No Greenwashing Here: How RFID Helps the Environment (Part 2)

Posted by Ken Lynch on Fri, Jul 30, 2010 @ 12:53 PM

Tags: RFID, Bike sharing, Green Transportation

Encouraging Healthy, Green Modes of Transportation with RFID

Sitting in traffic for hours can be a very unpleasant experience for those of us who commute to work or school each day.  Commuting – especially by car – has led to the growth of cities and the expansion of suburbs.  But it also has a downside.  Commuting has led to significant increases in traffic congestion and has become a major factor contributing to air pollution.

Green BicyclePublic transportation, car-pooling and telecommuting are great alternatives to adding to highway gridlock and air pollution.  You could also ride your bike.  There are a lot of reasons to commute by bike.  Maybe you want to get some exercise so you can have that high-calorie dinner. Maybe you want to show classmates in your sustainable energy class that you care about your carbon foot print. Or maybe because you think it’s just plain fun.

What ever the reason, if biking is an option, you may find these RFID-enabled solutions that encourage riding as a healthy, green mode of transportation to be interesting.

Incentive Programs

Dero Zap is an RFID-enabled system manufactured by Dero Bike Racks and powered by ThingMagic embedded RFID readers.  This system is part of an incentive program that encourages workers to utilize biking as a healthy mode of transportation. Through RFID, Dero Zap "counts" commuters as they bike onto a campus or property, providing companies with an automated, low-maintenance means of tracking which employees ride to work, and how often.  Dero sees Zap appealing to health insurance companies as another way to encourage members to live healthier, thereby lowering health care costs.

A similar solution for schools is offered by Boltage and includes a solar powered, Wi-Fi enabled RFID reader that reads tags attached to kids’ backpacks.  After kids pass by the reader installed at their school, the system uploads its information to a program website where participants can view their trip details and schools can manage the distribution of awards as part of a health conscious incentive program.

Boltage - whose mission statement is “to make walking and biking to school a way of life” – shares these motivating statistics:

Over 322,000 round trips

Over 32,000 gallons of gas saved

Over 15 million calories burned

Over 637,000 pounds of CO2 saved

Over 363,000 kid powered miles

Over 14 times around the earth

In addition to these innovative uses of UHF RFID to promote a healthy, low-emission life style, several bike sharing programs have been launched around the world, leveraging low frequency RFID for bike access and various other rider services.

Bike Sharing Programs

B-cycle is a bike-sharing system founded on the belief that “bicycles should be a vehicle for positive health and environmental change and an important part of a community’s transportation ecosystem.”  B-Cycle programs have been launched in several US cities including Chicago, where it is offered as a green alternative to cars for short commutes and errands and in Denver, where if offers riders an alternative to public transportation in support of the city’s Greenprint Climate Action Plan, Strategic Transportation Plan and Living Streets Initiative.  The B-cycle system and bikes are equipped with passive low frequency RFID readers and tags to manage bike access and user account billing.

Similar to B-cycle, public bike services that use RFID to manage bike access and payments are available around the world.  Public Bike System (PBS) offers pedaling around Montreal.  Stockholm City Bikes is keeping up with the pack in Sweden. Bicing is rolling in Barcelona. And, many cities and towns in France including  Paris, La Rochelle, Strasbourg, Lyon, Rennes, Bordeaux, Aix-en-Provence, Grenoble - Métro-Vélo, and Toulouse offer climate friendly bicycle transportation aimed at reducing pollution, roadway noise, and traffic congestion.

Let us know if you’ve used an RFID-enabled bike share or if your town or work place offers a bicycle riding incentive program and what your experience has been. 

(Photo Credit: Zazzle)

No Greenwashing Here: How RFID Helps the Environment

Posted by Ken Lynch on Thu, Jul 29, 2010 @ 10:12 AM

Tags: HF RFID, Electric Vehicles, ZigBee

3 Powerful Examples: EV power Station Billing, Pedal Power and Recycling

Electric Car ParkingUp until last week when BP plugged the massive leak on the Deepwater Horizon oil well, not a day went by that we weren’t told about its toll on the environment.  It also presented a reality-check about the downside risk of our reliance on fossil fuels while providing another spark for the debate on how we can move quickly towards more conservation, alternative energy and other environmentally-friendly programs. 

