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Emanate Wireless Develops Self-Charging RTLS Tags that Monitor Hospital Equipment Usage

The startup's tags plug into an electronic device's power cord, report where that device is and whether it is in use, and can offer closer location data via built-in Bluetooth beacon functionality.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 20, 2015

Real-time location system (RTLS) solutions deployed at hospitals allow health-care workers and management to locate equipment, patients or other personnel in real time. However, one shortcoming of most RTLS solutions is the limited lifetime of batteries. Because active RFID tags require battery power, hospitals face a challenge in ensuring that all tags are working properly, especially if there are a large number of items tagged throughout a facility.

Ohio startup Emanate Wireless has developed a solution to that problem, the company reports, with its PowerPath RTLS. The system consists of a tag that plugs into a hospital device's AC power cord, using that AC to recharge the tag's batteries when the tagged device is plugged in.

The PowerPath RFID tag plugs into the power cord of an infusion pump or other electronic device, enabling the tag to recharge its batteries, as well as monitor whether that device is plugged in, and turned on or off.
The PowerPath tag not only transmits its identifier, but also indicates whether a piece of equipment to which it is attached is being used, based on the current flow at that time. The device comes with a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) radio so that it can communicate with a smartphone or tablet running a PowerPath app, and also includes infrared (IR), ultrasound and 40 kHz RF receivers that can capture data from RTLS beacons and other RTLS hardware employing those technologies (such as systems from AeroScout, CenTrak, Ekahau and Sonitor).

An Ohio hospital, which Emanate declines to name, plans to begin testing the PowerPath system. That facility will use both the Wi-Fi and BLE capabilities of the tag, and will employ PowerPath software to determine where tagged equipment is located, as well as whether and how often it is in use. The hospital's Wi-Fi system will be used to locate the tags within a 25-foot zone, and to track utilization rates. Workers will use the tag's BLE feature in conjunction with an Apple iPhone or iPad to locate a tagged device within that 25-foot zone, and to create an inventory of devices in proximity to the iPad or iPhone user.

Emanate was founded in 2014 by four former Cisco Wireless Networking Business Unit executives who had come to Cisco through its acquisition of another startup, Cognio. Emanate's goal was to develop a solution capitalizing on the trends of wireless and Internet of Things technology proliferation, as well as the need for greater efficiency in the health-care sector. The company discussed pain-points with hospitals and found that many had not adopted RTLS technology because of the perceived high cost of the infrastructure, as well as the need to replace a tag's depleted batteries. What's more, dead tag batteries were causing some existing RTLS solutions to fall far short of the planned objective of locating all high-value equipment in real time.

"It can be a big maintenance issue to replace batteries every six months to a year," says Neil Diener, one of Emanate Wireless' co-founders and its CEO. One hospital, he adds, indicated that it employed two full-time staff members to simply walk through the facility replacing RTLS tags' batteries.

Another problem was the fact that hospitals could not determine an asset's utilization rate simply based on its location. Although an infusion pump or other device may be in a patient's room, there was no way to know whether it was actually in use. That information not only enables personnel to retrieve a piece of equipment they need (assuming it is not being used), but also allows management to better determine how many of each asset are actually needed at the facility.

USER COMMENTS

Glen Hopkinson 2015-10-17 07:43:45 AM
Locasys provides innovative real-time location systems based on its innovative wire free LocaTOR architecture http://www.locasys.co.uk

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