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RFID Company's Acquisition Combines BLE With UHF for Assisted Living, Hospitals

Quake Global has purchased Skynet, a health-care technology company that provides Bluetooth Mesh systems, so that both active and passive location technologies can be combined to manage assets, patients and staff members for operational improvements.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 23, 2019

Internet of Things (IoT) technology company Quake Global has acquired Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) health-care technology firm Skynet to provide an active Bluetooth Mesh solution, in conjunction with its passive RFID system, for the health-care and assisted-living markets. The acquisition means customers can take advantage of both passive and active location systems, Quake Global reports, by using integrated dual BLE and UHF RFID tags and a single software platform.

The benefit, according to the company, will be that passive RFID can be used on lower-cost items like consumables or long-lived equipment for scenarios in which battery changes on tags would be inconvenient. At the same time, the BLE functionality can provide the locations of mobile assets and individuals in real time without requiring further reader infrastructure. The acquisition also positions Quake Global to move into the assisted-living space, according to Polina Braunstein, the company's president and CEO. Quake Global, based in San Diego, offers solutions for the construction, industrial, logistics, transportation and health-care markets.

Quake Global's Polina Braunstein
For customers in all four sectors, Braunstein says, Quake Global has built a solution not only for asset tracking, but also for process optimization. One example would be understanding when a patient is in a treatment room, as well as when doctors visit him or her, based on RFID tag reads. The system can also bring intelligence to operating room use by tracking the times of room preparation and cleanup. With Quake Global's solution, she explains, hospitals have "the ability to identify the beginning of a surgery and completion to improve operating room management."

Currently, Quake Global is providing its solutions for the management of patients, staff members, assets and laboratory specimens for several large U.S.-based health-care companies. The system consists of Quake Global's software, residing either in the cloud or on a user's premises, and its fixed reader portals and handheld readers. It can be used to track when a patient goes into surgery, when a specimen for that patient leaves the operating room and enters the laboratory, and who delivers the specimen.

Skynet provides software and hardware that includes BLE technology, with its own software and beacons, that can enable the tracking of goods in real time as they move around a facility. With the Skynet beacon solution, assisted-living facilities and nursing homes can view where particular assets or patients are located as they move around the facility, provided that they have a beacon worn (for patients) or attached (for assets).

The beacon comes with an accelerometer for fall detection and a built-in emergency button that users can press to signal they need immediate help. The software detects the beacon's location, based on the mesh network, and can forward a request for help to authorized parties in the area, such as nurses, while also providing the approximate location of the patient or staff member who requires assistance.

The beacons have a relatively long battery life of about 12 months, Braunstein says. However, she adds, by providing UHF RFID technology as part of an integrated solution, users could employ RFID transmissions as a backup technology in the event that the battery dies, or for an alternative to beacons on items that are lower in value or do not require RTLS tracking. Passive RFID, Braunstein says, "doesn't give you mobility" to track items that are not near an RFID reader portal, but it does provide low-cost, battery-free tracking at locations such as zones within a hospital (for a laboratory, for instance) or the building's exits and entrances.

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