ThingMagic and Digi-Key: Helping the IoT Realize Its Full Potential Using RFID

Posted by Shannon Downey on Thu, Aug 28, 2014 @ 02:38 PM

Tags: RFID, Sensors, Healthcare, Internet of Things, IT Asset Tracking, Embedded RFID, RFID Data, Inventory Management, Construction, Digi-Key

Conceptually, the Internet of Things (IoT), at its most basic, is composed of billions of items all connected and communicating information through wired and wireless technology.  One of its first and fundamental building blocks is sensing technologies like RFID. To date, however, RFID has been largely relegated to specific enterprise markets and applications. Though RFID-based applications can vary greatly, there is still similar functionality and value to a retailer looking to better track inventory and manage its supply chain; a hospital looking to better organize its equipment, medications and patients; or a construction company looking to better monitor job sites and work assignments to better guarantee the safety of its workers in the event of an emergency.  And this is just a small sampling of the industries and verticals that can benefit from RFID applications.  These applications, across all industries, are capable of delivering tremendous measureable value - but there is so much more that RFID can do within IoT.

Thus, a challenge we face is working to understand the limitations organizations and developers perceive when considering building RFID applications. One of the things that has kept RFID from achieving wider-spread adoption has been the availability of tools that make it easy for engineers and developers to quickly build and integrate RFID-based applications. Nobody understands this issue better than us. But having just signed a global distribution agreement with Digi-Key – one of the world’s largest and fastest growing electronic components distributors – we’re hoping to offer a solution by giving engineers better access to RFID tools and a better foundation for innovating with RFID.

Here at ThingMagic, we are now collaborating with Digi-Key to distribute our Mercury 6e Series and Mercury 5e Series embedded modules, putting us in a position to reach more engineers with the building blocks for tomorrow’s innovations.  Digi-Key’s distribution of ThingMagic development kits along with our modules will enable more companies to develop and produce the connected items that are behind the next wave of IoT solutions. Our award-winning family of modules has the performance capabilities to sustain the speed and connectivity of today’s complex systems, with the compact form factor required for the billions of devices that will one day make up the Internet of Things.

As the proliferation of devices of all types and sizes continues, the development and adoption of the Internet of Things should grow as well.  But we’re still far from that tipping point where we truly connect all devices across the enterprise and consumer worlds seamlessly through the IoT.  In spite of the progress that’s been made, the IoT ecosystem does not yet work together as it should.  For it to reach its potential, we’ll need cooperation from all the participants in the market.  By providing developers and engineers with development tools, platforms and technologies – like RFID – that all support industry standards, then we will have a collaboration that will enable the true vision of IoT.   Our partnering with Digi-Key is another step on the path to achieving that objective.

GUEST POST: Q&A with Paul Elizondo of MEPS Real-Time

Posted by Ken Lynch on Wed, Mar 12, 2014 @ 02:02 PM

Tags: RFID, Healthcare, Pharmaceutical Tracking

MEPS Real-TimeFounded in 2006 and headquartered in Carlsbad, Calif., MEPS® Real-Time, Inc. (mepsrealtime.com) is now a leading provider of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) solutions for the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. Its suite of Intelliguard® Management Systems offer healthcare providers unprecedented real-time visibility of medical and pharmaceutical inventory to reduce supply chain costs, improve patient safety, increase efficiency of pharmacy and nursing staff and eliminate human error.

MEPS Real-Time® was established originally as a division of Safety Syringes Inc. which was recently acquired by BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) (NYSE: BDX). The company is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Howard Energy Co., Inc. based in Traverse City, Michigan.  

Thanks to Paul Elizondo, Director of Engineering and R&D at MEPS for sharing his insights into the use of RFID in the healthcare market and for his thoughts on ThingMagic's embedded RFID technology and development tools.

Q. MEPS products are positioned as “RFID Solutions for Critical Inventory”.  Please comment on the types of inventory your products are used to manage and the value RFID enabling your products provides your customers?

A. Our solutions are focused on high-value, critical dose, controlled drugs and processes.  This is where we find the value proposition exists for our hospital customers.  When you have a drug that costs hundreds and even thousands of dollars per dose, there is an obvious value to reduce inventory levels and manage expiration dates.

Reducing inventory of high-value drugs can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars freed up for the hospital. But, the drugs must always be there when required for a patient.  Our systems provide real-time visibility of inventory, can provide immediate notification of minimum PAR levels, and are perfect solutions for a vendor managed inventory program.

