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Hospital Pilots New Bluetooth Low Energy System from GE Healthcare, Zebra Technologies

The technology companies have launched Encompass—a BLE solution consisting of cloud-based software, fixed and mobile beacon receivers, and beacon tags for assets, personnel or patients—to boost efficiency at less than half the cost of typical RTLS solutions.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 07, 2017

GE Healthcare has launched a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)-based solution known as Encompass, that enables its hospitals and other health-care facilities to capture real-time location (RTLS) data about assets, and can be installed in days. The system, which the company calls "cost-effective," comes with BLE beacons, BLE to Wi-Fi receivers, and receiver software from Zebra Technologies. The cloud-based Encompass solution, jointly developed by GE and Zebra, makes the beacon-based data available to users via Web-based mobile applications. Users can integrate the asset data with their own management systems.

The Encompass system, GE reports, is intended to bring asset and equipment visibility to biomedical and clinical health-care providers at a cost (based on capital and installation investments) about 60 percent lower than that of a traditional RTLS solution. That's because the technology requires no cables or fixed readers. Instead, it consists of fixed and mobile BLE receivers, which can be plugged into outlets or powered by batteries, as well as a BLE-transmitting tag on each asset being tracked. Zebra receiver software captures, analyzes and filters the collected location data, which is then forwarded to the cloud-based Encompass software, where crowd-sourcing is used to further analyze the data.

Zebra's Chris Sullivan
"With BLE and Wi-Fi," says Rob Reilly, GE Healthcare's VP and general manager for services in the United States and Canada, "there will be no need to open ceilings or drill into walls to run cable, like with other RTLS technologies."

Typically, Reilly says, each health-care facility deployment will cover installation design, IT setup to integrate with the software, and the tagging of assets. The process would take less time to complete than a traditional cabled solution would. "We are replacing what used to take months to install with non-invasive deployment with a process that takes weeks and days," he states.

Among its technology products, Zebra has been offering BLE solutions since 2016. BLE can be less expensive and much easier to install than traditional RTLS solutions, explains Chris Sullivan, Zebra's global health practice lead, and has also become more effective in identifying location than earlier versions of the same technology.

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