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RFID News Roundup

Ekahau introduces wireless temperature and humidity sensor tags, partners on RTLS solution for Swiss hospital; GE Healthcare and Cisco offer joint RTLS solution for hospitals; Maryland's Peninsula Regional Medical Center deploys AeroScout RTLS; RF Code launches program for European expansion; Vilant Systems, Swisscom Auto-ID Services merge RFID activities; Alberta, Canada, officials launch RFID-enabled traceability programs for sheep, deer.
Feb 24, 2011The following are news announcements made during the past week.

Ekahau Introduces Wireless Temperature and Humidity Sensor Tags, Partners on RTLS Solution for Swiss Hospital
Wi-Fi based real-time location system (RTLS) provider Ekahau has announced three new Wi-Fi-enabled RFID sensor tags. The new tags are designed to provide an automated way to measure, monitor and manage areas where changes in the environment could be harmful and are designed to assist with regulatory compliance and improve operations in a number of industries, including health care, retail, manufacturing and hospitality, the company says. The tags are capable of sampling temperature or humidity every 15 seconds or as required for the specific application. On-board heuristics enable the tags to immediately report anomalies if they occur between reporting intervals. All three tags offer audible and visual alarm indicators and allow for programmable alarm limits and local data logging, which means data can be stored on the tags themselves. With continuous data logging, the measurement data will not be lost even in the event of a network outage. All the sensor tags also incorporate the ability for the sensors to receive acknowledgments from the Ekahau servers and a smart retry capability in case of data transmission failures. What differentiates the tags from others on the market is that the tags have intelligence built in. "These aren't just dumb tags just reporting temperature, for example, and then going back to sleep mode," says Thomas Heideman, sales engineer at Ekahau. A temperature tag, for instance, can be set to sample and record temperatures every two minutes, but report to the Ekahau software only once an hour. All the data collected during that hour will be transmitted, and then the software will chart the temperatures for that time period, Heideman explains. Further, if during the sampling, the tag's built-in logic detects an anomaly, it can immediately issue an alert. The two new temperature sensor tags—the TS1 (which replaces Ekahau's T301t temperature tag) and the TS2—have extended cable probes that can be installed inside the environment where temperature is being measured, such as a freezer or refrigerator. The TS1 tag has a single probe, while the TS2 has two. The TS2 is designed, in particular, to meet the needs of blood banks that require temperature probes on both the tops and bottoms of the refrigerators, Ekahau executives say. Depending on the probe used, the tags' temperature range is from -200 degrees to +150 degrees Celsius (-328 degrees to +302 degrees Fahrenheit). The HS1 humidity sensor tag can measure relative humidity (RH) ranging up to 100 percent, and temperature ranges of -40 degrees to +85 degrees Celsius (-40 degrees to +185 degrees Fahrenheit). All three new sensor tags have a battery life of up to three years when set at a 15-minute reporting interval.

Ekahau also announced that it has partnered with NEC Unified Solutions, in an RTLS implementation at St. Pirminsberg Clinic, a psychiatric facility in Pfäfers, Switzerland. The system consists of NEC's IP communications solutions and Ekahau's RTLS technology to ensure staff safety and improve emergency response in the clinic's new 150-bed psychiatric unit. The combined technology stems from collaboration announced in May 2010, in which NEC Unified Solutions began leveraging Ekahau's RTLS software to provide NEC's IP Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) mobile phones with location-tracking capabilities (see NEC RTLS-enables Its DECT Handsets). If an individual carrying a DECT handset has an emergency, or if management needs to locate a worker who has such a device, Ekahau software can pinpoint his location. The system, which is sold by NEC, includes a DECT handset and wireless access points to receive telephony signals, as well as Ekahau's software that identifies a handset's location based on the strength of its signal as received by the access points. As a modern psychiatric facility, St. Pirminsberg allows patients to move as freely as possible within their wards, according to NEC Unified Solutions and Ekahau. But these patients can exhibit unpredictable behavior that could endanger hospital staff or other patients. If someone activates an emergency alarm, colleagues will get instantly an alert on their DECT device, with a text message including the name of the sender and his/her exact location. The hospital uses NEC's Healthcare Communications solution for Care and Cure, which comprises an NEC IP communications server, NEC IP DECT mobile communications solutions for voice and messaging and Ekahau RTLS Controller for location tracking. Other components of the solution include iXarma integrated messaging solution and alarm functionality from the M155 DECT Messenger.

