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Hebrew University's Nanotech Lab Tracks Researcher Locations, Emergencies

The school's Unit for Nanofabrication lab is employing an RTLS solution from LogiTag to identify researchers' locations, and to issue alerts if a worker presses a panic alarm on an RFID tag.
By Claire Swedberg
May 30, 2014

Researchers at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem's nanotechnology laboratory often work with dangerous gasses and chemicals, and may not have many people with them as they conduct experiments. If an emergency occurs, however, the school has an automated system in place that not only enables an individual to press a panic button and alert emergency personnel, but also determines where that person is located, and displays an image of him or her at that spot. The system employs a combination of active 433 MHz RFID technology and video cameras.

Hebrew University uses the solution primarily to provide safety, but also for billing purposes, by tracking who is located at which area within the lab, as well as for how long. By providing an RFID badge to each researcher, student or faculty member who enters the lab, and by installing readers and antennas around the facility, the university can track each person's movements via software designed to forward alerts in the event an emergency. The software also enables the school to view a breakdown of time and place records for every individual in the lab at any given time, for billing purposes.

Each person entering the nanofabrication lab wears a LogiTag 433 MHz active RFID tag.
The school, one of Israel's largest universities, offers a variety of research opportunities for its own faculty and students, as well as for private companies, at its on-campus laboratories campus. The Unit for Nanofabrication (UNF) lab provides state-of-the-art tools for developing nanoscale structures and devices, with a focus on processing inorganic and organic nanomaterials. Some of these liquids and gasses can be highly toxic, while researchers also risk electrocution.

The university traditionally asked that each individual entering the lab provide his or her name, as well as arrival and departure times, for billing purposes (private companies, for example, are billed for their time at the lab). The school was concerned, however, about how to ensure that the more than 100 students and researchers using the lab would not be exposed or succumb to lethal chemicals and gasses. It thus enforced a rule that at least two people must enter at a time, and that both must be certified to work with nanomaterials, have attended the training classes held annually, and know what to do in the event of an emergency. Users normally book the lab for an hour or so during a single visit.

Hebrew University approached Orot Electronic Security seeking a panic-alert solution that would enable an individual to push a panic button if he or she was exposed to poisonous compounds used in the lab. The college also wanted to know the whereabouts of those within the lab, so that it could locate them immediately, if necessary. Orot installed a real-time location system (RTLS) at the UNF, provided by LogiTag.

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