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Goodwin House Alexandria Offers Seniors Real-Time Security

A Wi-Fi RFID-based real-time location system installed at assisted-living facilities in Alexandria, Va., monitors residents around the clock, and lets them call for help whenever they need it.
By Beth Bacheldor
Apr 06, 2009Goodwin House Alexandria is one of two faith-based retirement communities with independent- and assisted-living facilities in northern Virginia, owned by Goodwin House Inc.. The organization is providing an RFID-based service that enables residents to signal for help, then automatically provides staff members with the caller's name and location.

The service is enabled by technology from Healthsense, a Mendota Heights, Minn., aging-services technology firm, and Ekahau, a provider of a Wi-Fi-based real-time location system (RTLS).

Thanks to 257 Wi-Fi access points installed throughout Goodwin House Alexandria's complex, residents can use RFID-enabled pendants and pull cords to summon help.

Healthsense's service, known as eNeighbor, is designed to provide residents with security and access to help in a non-intrusive manner. The eNeighbor system comprises a variety of Wi-Fi-based RFID devices that residents can use to summon help, including a pendant they can wear around their necks, and pull cords that can be affixed to walls. Other options include RFID-enabled bed and chair sensors that can detect, for instance, when a resident has gotten into and out of bed, as well as motion sensors to discern movement within a residence. The eNeighbor solution depends on Wi-Fi gateways, or access points, that receive communications from the various Wi-Fi devices and pass that information along to back-end software—a Web-based system hosted by Healthsense at one of two data centers in Minnesota and Colorado—that then generates alerts. The solution also includes the Ekahau Positioning Engine (EPE) software, which calculates locations.

Goodwin House Alexandria began utilizing the RTLS in August 2008. Since then, 150 of its 320 residents that live in the on-site apartments (another 80 reside in a continual-care facility at that same location) have opted to use the system. After paying a one-time fee of $150, a resident receives a pendant containing a Wi-Fi-based active RFID tag that features an emergency call button. When the button is pressed, its Wi-Fi tag emits a signal encoded with the tag's unique ID number that is correlated in a database with the resident's name and apartment number. Nearby access points pick up the signal and send it along to the back-end system, where the EPE software determines location—in this case, a zone averaging approximately 60 square feet in size—and the eNeighbor software identifies the resident based on the tag's unique ID number.

The eNeighbor solution, which has text-to-speech capabilities, then triggers a cellular call to supervisors' wireless phones. The call informs the supervisors of the resident's name and apartment number, as well as the specific zone in which the signal originated, and a supervisor can then instantly dispatch help. Upon receiving an alert, employees go to the zone first, in case the resident called for help from somewhere other than his or her apartment.

Goodwin House Alexandria has also installed pull cords extending all the way to the floor that residents can pull if they fall. The cords have been installed in all residents' bathrooms, as well as in shared bathrooms in common areas, according to David Fowler, the organization's IT director. While residents pay for the pendants, the pull cords are available free of charge. The cords work similarly to the pendants: When the cord is pulled, a Wi-Fi RFID tag begins emitting its signal. There are 257 access points installed at the retirement community, which provide coverage throughout the apartments, as well as the common and outdoor areas.

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