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RFID Platform Plays Marco Polo to Find Assets

RF Technologies has released a new platform whereby tags emit an audible signal so that needed mobile assets can be found.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Jun 01, 2006RF Technologies, a provider of asset- and patient-tracking systems for health-care applications, has announced a new active RFID system designed not to track, but to find assets. Called the Seeker, it consists of a handheld interrogator that looks for specific tags and lets users know, through a visual indicator on the handheld, when they are getting closer or further away. While it is being read, the tag also emits an audible signal. It's RFID's version of Marco Polo, the child's swimming-pool game in which a one player swims around with eyes closed, calling out "Marco" and gauging other players' locations by listening for each response of "Polo."

RF Technologies is marketing the Seeker to users who need a means of locating mobile assets but are unable to install the network of fixed-position readers and choke points required for a real-time location system, either due to budgetary limitations or because they operate in an environment (such as an outdoor area) that won't support the physical infrastructure. While most of the company's other products and services are geared toward health-care applications, the Seeker can be used by a wider circle of end users.


The Seeker works like the game Marco Polo, searching for specific tags and alerting users when they are getting closer.

Aurora Health Care, a not-for-profit Wisconsin health-care provider and leaser of health-care equipment to hospitals and for home health care, participated in a pilot program utilizing the Seeker to locate air pumps, wheel chairs and other equipment leased to West Allis Memorial Hospital, outside Milwaukee. Aurora Health Care started the first phase of the pilot test last summer, but found that the Seeker was not providing accurate results.

"We were struggling with it," says Patrick Lynch, Aurora Health Care's information systems manager. "We'd do a walk-through and the Seeker would find a device, but in some cases it was on the floor above or below us." Moreover, according to Mike Graves, supervisor of operations of the organization's rental division, the Seeker's read range was highly variable. "Sometimes," he explains, "it would read from 5 feet away, and other times it wouldn't read from as close as 3 or 4 inches from the tag."

RF Technologies collected input from Lynch and Graves, and then reengineered the Seeker interrogator to make it more reliable and reduce the strength of the RF signal so it was less likely to read tags on assets sitting on different floors or in other rooms. In April, Aurora Health Care agreed to participate in a second phase of the pilot, at which time Lynch says the system "was working much more effectively."

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