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Ekahau Uses Cell Phones to Extend RTLS Beyond the Building
Two companies are testing the application, which turns handsets into Wi-Fi RFID access points, thereby enabling Wi-Fi tags to be read in remote locations.
Apr 14, 2010—Two U.S. companies are currently testing technology enabling them to employ smartphones as readers of Wi-Fi RFID tags. The phones capture the unique ID numbers transmitted by the tags, and forward that information via a cellular connection to a back-end server. The application, developed by Ekahau, a provider of real-time locating systems (RTLS), is intended to allow the businesses to track the locations and movements of tagged assets as they leave the vicinity of Wi-Fi nodes of wireless local area networks.
If the two piloted systems operate as hoped, the companies have told Ekahau they will then make decisions regarding whether to permanently deploy the solution to track assets on vehicles. Both firms have asked to remain unnamed.
The application, developed by Ekahau during the past year, was announced and displayed at the RFID Journal LIVE! 2011 conference and exhibition, being held this week in Orlando, Fla. The concept was inspired by an end user that had asked if smartphones could take the place of Wi-Fi nodes when tags leave a facility or other infrastructure, says Tuomo Rutanen, Ekahau's VP of business development. Using Wi-Fi-enabled Android and Apple iPhone handsets, Ekahau developed the solution that would require a customer that already had an Ekahau RTLS installed at its site, to attach tags—such as Ekahau's t301A asset tags—to items that would be taken to a location beyond the range of that site's Wi-Fi infrastructure; set mobile phones to "tether" mode (originally designed in cellular phones to allow laptop computers to utilize a Wi-Fi link to access the Internet via the phone's 3G or 4G connection); and store tag-read data on their existing Ekahau software. No additional software would be required on the phone itself, the company reports.
One of the two companies trialing the system is a health-care firm that intends to utilize such a system on ambulances to track the equipment taken on emergency calls. The company has attached an Ekahau tag to each piece of equipment. Because the Wi-Fi nodes installed within its facility, it can track the locations of tagged items as they are moved around the building. For tagged equipment placed in the ambulance, a mobile phone operating in tether mode would function as a Wi-Fi node.
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