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RFID News Roundup

New York Comic Con adopts RFID to control counterfeiting; Virginia High School installs Ekahau's RFID solution to bolster emergency responses; Assuta Medical Center implements LogiTag's SmartCabinet; Sentara Healthcare, Trinitas Regional Medical Center select Versus RTLS; Germany's Kassel-Calden airport tests RFID to guide visually impaired visitors; Central College Nottingham tests NFC to help teach English as a foreign language.
By Beth Bacheldor

Sentara Healthcare, Trinitas Regional Medical Center Select Versus RTLS
Two health-care organizations—Sentara Healthcare and the Trinitas Regional Medical Center—have implemented Versus Technology's real-time locating system (RTLS), a solution that combines readers, badges and tags for tracking individuals and assets. The system uses infrared (IR) signals, as well as RFID as a backup solution, in the event that the IR signal is blocked or not operating properly. When a tag's IR signal, emitted every three seconds, is received by the IR reader at a particular location, the interrogator transmits its own ID number, along with that of the tag, to the Versus software. In the event that the IR signal is not being received (if, for instance, a blanket is covering the tag and its infrared beacon), the RFID system provides a backup by emitting a 433 MHz RFID signal—which also beacons every three seconds—using a proprietary air-interface protocol. The tags and badges communicate with wireless, battery-powered V-Link sensors. Following a six-month, hospital-wide asset-tracking pilot at the Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center, Sentara Healthcare selected Versus' Advantages Asset Tracking and Fleet Management system. The hospital now plans to implement the solution at its nine additional locations throughout Virginia and North Carolina. The hospitals will use the solution to track a variety of assets, including IV pumps, beds and more. Sentara was able to build its asset-tracking system onto a Versus RTLS network already in use for nurse-call automation, Versus reports. Upon its initial pursuit of RTLS technology for asset tracking, Sentara's main goal was to reduce equipment loss. Further into its evaluation of the RTLS solution, Sentara's staff realized that it could improve its return on investment (ROI) by focusing on equipment utilization. During the pilot, 500 assets were tagged and tracked for three weeks, in order to collect baseline data, prior to the frond-end software being rolled out to staff. Comparing utilization data from the three-week period before and after the system was taken live, Versus notes, showed that IV pump utilization increased by 17 percent, IV pump module utilization increased by 7 percent, patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) pump inventory was found to be underutilized, and less labor time was spent searching for equipment, with staff members able to take on additional duties. "We actually had a standing order for 10 pumps and modules," said Patrice Lavoie, Sentara's senior business applications analyst, in the prepared statement. "We realized immediately that we didn't need them." Prior to the implementation of the RTLS solution, Sentara's overall utilization rate was 54 percent—already higher than the average utilization rate for mobile equipment (42 percent). Currently, Sentara Williamsburg maintains a 75 percent utilization rate, according to Versus. There have been gains in the hospital's sterile processing department (SPD) as well. Automatic notifications alert the SPD when used equipment is awaiting sterilization, Versus explains. The Trinitas Regional Medical Center, a full-service health-care facility serving Central New Jersey, is using Versus' Visibility Staff Assist solution to enhance its safety protocols. Provided via Maffey's Security Group, the local Versus certified systems integrator and Trinitas' security vendor of more than 50 years, the solution provides badges for caregivers. By pressing the badge button, workers can immediately summon help to their location. More than 200 Trinitas physicians, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and technicians wear Versus badges. Trinitas first implemented the Staff Assist system within its emergency department (ED) in February 2013. According to Versus, ED employees can push their badge buttons to summon help in the event of medical emergencies (for example, to help with a patient suffering a cardiac arrest), or to request a Code Gray (combative patient or visitor). Trinitas has since expanded the system into its inpatient and outpatient psychiatric units, as well as to its drug abuse counseling facility. A button-push within these areas immediately triggers a Code Gray response. Implementation in the medical/surgical unit, which sometimes houses psychiatric patients, is on the horizon. In the prepared statement, John Dougherty, Trinitas' security director, said, "We're always going to have our Code Grays, but Staff Assist may cut down on actual physical assault, because of improved response times".

