. The flexibility lets the hospitals be behind the wheel vs. being bound by any limitations from the technology. For example, a hospital can begin by tracking high-value mobile equipment such as wheelchairs, stretchers, crash carts, infusion pumps, etc. Other items in the hospital setting that can be monitored with RFID include:
- Item-level pieces – surgical instruments and dressings, medicines, linens and uniforms
- Medical records – files, documents, x-rays and other diagnostic images. RFID systems support the rollout of the electronic health records.
- Patient movement and identification for proper administration of associated treatment plans
As the first high-value mobile equipment phase is completed and begins to yield a return on investment, the hospital can embark on the next phase. This phased approach allows a hospital department to measure and manage asset, material, patient and/or staff flow and productivity through each stage of the process. It’s been proven to deliver a near-immediate return on investment.
To learn more, download our case study: Greenville Hospital Deploys Integrated RFID Solution for Operating Room Asset Tracking
Check ThingMagic out at HIMSS where we’ll be showcasing healthcare operations made better with Passive RFID.
Tags: Healthcare, RFID, Embedded RFID, Pharmaceutical Tracking, Inventory Management, Patient Tracking, Process Control, Wristband Tags, Wander Prevention, Temperature Monitoring, Announcements
As we look to 2012, our first major event is HIMSS and we can’t wait. The healthcare market has been at the forefront of RFID adoption, discovering a plethora of ways in which the technology can streamline operations, reduce human error and make the patient experience exponentially better.
This year HIMSS (February 20-24, Venetian Sands Expo Center, Las Vegas) will host the Intelligent Hospital Pavilion in which it will showcase a variety of technologies that work together to deliver real-time patient information to the mobile devices and tablets of physicians and hospital staff (Visit ThingMagic in KIOSK #16). Scenarios from the OR, ICU and ED and will demonstrate how information is coordinated from diverse patient care environments with Near Field Communications (NFC), RFID, RTLS (real time locating systems), sensors and wireless technologies.
RFID has proven its worth in healthcare and continues to improve procedures and enhance environments from tracking expiration dates on medication, to personalizing the experience for cancer patients, to managing inventory of critical dose medication, to helping surgeons locate tumors.
According to a Frost & Sullivan report, RFID: Unlocking Opportunities in the Healthcare Vertical from July 2011, “The RFID market is expected to witness a significant increase in revenues by 2017, due to its acceptability, capability, and credibility. It has taken an affirmative position in the healthcare sector owing to substantial cost savings and convenience.”
RFID’s Success in Healthcare Can Be Attributed to Passive UHF RFID
Barcodes have long been used in the hospital supply chain for tracking products, supplies and inventory control. By using barcodes on forms, wrist bands and records, healthcare providers have driven efficiencies into the patient registration process.
Passive UHF RFID can enhance or replace many supply chain management, patient registration, patient safety, clinical care, and billing workflows that currently use barcodes. While both barcodes and RFID can be used for these activities, Passive UHF RFID is more effective due to the additional automation and cost saving opportunities it delivers. Simply put, Passive UHF RFID enables the rapid and precise measurement of almost every operation in the healthcare setting - from counting and verifying the number of items in each surgical tray to analyzing the slightest body movement.
Passive UHF RFID allows tags to be read from far away so that readers can be deployed in a variety of ways including permanent installations wired to the existing hospital Ethernet network, within strategically located “portals,” and integrated into mobile and stationary devices like carts and cabinets. This flexibility is complemented by the wide variety of Passive RFID tags that can be affixed to or integrated into consumable inventory, handheld surgical tools, patient wristbands, photo ID badges, and many other items.
Put simply, Passive RFID is the most economical way to measure a large number of parameters in healthcare setting, enabling innovative patient-centric applications that would otherwise not be implemented
Proven Uses of Passive UHF RFID Solutions Include:
Departmental Loss Prevention – proven to deliver an ROI in a short period of time by saving high value assets from being mistakenly discarded.
