Aug 25, 2011Visonic Technologies (VT) has added temperature-reporting functionality to its real-time location system (RTLS), known as the Elpas Triple Technology Location Awareness solution, which employs active 433 MHz RFID, low-frequency (LF) RFID and infrared (IR) technologies. Two companies—which have requested that their names not be revealed—are currently trialing the temperature functionality in server rooms, to track ambient temperatures around IT assets. The temperature sensors, however, were designed specifically for use in the medical field, according to Jason Novich, VT's product manager.
Both businesses were already employing VT's RFID- and IR-enabled badges, in addition to active 433 MHz RFID readers, as well as separate, active 125 kHz LF RFID readers, IR sensors and VT software to manage the data collected. The badges and new temperature sensor tags can transmit at 433 MHz, as well as 125 kHz, although the temperature tags are not currently using the LF functionality.
With the Elpas Triple Technology Location Awareness system, active RFID and IR sensors are installed throughout the facilities, enabling management to track employees' locations with room-level accuracy, and to store records of their movements. The badges also provide staff members with hands-free access control, because VT software instructs doors to unlock following the read of an authorized RFID badge number, using the system's active LF function.
VT has offered its triple-technology location system for 15 years, to help companies (primarily health-care providers) manage their assets, as well as track infants (see How Can I Track Assets and Babies Using the Same RFID System? and RFID News Roundup: Visonic Technologies Launches New Active RFID/RTLS Reusable Tag). In the case of asset management, Novich says, the LF instant-doorway system enables users to track exactly when an item enters or exits a particular room.
If a tag were to leave a room—such as a tagged item or staff member wearing the RFID badge—the LF reader in the doorway would capture that tag's ID number as it passed through. The software would then be updated to indicate which door the tag had most recently passed through, thereby providing additional location data so that a cooler or other tagged device could be located if it were moved and was now sitting in a hallway beyond the reach of an IR sensor.
The new Elpas solution consists of temperature sensors that can be mounted within hospital refrigerators, or on server racks or walls within medical or other facilities. The battery-powered device transmits its unique ID number, along with sensor data, at 433 MHz, up to 20 meters (66 feet) to RFID readers, via an Ethernet connection to a back-end system. The sensor comes with a single call button, and its functionality can be preconfigured by the user for a variety of purposes, such as a request to have a specific refrigerator restocked.
Each sensor tag transmits once every two minutes. The ID number and sensor data are received by readers cabled to the back-end system, where Elpas software links the ID number and temperature data, and issues an alert to users via a text message or e-mail if the temperature becomes too warm or too cold. The IR functionality is not in use with this version of the temperature tag, Novich says, since the technology's objective is to simply link specific temperature data with a particular refrigeration unit's ID number. The sensor tag batteries have a life of three years. The sensor tags do not currently utilize the LF functionality, he notes, though that may change with future versions of the sensor tags. That, however, would depend on interest in the LF functionality from sensor-tag users.
Temperature-tracking systems provided by competitors often feature technology that transmits over a Wi-Fi system, Novich says. "They are sharing a network with the hospital," he states. "Visonic Technologies provides a temperature over a self-contained network which enhances the level of safety security and visibility."
Those already employing the Elpas solution can simply update the existing software and begin tagging equipment for the purpose of temperature monitoring. Those not doing so can adopt the temperature-tracking system with or without asset-management functionality.
Both server facilities testing the system hope to better manage the temperatures to which servers are exposed in a variety of locations within the room, Novich says, adding that they had reported system failures as a result of overheating, based on problems with air conditioning. The Elpas temperature-tracking system is commercially available now.