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Awarepoint-Skytron System Provides Equipment Info in OR

Hospital staff can use the active RFID system not only to track the location and status of equipment, but also to access their maintenance and technical manuals, without leaving an operating room or other point of care.
By Beth Bacheldor
Feb 05, 2008Awarepoint, a maker of real-time location RFID systems based on the ZigBee standard, has partnered with Skytron, a medical equipment and software company, on a solution designed to help health-care organizations more easily track, operate and manage the devices they use.

The Skytron Asset Manager system leverages Awarepoint's active RFID tags that operate at 2.48 GHz and transmit their unique IDs over the 802.15.4 (ZigBee) communications protocol, to small receivers (access points) that plug directly into standard 120-volt AC wall outlets. The tags and receivers also function as transceivers, communicating with each other through the mesh networking protocol.

Jason Howe
The receivers and tags use the ZigBee protocol to forward each tag's ID number and signal strength—along with the time the tag was read and the ID of the tag or receiver that first picked up its signal—to a bridge. The bridges link, via an Ethernet cable, to a central Awarepoint server that calculates the locations of all tagged assets. The system can then pinpoint a tagged item's location within 1 to 3 meters. The server employs a proprietary algorithm to determine an asset's location, based on the tag's RF signal strength.

The central Awarepoint server passes all location and tag information to the Skytron Asset Manager server, which can then render detailed maps and other graphics that hospitals can use to locate items. In addition, the hospital can pull up a variety of data about a particular item, including any warranty and service information, instructions, preventative maintenance, specific guidelines and more. Skytron will work with the hospital to populate the system with such documents.

"The objective is to eliminate, for example, the fire drill that occurs every morning in the OR when looking for items," says Brent Broder, Skytron's senior product manager. "If you have nursing staff in a room that is not extremely familiar with a particular product in the room, whether it be an operating table or infusion pump, and if they have to run and find the instructions to set up the device, that causes a delay." Such delays can affect service to the patient, and can be quite expensive for a hospital. "The costs per hour of an OR is significant—not to mention the time of staff," says Broder.

With Skytron Awarepoint, nurses can simply access the manual on a PC by drilling down in the map and clicking on the appropriate item. "Having all this information available at their fingertips, in just a few clicks, is huge," Broder says. "That's the advantage of combining an RTLS with our application." The application makes it easier for organizations to locate tagged assets wherever the technology, including the receivers, is installed, he says—be it an entire hospital, or specific areas or departments within a hospital or other health-care organization.

Awarepoint CEO Jason Howe says its relationship with Skytron was the result of a very thorough search for the right partner. The two companies began working together on the Skytron Asset Manager about two years ago. "Skytron is really a value-added partner, and the company is an integrity-driven organization with a goal for customers to achieve total cost of ownership," Howe says. "It was a long dance getting to the marriage."

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