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NYC-Area Nursing Homes to Get UWB RFID Systems

Real-time location systems provider Parco Wireless will deploy a new, less-costly line of ultra-wideband tags and readers for tracking patients and assets.
By Beth Bacheldor
Sep 11, 2006Real-time location systems (RTLS) provider Parco Wireless has announced a line of tracking hardware and software based on ultra-wideband (UWB) technology. Newly designed from the ground up, this technology utilizes silicon-based active RFID tags and interrogators (readers), and supports for off-the-shelf power-over-Ethernet switches. The company says it has contracts to deploy its system at more than 75 long-term-care facilities in the New York City area.

The suite of products, called Précis, includes asset tags, patient wristbands and personnel bands—all with embedded active tags operating at the 6.5 GHz frequency band—and two designs of RFID readers. The suite is designed for use within hospitals, nursing homes and other health-care facilities to track assets and patients.

Scott Cohen
Parco has been offering an RTLS suite based on UWB technology for several years. In mid-2004, the company sold its first commercial installation to the Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. (see Hospital Gets Ultra-Wideband RFID).

Early UWB systems were developed mainly as military surveillance tools because they could "see through" trees and beneath ground surfaces. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved UWB for commercial sale in February 2002, and by the summer of 2003, commercial products were getting FCC certification, according to Parco's founder and CEO, Scott Cohen. Today, there are numerous UWB devices and applications, including those for ground-penetrating radar and medical imaging; vehicular collision-avoidance systems; and communications and measurements.

UWB devices emit a series of extremely short pulses (billionths of a second or shorter) simultaneously across a wide band of frequencies. In its most recent UWB Report and Order, the FCC defined UWB as an RF transmission with a bandwidth that exceeds either 500 MHz or 20 percent of a specific frequency band, between 3.1 GHz and 10.6 GHz. In contrast, conventional UHF RFID interrogators and tags in the United States operate between 902 and 928 MHz and can transmit a signal with a bandwidth of no more than 500 kHz. (In Europe, UHF RFID devices operate between 865.6 and 867.6 MHz, and can transmit signals with a maximum of 200 kHz.)

Parco's new suite is built using Time Domain Corp.'s Pulson UWB technology, a silicon-based infrastructure that Cohen says will allow for greater volume production and lower tag costs. That means all the components and circuitry of the tag are created on one or more silicon chips. "We are very bullish on the growth of RFID," Cohen says. "We decided to go with a firm that has experience in silicon-based, ultra-wideband technology. Silicon is the holy grail for RFID for us because with silicon, we can more easily get into mass production at a much lower threshold and price per radio, which we can pass onto the customer."

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