These high-value drugs can also be an expiration risk.  Typically, inventory is manually rotated by pharmacy personnel as new inventory arrives so that the first to expire is the first to be utilized.  But, that doesn’t always occur.  Additionally, inventory can be stored in multiple locations throughout a hospital.  Our solutions provide real-time visibility to expiration dates and provide alerts when a drug becomes short-dated so pharmacy personnel can take appropriate action.

Another key value proposition is critical processes within the pharmacy where time-consuming tasks are performed.  One of these critical processes is the replenishment of pharmacy kits, trays and boxes distributed throughout the hospital.  Once used on a procedure (surgical or emergency), it is returned to the pharmacy.  Some trays contain more than 150 drugs.  The missing and used items must be identified, replaced and then each drug must be looked at to find the first-to-expire drug.  It is a process filled with human error potential and can take 30 minutes or more.  Our solution reduces the time to three to five minutes and with complete accuracy.

Our Intelliguard® Solutions include:

Intelliguard Medication Management – Features an Automated Dispensing Cabinet (ADC) that provides real-time, item-level visibility of pharmaceuticals with single and double-drawer options including Cold (2° - 8°C) storage.

MEPS IMSIntelliguard Inventory Management – Features Controlled Temperature Cabinets that enable continuous temperature monitoring and real-time inventory visibility of high-value, critical-care medications. Cabinets have preset temperature settings for Cold (2° - 8°C) or Controlled Room (20° - 25°C) storage. Available sizes are from small under-counter to large-capacity models.

Intelliguard Kit and Tray Management Systems – Features countertop unit or an all-in-one cart to automate tray inventory, replenishment and approval processes while significantly reducing required labor. Leveraging advanced RFID technology, enables scans of more than 150 medications in high-density trays, multi-layer tackle boxes and overlapping kit labels in a matter of seconds.

Q. Throughout its history, MEPS products have supported various RFID frequencies including 13.56 MHz high-frequency and 2.45 GHz passive, before settling on settling on EPC Gen 2/ISO 18000-6c UHF.  Can you share lessons learned with each technology and the advantages Gen2 UHF offers?

A. In the year 1999, we employed 13.56 MHz RFID technology in our first attempt to track medication in small enclosures. The complexity of the read antenna systems, resulting from the inductive coupling nature of the 13.56 MHz frequency, along with the non-deterministic, multi-tag read algorithm made it difficult to develop an accurate, repeatable and cost-effective system.

In 2003, MEPS decided to change frequencies and replace 13.56 MHz RFID technology with the recently developed 2.45 GHz RFID technology. This frequency offered the advantage of small read antennas, small RFID tags, high data rates, and a deterministic multi-tag read algorithm. While MEPS was able to develop and successfully deploy a refrigerated medication tracking product, reliability issues associated with the new technology and the lack of a worldwide standards made it difficult to move forward with commercial products.

In 2008, MEPS began the process of developing medication tracking solutions based on the newly ratified EPC Gen2 / ISO 18000-6c UHF RFID standard. The new air protocol standard offered high data rates, reliable RF communication, deterministic multi-tag read algorithm, noise mitigation, control of modulation type and control of other parameters for customizing the RFID identification process for challenging applications. In addition, this world standard at the UHF frequency has benefited integrators and end users by creating competition around a single air protocol resulting in higher performing tags and readers while reducing cost of ownership.

MEPS Real-Time has developed a large portfolio of intellectual property including trademarks, patents and patents pending.

Q. The adoption of UHF RFID in healthcare seems to be growing.  What is MEPS experiencing and what are your expectations for the future of UHF in this industry?

A. The business is experiencing huge growth and interest in our Intelliguard RFID Solutions.  We believe this has occurred because technology is quickly being identified as one of the only ways to reduce healthcare cost, improve quality of care, help prevent medication errors and increase staff efficiency.  These are the key drivers in healthcare today.

We believe UHF RFID is an excellent enabling technology for many solutions in the hospital.

Today versus several years ago, customers are able to identify and purchase solutions instead of technology.  As other RFID/Wireless solutions are successfully implemented with a positive ROI, such as RTLS/asset tracking solutions, customers consider additional opportunities to expand the benefits.

Research shows this trend continuing at a more rapid pace.  New regulations such as the Drug Quality and Security Act (DQSA) will increase demand.  Costs will be reduced and capabilities will increase for UHF readers, antennas, inlays and smart labels because of the adoption in retail and healthcare.  This will open up more opportunities with pharmaceutical manufacturers to selectively replace barcode with RFID where there is a need for greater visibility of inventory.