Germany's Kassel-Calden Airport Tests RFID to Guide Visually Impaired Visitors
The European Union-funded research project designed to improve the lives of visually impaired citizens, dubbed SESAMONET (Secure and Safe Mobility Network), is testing its RFID-enabled technology at the Kassel-Calden regional airport, in Germany. The SESAMONET was initially tested in 2007 in the city of Laveno, Italy, where RFID tags were installed along a 2-kilometer (1.2-mile) path leading from the city's railway station to the banks of Lago Maggiore, through a park near the lake, and also extended across intersections. Blind and sighted people alike tested the technology using custom-designed canes that serve as interrogators (see Tags Lead the Way for Blind in EU-Funded Pilot). The project is overseen by the European Commission's Joint Research Center (JRC), which developed the prototype. The JRC initially developed the SESAMONET platform in collaboration with the RFID Lab at the Sapienza University of Rome. Since the Laveno test's conclusion, and following a license agreement signed with the Italian Blind Union (Unione Italiana Ciechi) in 2011, other RFID-enabled pathways have been deployed at several public locations in Italy, such as Gemelli Hospital, in Rome, and the University of Calabria. The Kassel-Calden airport project, Germany's first official SESAMONET RFID-enabled pathway, aims to make air travel more accessible for those with impaired vision, according to the JRC. This is important in view of current demographic trends toward an ageing society with a growing number of persons affected by vision loss, the JRC adds. At the Kassel-Calden airport, passive 134.2 kHz RFID transponders have been embedded into a concrete area, as well as at the airport's entrances, thereby forming a virtual path that guides people using custom-designed canes that serve as interrogators for the RFID tags encased in the path. The electronic canes read the transponders' ID numbers and forward the data via a Bluetooth connection to a nearby device where all navigation instructions and audio messages are managed. Roughly 450 transponders were installed, according to Berta Duane, JRC's press officer. The transponders were integrated directly into concrete tiles manufactured by Klostermann GmbH. The tiles were placed along the pathway, Duane says, with each transponder set at a distance of 30 centimeters (11.8 inches) from the next one. Researchers are considering adding the SESAMONET navigation system to the indoor part of the terminal during the project's second phase.

Central College Nottingham Tests NFC to Help Teach English as a Foreign Language

Central College Nottingham's NFC smart poster
Central College Nottingham, in the United Kingdom, has tested Near Field Communication (NFC), smart posters and smartphones to help teach English as Foreign Language (EFL) students. A blog entry posted by Simon Wardman, an EFL teacher at Central College Nottingham and one of the project's initiators, explained that the NFC-enabled scavenger hunts were designed to provide the students with information regarding language outside the classroom, in a contextualized way. When students found and scanned the posters, which featured NFC tags, they were linked to the English definitions of nearby objects, hosted on a crowd-sourced dictionary known as Toponimo. From there, the students were required to make a collaborative decision about the most appropriate meaning of the word, relevant to its context. The NFC project followed an earlier one that leveraged QR codes, which can also be read via smartphones. The downside, Wardman wrote in his article, "is that you need to download special software before you can use them, fiddle around on your phone to get to the right app and the results are all too frequently underwhelming. QR codes may have their function, but the reality is that they're often tricky and frustrating to use." Those limitations, he wrote, caused students to skip the exercise. Thomas Sweeney, a researcher from the University of Nottingham's Learning Science Research Institute, suggested NFC RFID technology to Wardman, and helped him set up the NFC trial. The tags used for the project were RapidNFC 29mm Round Clear NFC Tags, made with NXP Semiconductors NTAG203 NFC chips featuring 137 bytes of usable memory, according to Sweeney (who also co-wrote the article with Wardman). The software for the project was custom-written and runs natively on Android, Sweeney says. According to the article, interacting with the NFC tags was easier, especially since the students could touch a tag with a phone to share information between the phone and the tag. Additionally, the NFC tags were more convenient for teachers, since they could be easily re-written—which saved a lot of time when creating new vocabulary hunts, Wardman wrote. Students were also able to create interactive posters themselves, and use these to set challenges for fellow students. According to the article, Central College Nottingham has analyzed the project to determine how well the NFC-enabled scavenger hunts helped EFL students. Out of the 29 students who took part, the article reports, 25 held a positive attitude toward the activity and saw benefits in learning using contextually relevant vocabulary.

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