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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
Although Awarepoint does offer software providing customers with maps and other graphics to locate items, Skytron's team has developed a technology that adds a lot more capability. "They've come up with a much more detailed way to render the maps and the CAD [computer-aided design] models," Howe says. "And on those detailed maps, it is easier to create and designate the areas within the hospital, so the customer can do a lot of the work, through templates, to customize the software at its site."

"Secondly," Howe adds, "they've added a whole layer of security, using the LDAP protocol, user name and other tools, which provides security at a much more granular level." (LDAP, which stands for lightweight directory access protocol, defines a standard for organizing directory hierarchies and interfacing to directory server.) What's more, he says, Skytron's team of 150 sales and customer service representatives provide "more feet on the street," giving customers a broader support and service group.

According to Braden, Skytron chose Awarepoint as its RFID partner because its location-tracking technology provides the level of precision Skytron was seeking. "We were looking for a partner in the RFID marketplace for the last three years," he says, "and we went through as many as 10 to 12 different development kits—mainly Wi-Fi-enabled RFID systems. But we always had problems with the degree of granularity. Since we were unable to get the granularity we wanted, we put RFID on the back burner. But then we came across Awarepoint."

"During our proof-of-concept of the technology," Braden states, "we explored several of the larger names in Wi-Fi, and some ZigBee companies. The minimal granularity accuracy that we were able to achieve was between 10 and 15 meters. Some of the other phenomena that occurred was 'hopping'—assets would seem to hop floor levels, or even rooms, some distance away. Many existing Wi-Fi customers experience this today. This is exactly why the customers have been turned off about RFID, or are considering a change to the Skytron Asset Manager powered by the Awarepoint solution."

Skytron Asset Manager powered by Awarepoint is a fully managed service. "What that means is we will manage the entire application for the customer," Braden explains. "With minimal involvement from the customer's IT department, we will deploy the technology, establish their database, provide training and monitor the application."

Under the new partnership, Skytron's North American network of independent distributors will sell the service, as well as install and support the technology. According to Howe, Awarepoint manages the RFID mesh network from its operations center in San Diego.

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