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New RTLS Tag Combines RFID and Infrared

RF Code introduced a combination radio frequency and infrared RTLS tag that it says provides more location precision and is more cost effective to deploy than traditional RTLS. The tag is indicative of new technology and business strategies the company recently put in place.
Aug 03, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.

August 3, 2007—RF Code announced an RTLS tag that uses both RF and infrared (IR) communication. The new M100-i is intended for indoor asset tracking, and RF Code claims it provides more data and location precision than traditional RTLS systems.

"When organizations typically use active RFID for RTLS, one reader equals one zone. It is very hard to get a precise location of the asset within that zone," RF Code CEO Mitch Medford told RFID Update. Problems can arise when the zone is not well defined; it may include multiple rooms, for example. "Customers have told us they're not even sure what room their asset is in when the reader is near a junction of rooms. Infrared tracking enhances that RFID-based RTLS and works like a precision filter. With infrared, they know exactly where their asset is."

The new tag is compatible with RF Code's A700 Room Locator IR unit and legacy 433 MHz RFID readers. The A700 continually emits an IR signal containing a room location code. When an active tag enters the room, it receives this data from the A700 and relays it in the next RF transmission, which also includes that tag's unique ID number. The RFID reader for that multi-room zone receives the tag's RF signal and updates system software with the tagged item's room location.

Infrared emitters greatly enhance precision accuracy and are much more cost effective than deploying additional RFID readers, according to Medford. Many organizations are interested in using their legacy WiFi wireless networks to provide RTLS functionality, but Medford said this approach can have hidden costs. Most legacy WiFi networks don't have the density of access points to provide the triangulation needed to accurately determine asset locations, he said, resulting in the need to purchase and deploy more access points.

"Our partners understand the advantages of non-WiFi RTLS, but they have to get the message out to customers and prospects," Medford said. "They tell us that in the healthcare sector, the conversation always starts: 'We have a wireless network. Can we do RTLS with it?'"

Agility Healthcare Solutions, which develops and markets automation systems for healthcare facilities, piloted the dual IR/RFID tag and will include it in its AgileTrac Enterprise asset management solution. It plans to demo the system next week at the Association for Healthcare Resource & Materials Management (AHRMM) Conference & Exhibition in San Diego.

SYMX, which last year announced a three-year, multimillion dollar contract with RF Code to install RTLS systems at multiple hospitals (see Active RFID Provider RF Code Nails $30m Deal), also piloted the dual RF-IR tags. SYMX has not decided whether it will begin using the new technology, according to Medford.

RF Code said it will market the technology to organizations that need a mix of zone- and room-level location information, including the government, enterprise IT, and corporate markets.

The M100-i is the first RF-infrared combination tag produced by RF Code, but similar products are available from Active RFID Systems, Honeywell, and PanGo.

RF Code has recently experienced significant internal changes, including turnover of some executive management earlier this year. Also, the company stepped away from its previous practice of requiring customers to purchase software along with its tag and reader products, which was not always consistent with customer needs. Customers now have more flexibility to purchase just hardware components from RF Code.

There has been considerable innovation and adoption of RTLS technology this year, particularly for WiFi-compatible RFID tags (see Analyst on the Growing Market for WiFi-based RTLS). Hospitals are one of the leading sectors. One research report concluded that 50 hospitals per year are implementing RTLS systems for asset tracking (see Active RFID's Growing Role in Overall Market).

Read the announcement from RF Code
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