Amidst the gloom of the situation in the Gulf, there is more encouraging news, most notably the latest announcements by GM and Nissan this week about the pricing and availability of the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, respectively.  While the imminent mass production of electric vehicles (EVs) will be a major step forward towards breaking our reliance on fossil fuels, much of the challenge, goes way beyond the new eco-responsible products and programs available to consumers.  Equally as important is the supporting infrastructure that is going to make them pervasive and as easy to use as their dirtier predecessors.  This is another significant area where RFID technology is making a difference. 

Today’s installment of the 100 uses of RFID campaign covering innovation in the electric vehicle market, is the first three examples of how RFID is helping the environment.  Stay tuned for posts 2 and 3 on bike commuting and recycling.

Innovation in Infrastructure Supporting EVs

Average consumers may be unaware of the significant amount of innovation that has been taking place in parallel to the development of EVs that is preparing this new class of car to go mainstream.  It’s staggering. 

For example, much of this is in the area of technologies that address “range anxiety”, or the concern by EV drivers that they will lose their battery charge before they get to their destination and become stranded.  This means that EVs will have a diverse range of new telematics built in as standard features of these vehicles.   

By definition, telematics is the integrated use of telecommunications and informatics, also known as ICT (Information and Communications Technology).  It is the science of sending, receiving and storing information via telecommunication devices. Many of us are familiar with telematics, such as optional features like navigation systems or systems that automatically parallel park a car.  These systems are crucial to give the driver much more information about the car, their navigation and route, as well as for the car to communicate with various networks, whether it is a GPS network to tell the driver where the nearest charging station is or a cellular network to get updated traffic and weather conditions.  What is at the heart of telematics systems are sensors that perform machine-to-machine (M2M) communications.

A sub-category of telematics that industry analyst Frost & Sullivan says will be a crucial feature in EVs is what it calls Charging Environment Related Dynamic Points of Interest (POI).  This monitors the vehicle and communicates through networks to give the driver several piece of information to help them plan their driving to ensure they are not stranded without being able to charge their vehicles.  This information includes estimated distance on an existing charge, availability and booking of nearby charging stations, location of charging stations and the state of charge.  These systems work hand in hand with other forms of telematics like navigation systems and vehicle identification remove the burden from the driver of making sure he or she gets to where they’re going.

Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

With the imminent arrival of the Volt and Leaf to dealer showrooms, the race is on to install charging stations.  It has been estimated that up to 20 percent of cars in the U.S. will be electric by 2013 and studies indicate that 40 percent of consumers who say they would purchase an electric car have no access to a garage for overnight charging or will need to charge their car when away from home.  In addition, longer drives between cities and towns require a network of public charging stations or another method to extend the range of electric vehicles beyond the normal daily commute.  As a result, charging stations will be needed where there is on-street parking, in parking lots, at places of employment, hotels, airports and shopping centers, among other places.

RFID is a critical technology for these stations because it allows for easy payment by consumers needing to recharge their vehicles.  Coulomb Technologies of Campbell, California has been installing its networked charging stations since 2008.  Subscribers to Coulomb’s service use an RFID smartcard or key fob to initiate a charge by holding it up to the station equipped with an embedded reader.  The captured data is passed through a mesh network to a central server that authorizes the charge – all in real time.

Coulomb’s solution uses a combination of high-frequency RFID tags and readers and ZigBee transceivers. Others are exploring the read range advantages of UHF RFID, which could allow consumers to simply drive up to a station which would read a transponder on the car’s windshield and validate and authorize a charge before the consumer even gets out of the car. 

Stay tuned to this blog (by subscribing via RSS) and follow ThingMagic on Twitter for two more posts on RFID and the environment, as we’ll share examples of its use to encourage bike commuting, recycling, and others.  In the meantime, what do you expect from EVs before you’ll consider buying one?