GE Healthcare and Cisco Offer Joint RTLS solution for Hospitals
GE Healthcare Performance Solutions and Cisco announced they have joined forces to help hospitals improve the quality of patient care, increase efficiency and reduce costs by enabling them to better manage the flow of patients, staff, and equipment. The result of the collaboration is integration between GE's AgileTrac platform, an automated workflow solution designed to help health-care staff track people, processes and equipment throughout the health-care system, and the Cisco Unified Wireless Network and Cisco Context-Aware Software. The combined GE and Cisco solution brings together location information about Wi-Fi clients, tags and wired devices, with proprietary RTLS technologies such as those that use 433 MHz active RFID tags. The solution provides a single, centralized view of Wi-Fi and RTLS tracking in GE's AgileTrac. Previously, the two companies say, hospitals were forced to operate two separate tracking systems for Wi-Fi and proprietary RTLS technologies. Now, organizations can achieve a more complete, consolidated view of assets throughout their existing structure. According to GE Healthcare spokesman Dan Neuwirth, the solution is addressing the needs of organizations that want flexibility and also complements GE Healthcare's strategy of being hardware agnostic. He points to Virginia's Bon Secours Richmond Health System, which is using GE AgileTrac and RF Code's RFID-enabled RTLS (see Bon Secours Richmond Finds RFID Saves $2 Million Annually). "With increasing financial pressures, the need for operational excellence is a necessity. Bon Secours is already benefiting from real-time data on the location and movement of mobile equipment and patients through the GE AgileTrac RFID network to make smart decisions to improve care delivery and hospital operations," said Jeff Pearson, VP of information systems at Bon Secours Richmond, in a prepared statement. "Bon Secours is excited about the ability to simply integrate an additional 9,000 Wi-Fi based assets into the same easy-to-use interface that leverages our existing technology infrastructure investments."

Maryland's Peninsula Regional Medical Center Deploys AeroScout RTLS
The Peninsula Regional Medical Center (PRMC) is using AeroScout's Wi-Fi-based RFID tags, readers and software to track the locations and manage thousands of pieces of critical equipment and monitor refrigeration units with pharmaceuticals and other temperature-sensitive items to ensure that they remain at safe temperature levels. The 362-bed facility located in Salisbury, Md., serves 500,000 patients annually and offers a full range of cardiac, cancer, women's and children's, surgical, emergency/trauma and orthopedic services. "We are receiving significant clinical and financial benefits from our AeroScout solutions. As examples, our staff can spend more time on patient care thanks to the efficiency provided, and we've saved an estimated $250,000 by avoiding the purchase of many infusion pumps," Mark Cornelius, the director of PRMC's biomedical department, said in a prepared statement. "The AeroScout solutions are so important and easy to use that we made sure that everyone at PRMC, including our CEO, has access to the applications." The hospital is leveraging AeroScout's solutions throughout its campus for a variety of use cases and applications such as preventive maintenance, recall management, par-level management, shrinkage control, asset utilization and temperature monitoring, AeroScout reports. For example, the biomedical department can more effectively provide preventive maintenance and conduct equipment recalls because the hospital now knows the location and status (for example, maintenance needed or maintenance completed) for key equipment and can find items quickly in the event of a recall. In addition, staff can determine the history and trace where equipment has been. By using AeroScout's Par Level Management application, PRMC has also set up, for the first time, par levels for infusion pumps. In 18 rooms around its campus, PRMC is monitoring the quantity of pumps and knows if there are too many or too few at any given time. This helps ensure equipment availability for patients, distribution efficiency and improved asset utilization, according to AeroScout. To prevent valuable medical equipment from being thrown away or lost, PRMC also implemented AeroScout's Shrinkage Control application. If tagged equipment accidentally leaves the medical center along with the laundry or garbage, an alarm sounds and alerts are sent. This, PRMC reports, has prevented the loss of many pieces of critical equipment including telemetry monitors and HoverMatt mattresses. Prior to the AeroScout implementation, 10 to 12 telemetry monitors alone were lost every year at a cost of $3,000 each. The solution has enabled the hospital to cut the budget for replacing those telemetry monitors to zero, according to Sharon Malone, PRMC's director of nursing resources.

