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Maryland's Medical Examiner to Track Human Bodies Via RFID

After using EPC Gen 2 passive UHF tags and readers to track paperwork for one year, the organization expects to soon begin utilizing RFID wristbands to track the decedents as well.
By Claire Swedberg
The file-tracking deployment was launched by tagging all folders already within the office, dating back to 2006, Eagle says, and a tag is now being added to each new folder as well. As a folder is created, details about the decedent—such as his or her name and age at the time of death—are input into the computer, and a passive Alien Squiggle UHF RFID tag with a Higgs-3 IC, and with a bar-code ID number printed on the front, is affixed to the file. Staff members can then use the bar-code scanner on the Motorola MC3190-Z handheld unit to scan the tag's ID number. Bar codes are employed, he explains, in order to ensure that the folder is associated with the correct tag ID and not the ID of another nearby tag. The data is then saved in FileTrail's Professional software, residing on the medical examiner's office database.

FileTrail installed 11 Motorola FX7400 readers throughout the four-story facility, with up to four of its own antennas wired to each interrogator, creating a total of more than 40 read points. OCME can also utilize the handheld units to conduct inventory searches if a folder ends up missing and has not been interrogated by a fixed reader, or to pinpoint a location within a room in which the system indicates that a file is located. In one case, Eagle notes, a missing file was recovered that had fallen behind a cabinet.

While being carried throughout the offices, Eagle says, files pass reader antennas that capture each tag's unique ID number as the individual holding them walks past. The software then stores that location, based on the antenna that read the tag, linked to that tag ID until the next read indicates a new location.

In addition, the software can display alerts in the event that a file remains unmoving for a long period of time—which could indicate a problem, since the paperwork should be updated with information about each process completed on the body.

There have been periodic problems with reading tags, Eagle says, though these have been minor issues, since the tags in question would then be read by a subsequent interrogator. The software stores only read events occurring at a new location—if a tag fails to leave a specific site, the reader would stop transmitting data until that folder left the antenna's read zone.

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