Automating Order Fulfillment with a New Generation of RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Wed, Jul 28, 2010 @ 08:52 AM

Tags: RFID, Manufacturing Automation, Container Tracking

Back to the Future

If you’ve been following our 100 days of RFID campaign from the beginning, you’ve known that one of the reasons we’re doing this is to celebrate 10 years of RFID in conjunction with our upcoming anniversary.  But, today we’re getting in the time machine to celebrate 15 years of RFID.  Come along for the ride as we fire up the flux capacitor!

The year is 1995 and here’s what the RFID technology scene looked like: low frequency, which meant tags couldn’t be read from a great distance; proprietary technology, which meant customers had few options when upgrading; and higher costs, which meant trading off business benefits.

Well before ThingMagic was founded, Würth Oy, a Finland-based supplier of tools, fasteners and other industrial products, pioneered RFID’s use in order fulfillment.  This was a low frequency (LF) system based upon proprietary hardware that automated the picking process along a nearly one mile long conveyer line at its plant in Riihimaki. The point came, however, when Würth no longer could obtain parts for the proprietary hardware powering the system, so it turned to ThingMagic partner Vilant to replace it with one based upon UHF without any downtime to the picking line.

Vilant - Wurth OyThe closed-loop application features 40 stationary ThingMagic Astra readers that interrogate EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags on roughly 1,000 plastic containers. The information collected via RFID is used to direct the conveyor belt system to send the containers to the proper picking stations. The key for Würth and Vilant was to make a slow and planned switchover so as not to incur any downtime, as over 70% of orders are fulfilled using this line, with over 40,000 RFID tracking events per day.

While Vilant successfully met Würth’s goal of moving its order fulfillment system to the next generation of RFID technology, it now can focus on taking advantage of what this generation provides them. In particular, the ease of maintenance and customizability of the system allows Vilant and Würth to innovate faster and easier. In addition, the greater performance of the system allows Würth to collect better data for quantifying how each picking station is used, maximizing the use of each station and eliminating bottlenecks.  Würth also is in position to eliminate paper from its picking process by presenting employees with electronic lists with locations for each item for even greater efficiencies.

Now that you know this company’s story, what RFID change do you think it’ll effect in the next 15 years? Or will it be closer to five years? We’re interested in your comments.

(photo credit: Vilant)

RFID-Enabled Smart Displays

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Jul 27, 2010 @ 10:47 AM

Tags: RFID, Sensors, Smart Displays

"RFID is the missing link between online information and the real world” - Andrew Lippman, Media Lab associate director and head, Viral Communications group.

Driven in part by the staggering adoption rates of mobile devices and their corresponding ‘apps’ over the last few years, we have become increasingly reliant on digital information for nearly every aspect of our lives.  This demand is driving new choices for how we access and manage digital information beyond mobile devices, to all kind of interesting applications in the PC, TV, and signage markets.

Take interactive touch screens and digital ‘smart’ signs for example.  For years, retailers, entertainment venues, and others have been using banks of TV screens and large displays to broadcast images and marketing messages in an effort to expand the delivery of their product information.  In January 2010, Intel and Microsoft announced they were collaborating to take displays to the next level by developing smart sign technology that would offer interactivity to shoppers and help brick and mortar retailers customize their promotions in order to better compete with web-based retail. 

MIT Media DisplayThe solution proposed by Intel & Microsoft uses cameras to recognize whether the viewer is male or female and then presents offers for products that are more likely to appeal to them.  But what if you allowed the display to know more about you?  What if the display could recognize who you were, what your personal preferences were, and then serve up an individualized experience? 

This type of innovation is being explored at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts where low-cost technologies such as RFID and sensors are being used to create seamless and pervasive ways for us to interact with information and with each other. Read the ThingMagic announcement.

To support its own internal events and to assist students and faculty with distributing and accessing information about its groups and projects, the Media Lab has deployed a network of presence-based, touch-sensitive information displays.  Visitor presence - sensed through the integration of RFID readers into each display and RFID badges worn by guests - automates the creation of personal profiles, enables personalized content delivery and group information sharing, and delivers aggregated location and activity data to centralized display screens so individuals can track the progress of their visit.  Each visitor’s portfolio is saved and can be accessed online at a later date.

