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IBSS launches Healthcare Tracking

The software company is offering hospitals a system to track assets, patients and personnel using active and passive RFID tags.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Jan 13, 2005Software vendor Integrated Business Systems and Services (IBSS), based in Columbia, S.C., has announced an radio frequency identification (RFID) asset and personnel tracking product called SynTrack, which it is marketing for use in healthcare facilities for tracking large, nonconsumable assets, such as wheelchairs, and for patients and personnel. It is bundling the SynTrack application with Identec Solutions multifrequency readers and active UHF tags (for assets). The applications also supports the use of wristbands (for patients) or smart cards (for employees) embedded with RFID tags such as those with Philips' passive Mifare 13.56 MHz chips or tags compatible with ISO 15693-1, -2, and -3, or 14443-A standards.

"Identec is a wonderful technology for tracking assets in healthcare," says Lee Dunston, IBSS director of sales. "They've got an excellent track record and an excellent installed base." IBSS also announced that it has become an authorized systems integrator for Identec, which is based in British Columbia. However, Don Futch, IBSS director of business development, notes that while the SynTrack product is being offered with Identec RFID hardware, SynTrack has been developed as a vendor-agnostic application that can work with a number of different hardware solutions. "We suggest Identec because we believe it is a best-of-breed solution. But we can provision different readers or tags per our customer's demands," he says.

SynTrack is built upon IBSS's core online transaction software, Synapse. This software is the framework for the application; it acts as a middleware layer by collecting tag data and applying business rules for handling and processing the collected tag data. This application is also used to set up the configuration and functionality of the tags and readers as needed by the user.

To deploy the SynTrack system, an administrator defines a hierarchy of zones within the physical area in which assets or people are being tracked. For example, a top-level zone might be defined as an entire floor within a hospital. Within that, smaller zones might be a wing on the floor, or even a very small area, such as an elevator or closet. When the tags are assigned to objects, they would be designated within a group, such as the wheelchair group or the nurse group. To locate a particular item, the user could drill down to the group level and the zone level to determine, for example, how many wheelchairs are in the west wing of floor one. The Identec readers installed near important areas within a zone, such as a doorway, can be configured by the SynTrack application to send a signal to administrators when an asset or person enters its interrogation field. This can be helpful for controlling what types are assets are allowed to be removed from certain zones. It could be used also to monitor the movement of patients with Alzheimer's disease, for example. SynTrack is designed to handle an unlimited number of zones and tagged items.

SynTrack can run on a single server or on a number of servers that can be networked into a consolidated server. Each Identec reader can support up to four antennas. The data generated from SynTrack can be sent to other hospital systems, such as financial reporting programs for fixed assets, or to larger enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. The software can be integrated into a Linux operation system.

IBSS is conducting a pilot program in a large, undisclosed Chicago healthcare facility and says that this institution could become its first SynTrack customer. Pricing for SynTrack depends on the type of hardware used and the number of assets and people to be tracked. A minimum SynTrack application development kit, which includes the SynTrack software license and eight user profiles, and one reader and tag set, starts at $15,000.

"The application of asset tracking for healthcare has an excellent ROI right now. Hospitals have traditionally been more focused on making sure that the assets are there, and now they're having to find ways to make sure the asset utilization is there was well," says Dunston. The SynTrack application is designed to help healthcare workers know where high-value assets are within the hospital and also where they are being used and where they are not being used. This can help healthcare staff manage the distribution of assets, which can lead to lower labor and asset costs because staff would spend less time looking for assets and hospitals would save by not losing as many of the assets.

Last year, several other companies launched RFID-based people- and asset-tracking solutions for healthcare facilities, including Mobile Aspects Unified System for Healthcare and Parco Wireless (see Hospital Gets Ultra-Wideband RFID).

IBSS is also marketing the SynTrack application to other industries, but with different hardware configurations. For industrial logistics applications, for example, the SynTrack application would be bundled with low-frequency active tags from Michigan-based RFID systems provider USM Systems. Low-frequency active tags are more appropriate for use in highly metallic environments inherent to trucking, shipping, or other transportation systems. IBSS announced a licensing agreement with USM in December.

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