Greening the Data Center with RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Thu, Jan 19, 2012 @ 04:20 PM

Tags: RFID, Big Data, Temperature Monitoring, Asset Management

Data CenterBy now you’ve probably figured out that we’re on a mission to reshape the way people think about RFID. “Efficient use of energy in the data center” is not the first thing most people would think of when they think of RFID.  However, with the 1.8 zettabytes of data we are on pace to generate and consume as a society in 2011 (forecasted by IDC) RFID must fit in somewhere!  What’s more, is data centers around the world are expected to use 19 percent more energy in the coming 12 months and more than one-third of companies expect at least one of their data centers to run out of power, cooling or space sometime within the next year. That’s a big problem to have. So what’s the answer?

There needs to be a way to manage the consequences that come along with the advent of Big Data. Not only are large amounts of data hard to manage, but it is also a costly operation. Many organizations are turning to cloud computing services to reduce their reliance on internal servers, which also contribute to lower energy consumption. But is that the only option? In a recent post, I discussed how the use of RFID will generate lots of new data. What if I told you the use of RFID can also be used to drive efficiencies into the data center infrastructure?

Russell Klein, Aberdeen Group analyst noted in a recent eWeek article that businesses large and small should be concerned with controlling data center costs, including energy consumption. One of the ways he suggested organizations do so is with RFID, which can be used to monitor conditions, such as temperature and air pressure. RFID provides real-time data streams to feed the analytics engine, a function other sophisticated infrastructure management platforms lack. As organizations look for more energy efficient IT operations that save money and build better infrastructure, it is likely that RFID will become a frontrunner. 

RFID at Work in the Data Center

Implementing RFID in the data center is a form of asset management, but maybe not the way you currently think of asset management. For example, sensor modules with temperature probes can be wired to RFID tags. The modules are then attached to racks in data centers, where the probes measure the temperature of various devices and use RFID to transmit the data to a reader. The reader receives the temperature data and sends it along to the software residing on a dedicated server. The data is then used to regulate temperature controls in real-time to conserve energy, ultimately reducing the cost to run a data center.

The cost-effectiveness and ease of RFID in this type of implementation allowed the Franchise Tax Board in Sacramento California to reduce the consumption of energy in the agency’s data center by 75 percent, also saving them more than $40,000 a year. Due to the successful results, the state continues to receive funding for the project from the U.S. Department of Energy.

What other ways can we use RFID to create a greener environment?

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!

RFID Making Fresh Produce Cool

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Dec 13, 2011 @ 10:22 AM

Tags: RFID, Sensors, Food Safety, Agriculture, Cold Chain, Temperature Monitoring

Cold ChainI have to admit that I buy organic milk, not just because I think it’s healthier for my family, but because I can stock up on it without the risk that it’ll go bad before we use it. Why does organic milk have such a longer shelf-life than regular milk? Maybe they’ve figured out something that the others haven’t. Maybe it’s Intelleflex.

Recently, the company developed what they call the Cool Chain Quick Scan. It helps farmers and shippers identify spots in their temperature-controlled supply chain - or cold chain - to improve freshness. This may sound familiar to you because during our 100 Uses of RFID program, we blogged about RFID enabling temperature tracking in real-time for sensitive, pharmaceutical shipments. Now we learn about it being used to track produce temperatures, which makes a ton of sense. 

The time for fresh produce to be harvested, cooled, processed and shipped can vary by hours and is influenced by several external factors beyond the farm. Air temperatures of refrigerated vehicles add to the complexity because they vary significantly, potentially causing the food to go bad before it reaches the store. That could explain the condition of the avocados I see in my supermarket.

The Cool Chain Quick Scan replaces guesswork, visual inspections and First In/First Out inventory methods, with a snapshot of the cold chain. It identifies, measures and documents the impact of the temperatures on the produce. The monitoring is continuous - from the field, to the pack house, through distribution, and finally the retail store. It sounds tedious, but with RFID, it’s easy and cost-effective.

RFID tags that use light, temperature and humidity sensors, are placed on the produce and processed as usual. For example, tags could be placed with produce in the field during harvest, or in pallets being transported from the pack house to distribution centers. Readers and condition monitoring tags use battery-assisted, passive RFID to read through pallets and containers with precision. The tags are removed at the pack house and mailed back to Intelleflex for analysis that is included in a detailed report, including:

  • Temperature variation that the product is experiencing
  • Amount of shelf life lost due to temperature issues
  • Impact on customer satisfaction
  • Recommendations to improve temperature management

This level of reporting can help farmers, distributors and retailers develop cold chain best practices.

By transforming climate monitoring from trailer-, container- and warehouse-tracking devices to individual pallet tags, RFID can give fresh produce suppliers detailed visibility into the lifecycle of the produce. They can use this new found visibility and resulting best practices to reduce shrink and improve profitability. Every fresh produce supplier’s dream come through thanks to – of all things - RFID.