Of course, securing personal data is required for these types of solutions to be adopted broadly outside of closed-loop applications, especially in markets such as retail.  For industries that already operate largely on an opt-in basis however – like conferences, events, museums, libraries, and theme parks – these solutions can offer a significantly enhanced customer experience.  Large & small enterprises, hospitals, and, of course, schools and universities are also potential early adopters, as they can benefit tremendously from making information more accessible, interactive – and customized.

Share your thoughts about the evolution of smart signs.  Where will they work?  Where won’t they work?  How are personal data security issues best addressed?

RFID for Event & Hospitality Management

Posted by Ken Lynch on Mon, Jul 26, 2010 @ 10:41 AM

Tags: RFID, Event Management, Hospitality

Creating Interactive and Personalized Customer Experiences

In ancient Greece, a stranger passing outside a house would be invited inside by the family. The host would wash the stranger's feet, offer him or her food and wine, and only after the guest was comfortable would the host ask their name.  While today’s greeting practices have changed, this early relationship between host and guest is an example of the lengths we can go to in order to make one comfortable in an unfamiliar environment and deliver a personalized experience.

Today, a several billion dollar industry exists to provide comfort and personalized experiences to guests as they travel the world. Organizations in this industry provide services to guests and visitors of hotels, casinos, resorts, membership-based clubs, conventions, attractions, and a wide variety of special events.

Much like the reach of the ‘supply chain’ into and across all areas of global commerce, defining the hospitality market and identifying all of the areas that technologies like RFID can impact it can be a challenge.  Many groups provide valuable services to the industry including facility maintenance, operations, management, marketing, and human resources, among others.  Regardless of the segment of the hospitality industry one is in however, superior service and operational excellence are what drive success.  It is no coincidence that these are two areas that are being revolutionized by RFID.  

Over the past several years, RFID has found its way into existing operations within this market, offering a new level of automation.  Today, RFID-enabled solutions are available to automate access control, track assets, and manage staff.  The potential for RFID however, reaches far beyond these applications, enabling solutions where the technology is so integrated and transparent that it disappears into its environment.  Emerging applications where users and consumers can naturally interact with RFID are allowing solution providers to the hospitality industry deliver guests and event attendees with customized, real-time, interactive, and experiences that are tailored to match their personal preferences.

ThingMagic is working with several partners in this space whose innovative solutions are designed to deliver personalized experiences.  Following on the heels of the 2010 British Open, the oldest of the four major championships in professional golf, the examples below highlight how RFID is being used to create a VIP experience for participants at high-profile golf events. 

Stratum Global, a Chicago-based software solutions company lives by the motto “Start Small, Think Big”.  Stratum Global put this approach to work in their delivery of a solution for one of the nation’s premier country clubs located in the hills of beautiful Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Stratum Global Stratum Global

Based on Stratum Global’s TagNet RFID suite, the solution was implemented to provide security at the two main gates to the facility as well as provide notification to Club staff when a Member has arrived on property. RFID tags were applied to each of the Member's vehicles and are read as the vehicle enters.  Security gates are managed as well as Portal Event Viewers being strategically located throughout the property (Valet Parking, Golf Bag drop) to identify Members to staff.

What's next for TagNet at this Club?  The Golf Bag Room, Catering & Event Management and tracking priceless assets around the facility.  Each of these applications are designed to enhance member experience and automate processes in ways that could not be done economically or aesthetically without RFIDS.

NooliTIC is an information and communication technology engineering company based in France.  NooliTIC solutions address many of the historical issues resulting from manual event management processes including long lines, frustrated customers, and gaps in security.  By adding a passive RFID tag to each customer’s ID badge and strategically deploying RFID readers, restricted areas can be easily monitored without interrupting the flow of foot traffic.  Data about event guest & VIP traffic is also gathered by the NooliTIC system, allowing event managers to determine how to improve future events by downsizing less crowded attractions and increasing staff availability for the more popular ones.

Noolitic Noolitic

Please share your experiences with RFID-enabled hospitality solutions.  What would you like these solutions to offer that they currently do not?  What do you think the next innovation in RFID-based hospitality solutions will be?