RF Code Launches Program for European Expansion
RFID hardware and software manufacturer RF Code has announced a new channel program aimed at expanding the company's presence in Europe. The goal of its European Channel Program is to help partners promote, sell and support RF Code's range of wire-free solutions for monitoring environmental conditions, power usage and IT assets in real time. "We're formalizing our presence here with a new office and a team on the ground to truly support our channel," Adrian Barker, RF Code's European sales director, said in a prepared statement. "We have based the new partner program on a formula that has worked well for us in the U.S. market and are now actively recruiting and engaging with partners to generate new business." Certified partners are eligible for deal registration with margin support, market development funding and both technical and sales training, as well as per project integration and development expertise, according to RF Code. The new two-tier European Partner program will see an expansion of a global distribution agreement with a major global distributor (RF Code has not yet revealed which distributor that will be). The program will initially start in the United Kingdom and will expand out to markets such as Germany, France, Spain and the Nordics over the next year. RF Code's solutions span a variety of active 433 MHz RFID tags, sensors and software, including real-time liquid detection sensors that can be used to determine whether there is any liquid or excessive moisture that could damage IT assets, and RF Code's Sensor Manager software, which manages power-monitoring information and makes additional computations regarding power utilization. About six months ago, RF Code introduced a solution that combines infrared (IR) beacons and active RFID tags (see RF Code Debuts Inexpensive Server-Tracking Solution). RF Code's solutions are designed to reduce the costs of tracking, managing and monitoring IT assets and can be used in a variety of applications from tracking and managing critical IT enterprise assets such as laptops and mobile medical equipment to tracking and managing data center servers down to the rack level. For instance, the firm's technology is used by such organizations as Connecticut's New Haven Public Schools (NHPS) to provide visibility of its laptops, as well as sense temperature changes in its data closets and computer lab (see New Haven Public Schools Keeps Tabs on Laptops).

Vilant Systems, Swisscom Auto-ID Services Merge RFID Activities
European RFID services vendors Vilant Systems Oy, based in Finland, and Swisscom Auto-ID Services AG in Switzerland, have agreed to merge their RFID activities. The companies have worked as partners in the past and have decided the merger will further synchronize their RFID activities and strengthen the market presence of both. As part of the deal, Swisscom will sell its stake in Swisscom Auto-ID Services AG to Vilant Systems Oy, following which Swisscom will own a minority stake in Vilant Systems Oy. The Swiss company will operate under Vilant's brand and therefore the name Swisscom Auto-ID Services will change to Vilant Systems AG. All seven employees of Swisscom Auto-ID Services will continue to work for the renamed company and will keep on providing high-quality RFID services to existing and new customers in Switzerland as Vilant expands its central European footprint. Starting May 1, Vilant Systems AG will be led by Vilant Systems Oy's cofounder and chairman, Antti Virkkunen. Swisscom Auto-ID Services' current CEO, Werner Friedli, will lead the Swiss unit until his retirement at the end of April 2011. "We have extensive experience and a long track record in the successful deployment of RFID solutions for large international companies. including Nokia, ABB, Volvo and STX Europe," Kauppinen said in a prepared statement. "Swisscom Auto-ID Services brings additional expertise and a solid customer base to Vilant. Together, we will have a stronger presence in central Europe and will be able to serve our customers with local resources." Financial details of the deal were not disclosed. Vilant, which was founded in 2002, says it has experienced a five-year growth rate of 980 percent and has focused on improving supply chain operations and asset tracking mainly via the use of RFID. Founded in October 2005, Swisscom Auto-ID Services currently focuses on RFID and offers such services as consulting, implementation and operation. Among its customers are Swiss Post, Migros, Swisscom and DHL.

Officials in Alberta, Canada, Launch RFID-enabled Traceability Programs for Sheep, Deer
The government of Alberta, Canada, is introducing two new traceability programs for the province's sheep and cervid (elk, moose and other types of deer) industries. The three-year programs, which encourage the use RFID-enabled identification ear tags, are aimed at improving the province's traceability systems that support animal health, public health, food safety, industry marketing initiatives and opportunities. The programs incorporate financial incentives for farmers and producers: total incentive payments for sheep are estimated at $900,000 over two years, $450,000 per year, and will be distributed among the approximately 1,900 sheep farms in Alberta. Total program payments for cervids are estimated at $90,000 over three years, $30,000 per year, and will be distributed among the 344 licensed cervid farms in Alberta. Funding for both programs will come from the province's $15 million Age-Verification Incentive Program, announced on May 17, 2010. The cervid program is designed to help the cervid industry's efforts to comply with Livestock Industry Diversification Act (LIDA) requirements and strengthen Alberta's cervid information system. It is open to all of the province's cervid licensed cervid farmers who double-tag their animals with approved ear tags and annually register them in Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development's (ARD) Cervid Farming System (CFS). In March 2011, ARD will mail application forms to all current farm license holders. In order to qualify for payment of $6 for each calf that is double-tagged and registered, each farm license holder will be required to verify the information already preloaded onto the form, complete the remaining required portions of the form, and return it to ARD. The sheep program is aimed at encouraging the Alberta sheep industry's transition to RFID ear tags as their primary means of animal identification. The incentive program is a two-year program (2011-2012) that will direct reimbursements of up to $3 per tag applied. To receive the reimbursements, sheep producers must purchase RFID tags approved by the Canadian Sheep Identification Program (CSIP), and the tags must be applied on lambs born between Dec. 1, 2010 and Nov. 30, 2012. Producers also will submit a program application form to ARD that indicates the number of lambs tagged with CSIP-approved RFID ear tags within a given lambing period.
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