RFID and the Miracle of Life

Posted by Ken Lynch on Fri, Nov 19, 2010 @ 01:11 PM

Tags: RFID, Healthcare, Temperature Monitoring

Delivers Insight into Fertility Cycles and Prevents Mistakes at IVF Labs

This week’s post is contributed by my friend Lucie…

DuoFertilitySince my children have been born, I have gladly forgotten all about the Basal Thermometer and the monthly regimens that went along with it. None of which were guaranteed to bring me closer to parenthood; just potentially increase my chances. Many people don’t realize that there’s more to getting pregnant than just watching the calendar every month – among a few other things! To complicate matters, if you were fortunate enough to calculate the precise window of opportunity for conception, you can’t assume it’ll be the same time the following month, or the month after. Add that to the list of life’s cruel jokes.

Cambridge Temperature Concepts in Cambridge, U.K. didn’t think the joke was any laughing matter. So, they developed an RFID-based system to help women more easily and accurately track their ovulation cycles. The European product is called DuoFertility.

The system contains a small waterproof module with a basal temperature sensor and a passive 125 kHz RFID inlay, a handheld RFID interrogator and a USB port. The module adheres to the skin and logs and stores thousands of temperature readings throughout the day. The same module can stay put up to 28 days; hence the waterproof element. A woman can also enter certain information such as ovulation indicators or results of other tests, such as hormone level tests that she might also be using. About one month's worth of data can be stored in the module's 2 megabytes of memory. Because it relies on a passive RFID tag to transmit the information, the battery is not necessary for data transfer.   

When the woman wants to download the temperature data, she holds the handheld reader (which can read through clothing) up to the module. The handheld device will indicate her fertility level on that day. And unlike the Basal Thermometer, it can predict fertility levels for the next five days. It can take a lot of the emotional drain out of trying to conceive.

Tracking fertility isn’t the only way RFID is helping couples conceive…that is conceive according to plan. According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in London, there were eight mix-ups in IVF clinics in 2008. That means eggs, sperm or an embryo used in an IVF procedure came from the wrong person. Apparently the mix-ups occur when items are mislabeled because of mistakes in the lab's verification procedures.

Research Instruments in the UK developed a system called IVF Witness. It uses small, plastic RFID tags to label dishes and vials that house the eggs, sperm and embryos. The tags contain a memory chip and a coiled copper radio antenna. Each tag is programmed with a unique ID code that is transmitted via the antenna when the tag is interrogated.

It constantly monitors the identity of the dishes and vials that are brought in close proximity of each other on an IVF lab bench. It sounds an alarm if, for example, eggs about to be introduced to sperm, are from the wrong person.

If RFID can prevent mistakes that have such devastating, life-lasting consequences, I wonder if it’s not long before it’s a federal regulation that all IVF clinics deploy it for identity tracking purposes. I’m sold.

[Image source: DuoFertility]

RFID Left out in the Cold

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Nov 16, 2010 @ 01:02 PM

Tags: RFID, Temperature Monitoring, Race Timing

Solution Provides Tracking, Temperature Monitoring & Scheduling for Iditarod Participants

IditarodDuring this campaign, we’ve seen how one use of RFID actually ends up solving more than one problem - offering added bonuses on top of serving its initial purpose. Today’s application is no different, with one RFID system helping its users overcome three major challenges.

The obvious use for RFID in a race that spans more than 1,000 miles and the course of several days is to help the spectators get a real-time view of the Iditarod. They can see the locations of each musher, in relation to the others, at any given time.

The tracking system used RFID transponders built by IonEarth. Each transponder contains a GPS receiver, an Iridium short-burst data modem that transmits a signal encoded with an ID number, an accelerometer to track speed and a temperature sensor. The waterproof transponders are affixed to the front of the sleds and programmed to transmit their position, speed, heading and temperature every 15 minutes via Iridium's satellite network. With that information, race officials can pinpoint a sled's position to within 20 feet. That’s pretty precise when the sleds are traversing mountain ranges, forests, desolate tundra and frozen rivers - which brings us to the second benefit of RFID in this application.

Because the system tracks the speed of each sled, organizers can see if a racer's pace is slower than normal. Simultaneously, they can also see the temperature being endured by that racer. With the extensive stretch of trails and the variations in landscape, temperatures and winds can change dramatically, going as low as -50 degrees Fahrenheit. The data would indicate if a racer needed to be rescued. And forget about using a cell phone in an emergency situation because on these trails cell phones don’t work. 

Cell phones also wouldn’t be able to be used to notify checkpoint teams of a sled’s arrival. But RFID would! For RFID use #3, the real-time view lets volunteers, judges and dog handlers know when to be ready. Before the RFID tracking system, checkpoint teams had to be ready at any given time, requiring someone to be on watch around the clock.

Purists may not like the idea because the Iditarod was invented to pit man against nature. At least the RFID system isn’t enhancing anyone’s performance over another or influencing the outcome. And it’s helping protect the lives of the mushers and the dogs. Who wouldn’t like that? We particularly like the 3-for-1 deal. 

[Photo credit: Boston Globe’s Big Picture]


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