Race Timing with RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Fri, Jul 23, 2010 @ 12:24 PM

Tags: RFID race timing, Embedded RFID, USB RFID reader

How Rosie Ruiz Changed an Industry

On April 18th, 2011 over 25,000 participants are expected to run the 115th Boston Marathon – the oldest annual city marathon in the world.  In addition to its well known course meandering through eight Massachusetts cities and towns, the Boston Marathon is famous for several legendary participants. Recognized as a Boston Marathon icon, Johnny Kelley competed in the Boston Marathon a record 61 times, winning in 1935 and 1945, placing second seven times and finishing in the top five 15 times.  Kelly ran his last full marathon at Boston in 1992 at the age of 84.  Bill "Boston Billy" Rodgers won the Boston Marathon four times between 1975 and 1980, breaking the American record in 1975 and 1979.  Dick and Rick Hoyt are a father and son team who compete in the wheelchair division with Dick pushing Rick in a custom racing chair. Team Hoyt has competed in 27 Boston Marathons and often finish with times faster than 90% of the pack.

While these runners have been an inspiration to many, no one may have changed the sport like Rosie Ruiz.  In the 84th running of the Boston Marathon on April 21st 1980, Ruiz crossed the finish line before all other women runners – clocking the fastest time ever recorded for a woman in the history of the Boston Marathon and the third fastest time ever recorded for a woman in any marathon.  Following her impressive finish, investigations determined that Ruiz had skipped most of the race and rejoined runners about one mile from the finish line.  Ruiz was disqualified and as a result, the Boston Marathon and several other races instituted a number of safeguards against cheating - including RFID race timing systems that monitor when runners arrive at various checkpoints on the course.

Today, both Active and Passive RFID-based solutions are being used to time all kinds of races including marathons, triathlons, and cycling, sailing, skating and motorcycle races.  In each of these and many other races, timing is everythingTo ensure that an accurate time is captured when every biker, runner or swimmer crosses the finish line, events like these require extremely precise timing equipment that is both durable and able to account for each participant, especially in dense, quick-paced situations.  Without RFID, races can be timed by hand with operators using a stop-watch, or by using a combination of electronic timing and video camera systems.  As with many other time-sensitive activities however, RFID has proven to be a more efficient alternative to manual tracking due to a reduction in human error and the technology’s ability to process a greater amount of data in a shorter period of time.

RFID-enabled race timing solutions are offered by companies around the globe, including several ThingMagic partners who have implemented varying combinations of UHF and other RFID technologies to meet the demands of their customers. 

RFID Timing offers timing solutions for timing running, triathlon, cycling, swimming and canoeing. Their Ultra product includes battery assisted tags that last for two and a half years, extremely thin EVA mats, and highly sensitive Gen2 RFID readers.  HDD is a lower cost package for smaller organizations or multi-sport competitions that can be set up in less than a minute, complete with easy rollout mats. RFID Timing is using ThingMagic USB readers for short range applications including encoding and checking UHF tags prior to placement onto race numbers for an event. The ThingMagic USB reader is also used to scan athletes’ tags at race pack pickup (usually the day before a race) to verify the athletes details in the timing system database are correct. 

Zoomius produces TAG Heuer Track Intelligence, a complete online motorsports management system. Hundreds of racing organizations, track days and schools are using TAG Heuer Track Intelligence to simplify their operations and provide more love to their customers.  Zoomius has also created the TITAN RFID system, powered by ThingMagic Mercury 5e readers to provide cost-effective and accurate next-generation timing and scoring systems. Perfect accuracy provided by sophisticated but easy-to-use technology, TITAN RFID, powered by ThingMagic, brings complete timing and scoring to organizations who previously couldn't afford it. 1/1000th of a second. 40 feet. 180mph. With superior ThingMagic technology Zoomius overcome hurdles that no-one else can even come close to solving.

Share your experiences with RFID race timing systems – as a race administrator or participant.

