Pisciotta explains that the information then goes over the radio back to the base unit that is in the vicinity, which receives the message and sends it to one of the servers. Servers merge the data together, to be sent to a display system or a security system. “We’re just one piece of a large security system,” Pisciotta says.
The v-track system will often look like a smartphone, with a device embedded. It can include a panic button that can be depressed when in trouble and it can even detect a “man-down” scenario, Pisciotta says, and that will prompt an alert.
The active tags also work at much longer ranges than the passive tags. For example, Abji says that small tags that a hospital can put on at-risk patients, such as babies or the elderly, can be read up to 200 feet away, even through walls.
Uses. Companies can use active RFID tags to achieve a range of objectives. “Let’s say I’m a nurse, and I try to use a fusion pump, and it doesn’t work,” says Hekmatyar. “I can simply trip the button on the asset tag and that button press can generate an automatic message that goes to the biomedical technician saying that this particular infusion pump, located currently in this room with number, let’s say, 232, is out of order.”
The automated workflow not only takes that particular piece of equipment out of circulation, but it also broadcasts a message to the technician to come and repair it. Most importantly, it gives the exact location of that piece of equipment at that point in time, so the technician doesn’t have to look for it, Hekmatyar says.
Abji explains another approach. “Studies have found that if you were able to track both staff members and assets in healthcare especially…you would be able to potentially save a lot of cost by increasing their efficiency and the way they use the equipment and the way they go to the different rooms and the amount of time they spend on certain locations and so on.” He adds that there is pushback from staff who don’t want to be watched by “Big Brother,” but “once you really make the user understand what the consequences of being tagged are going to be, they’re very happy and actually accept that.”
Although RFID tags can store information, many companies are careful about how much information is stored on the tag for security and privacy reasons. Hekmatyar says, his company, for example, tries to limit information to the product tag number and the location of the tag, as well as other maintenance information, such as the tag’s battery level.