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Learning From Airbus
Health-care providers and companies in other industries can learn from the holistic approach the aircraft manufacturer is taking.
Active RFID systems could, for instance, be tied into a hospital's equipment-maintenance systems so that each time a piece of equipment requires maintenance, that information is displayed, along with the asset's precise location. This saves employees time, and also ensures that equipment is always properly maintained. Systems can also be set up to issue an alert when an item in need of maintenance is moved to a patient's room, rather than to the hospital's facilities-maintenance area.
The same solution could be utilized to monitor the locations of doctors and nurses, and to track who they have been in contact with, in the event of an outbreak of an infectious disease. Hospitals in Singapore and Taiwan, for instance, used active RFID systems in this manner a few years ago, during an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). In short, hospitals should be looking at active RFID as a way to provide visibility into everything that is happening within their facilities, with regard to medium- and large-size assets and equipment, as well as individuals.
A passive RFID system will also be needed in hospitals, because there are many items that are too small to track using active technology. These include surgical sponges, scalpels, trays, hospital gowns, tissue samples, pharmaceuticals and more.
Passive systems currently represent a challenge for hospitals, because many items (such as scalpels and clamps) are composed of metal and, thus, can not be easily tagged. But vendors are working on very small tags that can be embedded in surgical instruments, and that can survive multiple sterilizations in an autoclave.
Eventually, RFID will be as critical to all companies as IT systems are today. IT systems enable businesses to monitor and manage the activities of people sitting at computers. RFID will provide the ability to see, monitor and manage the personnel, tools, inventory, assets, equipment, vehicles and everything else within a firm's operations that moves and can not presently be managed. That will require both passive and active systems—and it will necessitate the kind of vision that Airbus has shown.
Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog or the Editor's Note archive.
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