Hospital Inventory Control with UHF RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Thu, Jul 22, 2010 @ 10:42 AM

Tags: Goods That Talk, RFID, Healthcare, Pharmaceutical Tracking

What if Your Goods Could Talk?

As introduced in posts earlier this week, RFID technology offers great potential to significantly reduce costs while improving materials management and inventory operations throughout hospitals and other healthcare facilities.  RFID-based solutions help hospitals answer the most fundamental questions of knowing who and where its patients and resources are.  With this data, hospitals can enhance a number of processes related to asset management, patient tracking and throughput, inventory control, and patient-centric services.

Passive RFID-based inventory control solutions provide real-time data on inventory availability and use as items move from storage to individual departments and ultimately to the clinicians and patients who use them.  This accurate management of the hospital supply chain – from scheduling through discharge – is essential to improving workflow and charge capture.  

Helping to drive these efficiencies into the healthcare market, Goods That Talk (GTT), located in southern Brazil has developed innovative UHF RFID-based solutions, serving the entire hospital service chain including hospitals, clinical offices, distributors and manufacturers.  GTT is partnered with ACURA RFID Systems, a longstanding ThingMagic partner focused on developing and distributing RFID tags and readers to markets such as healthcare, mining, logistics, transportation, industrial automation, chemical, security, and several others.

Included under the umbrella of GTT’s GTmed solutions, Gt Cabinets integrate ThingMagic UHF RFID readers to improve the management of implantable medical devices and drugs needed during surgical procedures.

Goods That Talk GTmed

The time between consumption and invoicing and the rigorous need for safety and coordination of the stock of these items makes product monitoring difficult.  By tagging each of these items with RFID-EPC Gen 2 tags and reading the inventory in real-time with UHF RFID readers integrated into the cabinets, hospitals can automate the management of intermediary stocks, minimize safety stock holdings, and create a proactive system of replenishment that streamlines the entire supply chain.

In an era where healthcare costs are increasing at the same time that hospital profitability is decreasing, hospital administrators are challenged with finding new ways to run their organizations more efficiently.  These solutions are just a few examples of how low cost, easy to deploy Passive UHF RFID provide hospitals with an economical way to measure a large number of parameters in hospital settings, streamline workflows and introduce efficiencies and cost savings across the entire healthcare supply chain.

What uses of RFID in healthcare do you find most beneficial?  What technology trends are you seeing that address the cost savings and efficiency needs of hospital administrators?  What if your goods could “talk” to you? 

Enhancing the Patient Experience with RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Wed, Jul 21, 2010 @ 11:47 AM

Tags: RFID, Healthcare, Patient Tracking

“It’s Like Angels Singing”

Who likes going to the doctor’s office or hospital?  We all have an image formed from years of wasting time in waiting rooms reading 3-year-old magazines, then being in colorless treatment rooms that are either too cold or too hot.  That only adds to the anxiety that already exists from being there in the first place.

Imagine if instead you looked forward to going to the hospital because it helps you relax.  Sound crazy?

“I walked through these doors and I swear it was like angels singing. I’m not a really spiritual person, but this is so beautiful the way it puts you at ease by diverting your mind from your treatment and using nature to help you relax.” These are the actual words of a patient being treated at The Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center in Burbank, California.

In Tuesday’s post, we introduced the concept of patient-centric applications that deliver a valuable and unique user experience in ways that could not be done economically or aesthetically without RFID. Point-of-care solutions and services, automated pharmaceutical receipt & distribution and automated admissions, discharge and transfer; all may sound fairly routine on the surface. What is most important, however, is the patient experience.  Consider a cancer patient whose treatment experience is enhanced because the environment (temperature, lighting, music, etc) changes to their liking by simply walking through the hospital door. Futuristic? Nope. It’s already happening.

With Passive RFID, everything happens behind the scenes so it’s not disruptive to patients and it doesn’t create extra steps for physicians and hospital administrators. In fact it does just the opposite by streamlining very complex workflows. The technology becomes invisible and the experience it makes possible has a positive impact on each patient’s state of mind as they undergo an emotionally and physically draining experience. It can put them on a faster road to recovery. 

That may sound too good to be true. So, how does it work?

