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RFID News Roundup

Heathrow Airport to use RFID to map underground utilities; Ruckus Wireless, AeroScout team up to deliver wireless LAN asset-location solutions; Ubisense adds Wi-Fi option to ultra-wideband RTLS; Watchdata, DBS and Visa collaborate on multi-application single-chip smart card; Splash! Water park gives guests RFID access to lockers; California hospital implements automated tracking to monitor patient flow.
Oct 15, 2009The following are news announcements made during the past week.

Heathrow Airport to Use RFID to Map Underground Utilities
BAA Airports Ltd., an owner and operator of seven airports in the United Kingdom, as well as several others around the world, has announced it will deploy 3M's Dynatel RFID markers, which are designed to help workers locate underground pipes and cables before they begin to dig. The company plans to use the RFID-enabled electronic marking systems to identify and map each of its 12 subterranean utilities that span miles of underground at London's Heathrow Airport. Each 3M ID Extended Range Ball Marker contains a passive RFID chip encoded with a unique ID number that can reveal information—such as the type of utility and its exact location—to workers above ground. Each unique RFID marker is buried, and can be geo-referenced and integrated with BAA's Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping system. The markers require no on-board power source, and can lie dormant for decades, according to 3M. Each marker is encased in a polyethylene shell that is impervious to minerals, chemicals and temperature extremes, the company adds. BAA is leveraging the technology to aid in an extensive, years-long improvement project to build new terminals and refurbish existing ones. According to 3M, Heathrow has many miles of underground utilities, as well as proprietary utilities such as fuel, aircraft ground lighting and a water supply reserved for exclusive use by fire and rescue services. "Until now, we would mostly find existing utilities by using traditional cable-tracing techniques, but these rely on the utility being conductive," said Andrew Rhoades, Heathrow's services protection manager, in a prepared statement. "For example, we had one utility where the company in question has been digging trial holes for more than a year, trying to find their pipe. In some cases, we would employ specialist surveying companies. We have good knowledge about our utilities on site, but the sheer number of services and the level of congestion underground means we need to know exactly where our assets are." BAA has mandated that any work done at Heathrow Airport as part of the improvement project will require that utilities be marked electronically every 6 meters (20 feet), at every tee conjunction and at every turn, in order to build long-term RFID-enabled records of the underground utilities built and/or refurbished. Other airports that have implemented 3M's RFID-enabled markers include the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (see RFID Markers Track Buried Cables at Atlanta Airport). Earlier this year, 3M introduced the next generation of its RFID-enabled system (see 3M Upgrades Dynatel Locators).

Ruckus Wireless, AeroScout Team Up to Deliver Wireless LAN Asset-Location Solutions
Wi-Fi and wireless LAN systems manufacturer Ruckus Wireless, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., has announced it is partnering with AeroScout, a Redwood City, Calif., provider of a Wi-Fi-enabled RFID real-time location systems (RTLS). Together, the companies say they will provide businesses with an 802.11-compliant wireless solution designed to track and manage tens of thousands of tagged assets without negatively impacting the wireless network. The solution will enable businesses to deploy AeroScout's Wi-Fi tags that transmit 2.4 GHz signals and communicate their unique ID numbers over Ruckus Wireless' Wi-Fi networks, which leverage what the firm calls beam-forming technology. According to Ruckus Wireless, the patented beam-forming technology employs multiple input/multiple output (MIMO) antenna arrays combined with control software in order to identify and rank the most ideal antenna pattern for receivers. The technology enables the Wi-Fi system to constantly reconfigure itself as interference is encountered, the company notes. The two companies report that they have performed compatibility and interoperability tests between the Ruckus Wireless and AeroScout systems. AeroScout's products that are interoperable with Ruckus' ZoneFlex Smart WLAN system include AeroScout Wi-Fi Tags, the AeroScout Engine, AeroScout Exciters and AeroScout MobileView software. The interoperability enables, for example, the Ruckus Wireless' ZoneFlex Access Points to listen for and detect signals from AeroScout's active Wi-Fi RFID tags. The access points then add the RSSI, or received signal strength indication (a measurement of the power present in a received radio signal), and noise information to the tags' messages, which are redirected to the AeroScout Engine.

