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Ekahau Tag Converges Tracking and Messaging

The company’s new Wi-Fi-compatible tag supports text communications, making it possible to not only locate personnel, assets and works-in-progress, but also send short messages.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Feb 23, 2007Ekahau, a Finnish maker of Wi-Fi real-time locating systems used in the health-care and manufacturing industries, is putting its RFID smarts into a personnel badge, and also equipping it with an LCD screen and text-messaging capabilities. Called the T301-B, the device is an active 2.45 GHz tag that is read by Wi-Fi access points and could be used, for example, by hospital administrators to first locate and then message a nurse or doctor wearing the badge. It would prove an effective alternative to using a pager or sending text messages over cell phones, particularly because the use of pagers and cell phones is restricted in hospitals to reduce the potential of RF interference with biotelemetric devices, explains Arttu Huhtiniemi, Ekahau's director of product management.

When someone carrying the badge receives a short text message, that person can confirm receipt of the message by pressing a receipt button on the tag. The T301-B can also be used as an asset tag, in which case the text message would provide employees with a visual indication of an asset's status, such as "rented" or "reserved." The message function can also work in a factory, where the tags could be attached to goods being manufactured to track their location and indicate their production status on the screen.

The T301-B has a small LCD screen for displaying text messages.
In addition, the T301-B can be used in safety and security applications because it has an alarm integrated into the loop through which a lanyard can be clipped. Personnel wearing the tag can yank on it, releasing the loop and sending a distress signal to a system administrator. This feature is critical for compliance with European Union regulations stating that for personnel working alone in hazardous environments, employers must provide a resource to call for help in an emergency, according to Ekahau.

Older Ekahau tags also offer this functionality, explains Huhtiniemi, but the bulky size of those models makes them unattractive to use as personnel badges. The company's third-generation T301-A tag, which debuted in June 2006, has two programmable buttons that can be configured so that the user can send alarms or other messages, and it has two LEDs and a buzzer that can be remotely activated to communicate with the person holding the tag. Ekahau's second-generation T201 tag, launched in March 2005, features an audio buzzer, two red/green LEDs and a call button for sending alerts, including the location of the alerter, to security personnel or caregivers. Although these earlier tags are being used in factories to track works-in-progress, according to Ekahau, neither model supports text messaging.

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