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King Fahd University Explores RFID's Potential

The Saudi Arabian school is working on a number of projects, such as using RFID to dispense medication, monitor a person's pulse rate and blood pressure, and manage energy consumption.
By Rhea Wessel
Jul 13, 2009The RFID lab at the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) is helping to spearhead the adoption of radio frequency identification in Saudi Arabia.

The lab was launched in August 2006 in cooperation with the MULTOS (Multi Operating System for Smart Cards) consortium, to support the development of applications using MULTOS' smart cards, particularly for use in Saudi Arabia's national ID card project. The university also uses the lab to teach students to develop applications utilizing RFID tags of various types. Students and researchers work on other proof-of-concept projects as well, such as those for banking applications, access control, electronic payments and the health-care sector. In addition, the first university-level smart card and RFID course in Saudi Arabia was offered at the lab in the fall semester of 2007, and the facility conducts workshops and seminars for local companies.

Wasim Raad, head of the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals' RFID Lab
In some of its larger projects, the lab—which works closely with the computer and communication center at KFUPM's research institute—has conducted proof-of concept projects focused on medication dispensing and patient tracking. In one project, researchers developed a system to outfit individuals with RFID-based wristbands in order to improve the provision of health care in hospitals. In a similar project, researchers developed a system for doing the same in home environments. A third project focused on medication dispensing boxes, said Wasim Raad, the head of the university's RFID Lab, during a presentation at last month's RFID Journal LIVE! Middle East 2009 conference, held in Dubai.

In the first hospital wristband project, the lab's researchers designed a system to identify patients immediately upon entering the facility's emergency room, via readers that interrogate the unique ID numbers on their RFID bracelets. A patient's medical information would be accessible in a database, and linked to the unique ID number saved on the RFID tag in that person's wristband. This would provide doctors and nurses with access to the data they require more quickly, so that they could treat patients faster. In addition, Raad noted, robots could be utilized within the hospital to lead patients to the proper examination or treatment rooms.

In a second, separate project funded by the university, researchers designed a system enabling patients using the wristbands at home to be connected to portable machines that measure pulse rate and blood pressure. At pre-specified intervals, this information could be transmitted via RFID and written to 125 kHz tags embedded in the patients' wristbands. Software in the monitoring machines would also send e-mail alerts to physicians if any abnormalities were detected. When checking on patients at their homes, the doctors could employ handheld readers to collect the information stored on the wristbands' tags before treating those individuals. Researchers also tested the concept of monitoring the locations of mentally ill patients as they move among rooms.

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