Asset Tracking – identifies the location and travel patterns of many types of valuable assets in real-time, resulting in reduced product loss, reduced capital equipment purchases & leases, and enhanced patient services.
Patient/Staff Tracking – tracks the travel patterns of staff, patients and personnel in real-time for access control, improved patient & staff workflows, reduced wait times, and integration into anti-abduction, wander prevention, and hand hygiene solutions.
We’re sure to see these and other uses in action at the Intelligent Hospital Pavilion at HIMSS. For more examples of ThingMagic in Healthcare, please download the following case studies:
Disney Family Cancer Center Case Study: The Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center Implements Innovative RFID Solution to Enhance Patient Experience and Increase Efficiency
XECAN Oncology Clinic Case Study: Eliminating Wrong Patient and Wrong Treatment Errors with RFID
Hopefully what happens in Vegas, doesn’t stay in Vegas!
The state of Massachusetts has long been considered a hub for technology innovation and medical research. So, it’s no wonder that RFID linked the two together in our own backyard.
Recently, ThingMagic announced that several leading oncology clinics had deployed RFID solutions in order to improve patient safety and radiation treatment reliability. In the cases of Commonwealth Newburyport Cancer Center, Lahey Clinic and Jordan Hospital, they looked to RFID to help eliminate “wrong patient, wrong treatment,” commonly associated with human error.
The cure has arrived! No, it’s not medicine. It’s innovation with RFID. In the image to the left, a Jordan Hospital patient is wearing a XECAN lanyard with an RFID badge. When the patient walks into a CT scan room he is identified automatically by a ThingMagic Astra UHF RFID Reader installed in that room. Because of the extended read range of the reader, patients need only pass within approximately 15 feet to be recognized. Not to worry. Patient-identifiable information can only be viewed within the clinic, and only by authorized staff members.
When the patient's badge is read, their chart and treatment plan are immediately opened by the XECAN system. If another patient’s chart is open in the system at the time the new patient arrives at the CT scan room, the first chart is closed and the chart of the patient who is physically present is automatically opened. Treatment devices are also tagged so that they can be detected by ThingMagic Astra readers during treatment. Radiation cannot be started if treatment devices are incorrect or missing. Thi added measure of reliability delivered by the XECAN system gives patients and doctors peace of mind.
By automatically identifying the patient, the system eliminates the need for the patient to correct the spelling of their name or reiterate their appointment time, for example, when they have already signed up for an emotionally and physically taxing day. Reducing the manual tasks of the hospital staff allows them to spend more quality time with the patients.
In this application, RFID also replaces ID cards with barcodes which can often be cumbersome for the patients to scan if they’ve become worn.
When you put it all together – fewer manual tasks for clinicians, peace of mind for the patient and improved reliability for the doctors - the oncology clinics mentioned can offer a far more inviting medical experience. The situation allows for a more successful treatment. And who wouldn’t want that?
If you would like more information about this deployment, please download our case study:
We plan to check in with these Massachusetts clinics in a few months to see how the implementation is going and if they’ve discovered even more unexpected benefits from using the RFID system.
We're also interested in your thoughts about the use of RFID in healthcare. Where to you think it will have the most impact? What RFID-based systems are most effective? Is it best to start with small departmental deployments and scale or go for a full enterprise-wide deployment from the start?
Helping Enterprises Realize the Value of RFID
Economies such as the one we are living and working in now, are forcing enterprises to trim costs while maintaining, and even increasing output. This approach requires skill and creativity to avoid misguided cost-cutting initiatives. One could argue it also requires making intelligent technology investments that can pay for themselves quickly while establishing a foundation for smart growth. That’s where RFID comes into the picture. RFID isn’t unattainable. It isn’t a pie in the sky solution that requires a team of engineers and it isn’t cost-prohibitive. It’s right here in front of us waiting to help.
Taking Flexibility and Integration to a New Level
Those of you who are familiar with ThingMagic most likely saw the product announcement we made last week. Enhancements to our Mercury6 (M6) UHF RFID Reader raise the bar for flexibility and integration. For reasons, in part brought about by current market conditions, high-quality reader capabilities are much needed by enterprises today. The firmware upgrade to our M6 reader includes several enhancements to address these needs, most notably support for Low-Level Reader Protocol (LLRP) and Reader-Hosted Applications.