At The Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center, RFID-enabled identification badges worn by patients hold information on his or her favorite colors, music and vacation spots, as well as the items critical to fostering a smooth process like billing, pharmaceutical, scheduling, and doctor information. Once a patient walks through a door, the RFID reader identifies the patient and alerts a concierge who immediately greets them and directs them to their next appointment. That’s the way it should be. Patients in these serious medical situations shouldn’t have to question whether they are in the right room, wait unnecessarily for prescription medications or dispute a billing mistake. 

Disney Family Cancer Center Disney Family Cancer Center








And there is an added bonus to implementing Passive RFID in healthcare settings. It can streamline communications between clinicians, patients and administrators. Doctors can greet people immediately upon arrival because patient names are sent to their VoIP phones when they enter the facility. And no more sitting in stark waiting rooms wondering when it’ll be their turn. Patients can be located via their ID badges, so they can walk around the facility or go outside while they wait.

View Images of The Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center’s deployment of RFID technology used to enhance patient experiences and increase efficiencies published by InformationWeek.

What other types of patient-centric applications would you like to see made possible? It may not be as far off as you think. Please respond with your ideas here. 

The Batteryless RFID Imperative in Healthcare

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Jul 20, 2010 @ 10:36 AM

Tags: Loss Prevention, RFID, Asset Tracking, Healthcare, RTLS

Patient-Centric Applications That Are Changing the Healthcare Landscape

“Today, for as little as 8 cents per tag in quantities of 5 million units, one can obtain Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags that need no batteries and can report their unique identity to a reader 50 feet away. What does this mean? Simply put, batteryless (also called passive) tags enable 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 understanding the calculus of human behavior in hygiene compliance. Think about this for a moment. I’ll wait.”

The statement above is an excerpt from a new whitepaper published by ThingMagic, exploring the numerous benefits of deploying Passive RFID in healthcare environments. Download the paper here.

Simply put, Passive RFID is the most economical way to measure a large number of parameters in healthcare settings. For example, Passive RFID can be implemented as fixed/finished readers and embedded into mobile and stationary devices to perform a variety of functions including operating room loss prevention, surgical tray and instrument track-and-trace, pharmaceutical control, document management, patient tracking/throughput, infection control, inventory control and even inventory management in ambulances.

The extreme deployment and integration flexibility of Passive RFID is complemented by the many different types of low cost Passive RFID tags that can be affixed to, or integrated into everything from consumable inventory, to handheld surgical tools, metals, liquids, patient wristbands, photo ID badges and many other items. 

Given today’s economic environment, this unmatched number of low cost, easy to deploy reader and tag combinations allows hospitals to select a single or a small number of critical areas to deploy a Passive RFID solution – based on immediate need - then expand to additional departments or add complementary components such as an RTLS or other Active RFID platforms as more resources and budget become available.

RFID Loss Prevention PortalFurther, the ability to embed Passive RFID into mobile and stationary devices allows hospitals to benefit from patient-centric applications that would otherwise not be possible, such as point-of-care solutions and services, automated pharmaceutical receipt & distribution, and automated admissions, discharge and transfer.

An example of this approach is in motion at The Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center. This installation has proved highly successful, avoiding the loss of many expensive surgical items like a $19,000 electronic neo-probe. In its next phase, Greenville Hospital will deploy Passive RFID readers throughout its main facility to track nearly 5,000 pieces of mobile medical equipment. Download the case study.

What are some other interesting RFID deployments in healthcare? What will be the next driver for healthcare organizations to invest in Passive RFID? We want to hear what you think. Please leave your comment here. 

The Next Revolution in Wireless and Mobility

Posted by Ken Lynch on Mon, Jul 19, 2010 @ 06:57 AM

Tags: RFID, Sensors, Internet of Things, Smart Objects

How RFID and Sensing Is Automating Identification, Data Collection, and Location Systems

The history of communications has progressed from human/human through human/machine to machine/machine interchange. The long evolution of each of these modalities has undeniably had a profound impact on human civilization. The last frontier in this saga is to connect the physical world to the world of machines.  Physical objects coupled with a myriad of radio technologies are driving this revolution. For instance, a modern multi-band mobile phone contains at least eight different radios —  receiving  location information from GPS satellites 26 kilometers above the earth to as close as a Bluetooth headset in your ear 1 meter away - all within the same personal communicator. 