Q. What do you see as the greatest barriers to integrating RFID into products and solutions?

A. Barriers that were there several years ago, are no longer there.  UHF has all of the capabilities of HF and has greater long-term opportunities to expand and develop.  It is a great solution for supply chain and MEPS has demonstrated that in all of our technology solutions as well as with our business partners.

The hardware, database and inlay/tag solutions are available. The biggest barrier is overcoming the inertia of (hospitals, medical clinics, etc.) continuing to operate in the same historical manner. The challenge is not so much in getting the “tag cost lower,” which has been a barrier in the past, but in demonstrating the value added and cost savings of employing true tracking and inventory systems.

Q. ThingMagic recently released our Mercury xPRESS Platform to simplify the integration of UHF RFID into products and solutions.  As an early adopter of the Platform, what has MEPS’ experience been and which features do you think will assist your development efforts the most?

A. MEPS is developing several enclosure solutions for tracking medication in the healthcare market. These solutions require a small or headless computer system that can be configured for connection to a database wirelessly, by Ethernet or USB interface.  The Mercury xPress Platform provides this flexibility as well as allowing the use of either the M6e or M6e Micro readers depending on the application. In addition, the Mercury xPRESS platform delivers an array of digital inputs and outputs for process control.

Q. A key feature of the xPRESS Platform is its extensible architecture, giving developers the flexibility to design for the future using a single platform.  For example, over time, the xPRESS Platform will include a variety of communication interfaces such as Wi-Fi, POE, GPRS, GPS, 4G/LTE and a library of market and application specific sample applications.  How do you feel this will support the development of RFID products in general and benefit MEPS® future development?

A. MEPS is developing RF-enabled enclosures for tracking medication in both stationary and mobile applications. As these solutions expand to address new tracking applications, the flexibility of the xPRESS Platform will facilitate the reconfiguration of products for new RF antenna systems, user interfaces, and control systems. 

 

MEPS®, MEPS Real-Time® and Intelliguard® are registered trademarks and RFID Solutions for Critical Inventory are trademarks of MEPS Real-Time, Inc. 

Desktop USB RFID Readers – Simple yet Versatile

Posted by Ken Lynch on Wed, Apr 24, 2013 @ 01:33 PM

Tags: RFID, Healthcare, Embedded RFID, Event Management, Airplane Parts Tracking, USB RFID reader, RFID Kiosk

ThingMagic USB ReaderThe 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.

Aerospace

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

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

Sports

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.

RFID-Powered Kiosks

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.

RFID in Healthcare is The Big Easy!

Posted by Ken Lynch on Thu, Mar 14, 2013 @ 02:05 PM

Tags: RFID, Healthcare, Robotics

HIMSSThe 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

RFID-enabled Robots Create Efficiency in the Workplace

Posted by Ken Lynch on Mon, Oct 22, 2012 @ 11:04 AM

Tags: RFID, Healthcare, Manufacturing Automation, Robotics

RobotsRobots 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.

Smart Medication Administration with RFID

Posted by Anna Zauner on Tue, Jun 26, 2012 @ 10:20 AM

Tags: RFID, Healthcare, Pharmaceutical Tracking, Inventory Management

PharmaThe 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.

Solution:

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!

MEPS Video

Business at the Speed of RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Mon, Apr 16, 2012 @ 02:42 PM

Tags: RFID, Healthcare, Retail, RFID Journal LIVE, Laundry Management

RJL AwardsYou 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?

RFID - Stand up and Be Counted!

Posted by Ken Lynch on Fri, Feb 17, 2012 @ 02:14 PM

Tags: RFID, Healthcare, Event Management

CureAs 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.


Hospitals Should Consider a Phased Approach to Deploying RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Thu, Feb 16, 2012 @ 03:57 PM

Tags: RFID, Asset Tracking, Healthcare, Pharmaceutical Tracking, Patient Tracking, Asset Management

Wireless HospitalIn 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.

UHF is the Magic Pill for RFID in Healthcare

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Jan 03, 2012 @ 02:19 PM

Tags: RFID, Healthcare, Embedded RFID, Pharmaceutical Tracking, Inventory Management, Patient Tracking, Process Control, Wristband Tags, Wander Prevention, Temperature Monitoring, Announcements

Wireless HospitalAs 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

Hopefully what happens in Vegas, doesn’t stay in Vegas!

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