What is LLRP and Why Now?
Let’s first start with EPCglobal - the organization that supports the adoption and implementation of standards-based Electronic Product Code™/Radio Frequency Identification (EPC/RFID) technology. EPCGlobal was responsible for standardizing the tag and reader radio frequency interface protocol with the UHF Gen 2 standard. As a next step in facilitating the adoption of EPC and RFID technology, EPCglobal ratified the LLRP standard, a specification for the network interface between the reader and its controlling software or hardware. In creating LLRP, EPCglobal included air-protocol configurations and a robust set of vendor extension points that support the flexibility and integration required to innovate. The FAQ can be found here.
We’ve chosen to implement LLRP now for two primary reasons. First, a growing number of enterprise organizations are deploying RFID technology. In doing so, they need to integrate data generated from RFID reads with existing standards-based enterprise systems to support critical aspects of their business. Secondly, as the distribution channels for RFID products continue to evolve, supporting standards is crucial. Supporting LLRP and other standards makes it easier for our channel partners to sell and support ThingMagic products. The bottom line is that all of this makes it easier for customers to deploy and manage their RFID systems, allowing them to recognize the business benefits of RFID faster.
Also included in the upgrade is a Linux-based operating system capable of hosting on-reader applications. This feature allows the M6 reader to perform application-specific actions independently, providing solution developers the opportunity to differentiate their offerings to the enterprise market.
An example of this is a solution developed by ThingMagic partner XECAN, a leading provider of RFID patient safety solutions for the healthcare market. XECAN developed a RFID plug-in application designed to eliminate patient identification and potential treatment errors by interfacing directly with Electronic Medical Record (EMR) software. This application is hosted directly on the ThingMagic reader (in this case and Astra reader, but could just as easily have been an M6). According to Bin Yang, Ph.D., CEO of XECAN, “By embedding our agent software directly onto the Astra reader, we’ve made our RFID Oncology Solution truly plug-and-play…This breakthrough advantage sets us apart while enabling us to provide an affordable, yet highly reliable RFID system.”
It’s important to note that, with this upgrade, ThingMagic customers now have the option of operating M6 readers with the ThingMagic MercuryAPI or LLRP depending on their project requirements. Existing M6 customers can take advantage of LLRP by upgrading to the new interface without changing how their current host programs interact with the API – making the transition seamless and transparent. If desired, customers can continue to use the ThingMagic MercuryAPI - a common application programming interface implemented across all of ThingMagic's readers.
To help you visualize the value of the MercuryAPI and how you can develop an application that takes advantage of the breadth of ThingMagic’s product line, including the USB desktop reader, Astra integrated reader, Vega in-vehicle reader and the Mercury6, watch the following video: ThingMagic Mercury6 (M6) RFID Reader Makes Integration Easy
As illustrated below, with one application, enterprises can gain access to location, employee identification and time stamp information that allows them to track asset throughout the entire chain of custody, including plotting the location of the assets in-transit using integrated GPS.
RFID Tag Selection & Automated Placement Testing
Another important aspect of creating any successful RFID application is knowing where to place the RFID tag for maximum performance. But don’t worry, it’ll be easy. We’ve done the work for you in our lab, and it can be seen in the video, “RFID Tag Placement: Where do you stick it?”
It’s Time to Reshape the Way We Think About RFID
There is no doubt that over the next decade, RFID systems will become an integral part of the consumer and business experience. The convergence of wireless technologies will be augmented by RFID systems. The development of passive RFID as part of this platform will be driven by the potential to measure, report and monetize a growing number of transactions in the physical world.
Similar to the mobile phone, the widespread integration of GPS into today’s commercial and consumer positioning solutions, and the adoption of this thing called the Internet, RFID is ready to transform markets.
Only time will tell the scale and impact RFID will have, but I for one, bet it will be a big one.
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