In the past 10 years, we've gone from a world in which very few knew of RFID, to one in which the hype of the technology exceeded practical adoption rates, to today, where RFIDS is found in automated data collection, identification, and location systems worldwide. There are many types of RFIDS technologies. From Active RFIDS to ZigBee, each offers benefits across a variety of parameters including performance, standards maturity, and complementary hardware components and software applications. Solutions enabled by these technologies are addressing familiar needs across many industries including locating high-value assets in hospitals, improving item level inventory in retail stores, and tracking vehicles and goods in transit to improve supply chain management. Much more intriguing though, are the growing number of innovative solutions where users and consumers can naturally interact with RFIDS and where the technology is so integrated and transparent that it disappears into its environment.

Users of RFIDS technology may not know or even care about the enabling technology in the product or solution they are using, but understand that their professional and personal lives can benefit tremendously by experiencing its benefits. Consider a cancer patient whose treatment experience is enhanced because the environment (temperature, lighting, music, etc) changes to their liking by simply walking through the hospital door. Or a construction worker who can make sure he has all of his tools in his work truck by using an in-dash tool tracking application. Or an event participant who can manage their on-site and post-event activities through a personalized interactive information network. Each of these is an example of how new innovative solutions can deliver a valuable and unique user experience by processing data and automating processes in ways that could not be done economically or aesthetically without RFIDS.

While exploring these applications of RFIDS it is also worth reviewing advances in the enabling technology itself. Of all RFIDS technologies available, the performance of Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) Passive RFIDS (860 to 960 MHz frequency range) is advancing phenomenally. Consider the following: The read range of passive UHF RFIDS tags has quadrupled in past 3 years, meaning that UHF devices can now “see” objects at distances from millimeters to tens of meters. Read rates have increased from 200 to 1200 tags per second and read accuracy is near 100%. The cost of Passive RFIDS tags has decreased by a factor of 5 over the same period. Functionality is also expanding. In addition to reading a unique ID, UHF devices can remotely query the state, e.g., temperature of an object, determine its direction of travel and velocity, and can even turn on and off devices connected to the tag.

Regardless of the type of RFIDS you may be exploring, one thing is certain - the broad adoption of all types of RFIDS today shows that the much-heralded promise of the technology goes far beyond the supply chain focus that generated so much hype in the last decade – leading us to the next revolution in wireless and mobility applications.

September 2010 marks the 10 year anniversary of the founding of ThingMagic and as we reflect on the significant advances in RFIDS technology over the last decade, we at ThingMagic are equally excited about what the next decade holds. Since the release of ThingMagic’s first products, RFIDS technology has been able to take advantage of the incredible amount of Moore’s law expansion in the embedded world. What previously required thousands of components to implement is now available in a single chip, allowing for the design of products today that are higher performing, ten times cheaper, and one hundred times smaller than the products we brought to market ten years ago.

At ThingMagic, we believe that these advances in passive wireless ID and sensing technologies represent an important next step toward a multi-scale wireless world, significantly and positively impacting a wide array of end-market applications including mobile computing, asset tracking, telematics, and security.  To illustrate this, we plan to highlight a different application each business day for the next 100 days. We will be doing so on this blog and through a new page on our Web site. We also plan to use Twitter to foster and participate in an active dialogue as these applications are revealed.  You can participate in this discussion by following the hashtag #RFID100 on Twitter.

What is your vision of how radio frequency identification will impact our world?  What will the leading uses of RFIDS be in the next 10 years? How will we benefit from smart objects that recognize and respond to one another and to the world around them?

100 Uses of RFID

ThingMagic is the Engine in RFID®

For more examples, follow ThingMagic’s 100 Uses of RFID campaign to learn about innovative ways in which RFIDS is being used to automate data collection, identification, and location systems worldwide.  Visit our 100 Uses of RFID webpage and join the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #RFID100.

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