RFID Opens the Door for Residents at Multiple Sclerosis Housing Facility

By Claire Swedberg

Australia's MS Queensland Youngcare is using an RFID system from N.A.S.A. Electronic Security Systems to enable its wheelchair-bound residents to enter and leave their units and public areas, hands-free.

Wheelchair-bound residents at Australian non-profit home-care facility Albany Creek Apartments are employing radio frequency identification technology to access rooms and enclosed areas, hands-free. The system, provided by N.A.S.A. Electronic Security Systems and ISCS Brisbane, was taken live in July of this year, using Nedap Identification Systems' uPASS fixed UHF RFID readers and software built into an ICT WX Protege controller.

Albany Creek Apartments is a joint venture between two organizations: MS Queensland, a facility dedicated to assisting those with multiple sclerosis, and Youngcare, which helps find housing solutions for young people with high needs.

The new apartments provide high-care housing for adults under the age of 65 who might otherwise be placed in less appropriate facilities, such as nursing-care centers at which most residents are elderly. Those residing at the facility have multiple sclerosis (MS), which leaves them confined to wheelchairs with limited mobility. Therefore, the seemingly simple task of passing through closed doors poses a challenge. Historically, when residents moved through gates and doorways, they required the manual assistance of personal helpers pushing their wheelchairs, This, of course, meant the patients were completely reliant on the helpers any time they wanted to move from one area to another.

The Albany Creek Apartments housing complex, built this year, is dedicated to being an atypical type of facility, says Norman Larden, N.A.S.A. Electronic Security Systems' managing director. The new center is designed to feature greater autonomy for its young residents. There are eight units, each of which accommodates a single resident or family.

N.A.S.A. Electronic Security Systems is a Brisbane-based security systems division of Australasian Intercom Systems. Three years ago, the company opted to launch a UHF RFID-based access-control system to offer to its customers. It selected a solution developed by ISCS Brisbane, Larden says, and acquired training for installation and servicing from Murray Cooper, ISCS's technical sales director. Since completing Cooper's training, the security company has installed the technology for corporations such as MS Queensland, using the Nedap RFID reader system. "N.A.S.A. now only uses and works with ISCS Brisbane technicians and products exclusively," Larden says, "due to the product quality and technical support offered by ISCS Brisbane."

Installation at Albany Creek Apartments was a fast-paced project. In fact, the system was installed and commissioned within a week, N.A.S.A. reports. During that span of time, the technology company installed 29 reader gates within eight care units at the facility. Each unit includes three Nedap readers: one installed at the main entry and another at the back door entry, with a third to access the back garden or patio. In addition to those 24 readers, five more were installed for general access in common rooms, the kitchen area and other public areas within the facility.

Both patients and staff members wear UHF-enabled and contactless cards on lanyards. Each tag is encoded with a unique ID number that is linked to a particular individual's name, as well as to identifying information, such as that person's role as staff member, or his or her patient authorization status. That data is stored in the access-control device (the WX Protege controller), which is powered by a DC outlet.

When a person approaches within 2 meters (6.6 feet) of a reader, the device captures his or her card's unique ID and determines the individual's status. For instance, patients are authorized to access their own unit, but not other units within the facility. The software confirms the data and, if an individual is authorized, prompts the door to open. If he or she is not authorized, the door will not open. The tags allow personnel and patients to both enter and leave an area through the door. Data regarding each read event is captured and stored in the controller, thereby creating a record of staff and patient movements, which can then be accessed by management if necessary.

Since the system was taken live with the opening of the units, Larden reports, residents have been able to more easily come and go from their residences and common areas without requiring help, thus ensuring a more independent life. "It has given back to the young people their sense of freedom and independence," he states.