Ubisense Adds Wi-Fi Option to Ultra-wideband RTLS
Real-time location systems (RTLS) provider Ubisense has introduced a new wireless deployment option for its systems that the firm says will help customers reduce installation costs. Ubisense's ultra-wideband (UWB)-based RTLS includes tags that emit a series of short signals (billionths of a second or shorter) and interrogators (which the company calls sensors) that receive tag signals by means of phased-array antennas. The interrogators calculate tag location by employing two complementary techniques: time difference of arrival (TDOA) and angle of arrival (AOA). The new option enables sensors to operate in a wireless mode, in which they only require a local power supply and can communicate over standard Wi-Fi networks with the rest of the RTLS. Ubisense believes the wireless sensors are ideal for the manufacturing, transit and worker safety sectors that often have large open areas and existing coverage for power (for instance, for lighting or security systems), but in which cabling costs for RTLS deployment might be prohibitive. Wired and wireless sensors can be operated within the same Ubisense RTLS, providing a spectrum of deployment options through which the RTLS can be tailored to the requirements of each specific site and application. "By reducing the number of cable runs that need to be made," said Richard Green, Ubisense's CEO, in a prepared statement, "we can dramatically cut the cost of ownership of these systems and achieve a return-on-investment even more quickly." The new functionality has already been deployed with customers at transit and shipyard sites, and is available to both existing and new Ubisense customers as part of the latest revisions of the company's location platform software.

Watchdata, DBS and Visa Collaborate on Multi-application Single-chip Smart Card
Watchdata, a Beijing provider of smart card and contactless technology solutions with operations in Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, has announced it has partnered with Singapore bank DBS and Visa to produce a single-chip Near Field Communication (NFC)-enabled smart card that, according to the three partners, offers consumers multiple capabilities for cashless payment. The card utilizes Watchdata's smart card technology, approved by Visa for use in Visa Smart Debit Credit (VSDC) and payWave cards. The card also supports the Singapore Standard for Contactless ePurse Application (CEPAS), designed to provide better convenience and flexibility for consumers in making cashless payments in and around that country. Launched in late August 2009, the Live Fresh by DBS Card combines Visa payment, Visa payWave and ez-link services on a single-chip smart card. Consumers—who, in the past, needed two or more cards for various payment options—now need only one card, which, the companies say, combines the benefits of a regular Visa credit card and the convenience of contactless payment and transit features. Cardholders can use the card for a variety of contactless payments, including those at participating retail outlets and public transportation, by simply waving their cards in front of secure point-of-sale (POS) contactless readers.

Splash! Water Park Gives Guests RFID Access to Lockers
Splash! La Mirada Regional Aquatics Center in La Mirada, Calif., is now providing guests with keyless, RFID-enabled access to lockers. The water park has implemented the Smart Band RFID system from Precision Dynamics Corp. (PDC), which includes a wristband containing a 13.56 MHz passive RFID inlay, compliant with the ISO 15693 air-interface standard. Each guest receives a disposable Smart Band wristband from the service desk, the inlay of which is programmed with a unique 16-character code assigned to that visitor. When scanned by an RFID reader at locker access stations, the inlay can trigger the locker to open. The so-called Smarte Locke lockers were developed by Smarte Carte of Saint Paul, Minn. Prior to using the disposable PDC wristbands, the water park had utilized a reusable RFID wristband that cost guests a $6 deposit and required that they wait in line at the end of the day to return the bands, in order to get their deposit back. "Customers find the new disposable PDC Smart Band to be much more convenient, as it helps eliminate those lines and save time," said Lori Thompson, aquatics manager for the city of La Mirada, in a prepared statement. Splash! La Mirada Regional Aquatics Center, Thompson said, is looking into additional RFID applications to allow guests to prepurchase meals or allocate an amount on children's bands for their individual spending.

California Hospital Implements Automated Tracking to Monitor Patient Flow
Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, a 498-bed, nonprofit, acute care hospital in Newport Beach, Calif., has announced it has implemented Patient Care Technology Systems' (PCTS) tracking and workflow software to automatically track patients in its emergency department. The implementation leverages PCTS' Amelior EDTracker, which is part of the company's Amelior Enterprise Visibility Suite designed to help health-care organizations streamline patient flow through visualization tools and patient care documentation, and Sonitor Technologies' ultrasound-based indoor positioning system (IPS). The IPS utilizes battery-powered tags that transmit 20 kHz to 40 kHz acoustic signals to receivers. Through frequency modulation, each tag communicates a unique signal to the receivers, which use algorithms to analyze the signals, then forward their IDs to PCTS' software via an existing wired or wireless network. The Web-based Amelior EDTracker software processes the tag data to automatically identify the location and status of patients and equipment. In addition to working with Sonitor's IPS, PCTS' software works with a variety of tracking and locating tags, including traditional active RFID, infrared, ultra-wideband (UWB), Wi-Fi and ZigBee. According to PCTS, Hoag selected the ultrasound option for its room- and bay-level locating precision and accuracy. Workflow algorithms within the Amelior EDTracker software interpret the meaning of location, movement and interactions between patients, staff members and equipment, to automatically communicate patient care milestones as they occur. Interfaces to lab, radiology and other systems integrate additional patient and order status information, PCTS reports, thereby creating a centralized workflow communication and management portal for the emergency department. "We are dedicated to providing our patients with the most efficient and safest care possible," said Raymond Ricci, Hoag Hospital's director of emergency medicine, in a prepared statement. "Amelior EDTracker is helping us to transform the efficiency of our department."
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