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Insider's BLOG from the RFID Experts

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Honeywell Proved RFID is finally mainstream

  
  
  
  

Honeywell's acquisition of Intermec finally proves the value of RFID in the market. RFID tracking has become one of the most popular tracking solutions in the world, steadily pushing bar codes into the attic of ancient history.

Out of the many things that can be tracked via RFID tags, is a very efficient and growing segment- Asset Tracking. ODIN released the Intelligent Asset Management (I AM) system which can be easily integrated in data centers, within enterprises, at critical care facilities and seamlessly integrate into existing Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) or Enterprise Resource Planning Application (ERP) to help track the IT assets via with RFID.

Several studies fro the University of Arkansas to MIT have shown that RFID based asset tracking is between four and five times faster than tracking through bar code. RFID not only saves time, but also reduces the chances of error. It is estimated that there is about 30% discrepancy between the expected inventory and actual inventory because of manual asset management, this costs enterprises billions of dollars annually, finally enterprises are recouping these costs.

With a reading accuracy rate of 99.9%, ODIN's I AM was designed to monitor and control physical asset movement. The solution provides complete control over the IT assets throughout their life cycle. This amazing solution provides the asset with a voice module, which means that if the assets are moved or if the user searching for them, the assets can actually “speak” to them. It also gives the user huge benefits of adding and changing asset data and their location. The user can stock the entire inventory in just a few minutes.

I AM was designed for ODIN customers who wanted to integrate RFID advantages to their existing Enterprise Asset Management software and for the potential customers who wanted to shift from a basic spreadsheet tracking to an easy to use application.

The benefits provided by I AM are tremendous. Few of the major benefits of integrating I AM are:

  • Reduced time
  • Decreased manpower
  • Slashes labor time and cost by 50%
  • Increases accuracy rate to 99.9%
  • Halves audit time
  • Reduces inventory receiving and asset finding time
  • Automatically detects any loss in case of theft or damage

The original system was designed for global data center asset management, but the solution was then extended to various IT assets such as laptops, printer, networking gears etc. ODIN’s I AM is not only resourceful, but also very easy to integrate. Because of its flexibility of complying with Enterprise Asset Management or Enterprise Resource Planning system, it takes only a few hours to install and adopt RFID based asset tracking. ODIN’s extensive research and years of experience with RFID readers gave birth to this solution that helps track assets without any hassle. I AM enables faster and accurate asset inventory audits, reducing the time and cost of labor and inventory and increase the level of security of the assets. 

Health Care Compliance - Automated through RFID

  
  
  
  

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) has been used for many years in retail and libraries all across the world. In just the past few years the technological advancements have led the breakthrough to be available at hospitals and  health clinics as well, with great return on investment and positive impact to quality care. The leadership at a worldwide leader in medical care was first to start experimenting three years ago and have since adopted the use of RFID to monitor everything from specimen samples to equipment to patients. RFID in health care has gone from cutting edge, new technology to well proven high impact tool in the quiver of medical automation.

Panoptic research has shown that RFID technology is not only fast and efficient, but also helps in preventing human errors in the lab. In addition due to the automation of the entire system, RFID lab sample tracking process reduces staffing, yielding rapid return to the institute.

All across the world, almost all labs deal with antiquated paper requisition of testing samples. These forms are generally handwritten and can account for a very high number of errors which can result in adverse outcome for the patient. An RFID tracking system by ODIN that is currently in place at a major medical care provider helps in reduction of errors, enables speedy results and reduces cost. In fact errors were reduced to under 1% - far below average lab error rates.

This entire RFID Lab Specimen Tracking system is quite simple and effective. The specimens collected in the procedure room have RFID tags attached to them at the bottom. They are placed at the key point on an RFID pad readers. This reader is then attached to the workstations which are operated by the clinical staff. The RFID reader identifies the tags attached to the bottom of the samples and the clinical staff updates their location and position, thus collecting the data. This data is checked for accuracy before saving it in the system. The captured data is transmitted to a backend database, which is used to efficiently track the specimen and its lifecycle throughout.

Once the sample is sent off to the pathology lab, the sample is again placed at an RFID reader which is attached to a workstation. Once the reader identifies the sample, the data is pulled up in the lab for updating. Since the data collected is completely automated, this process reduces error because it eliminates the handwritten process of the requisition form.

Among the benefits offered by ODIN’s RFID Lab Specimen Tracking are:

·       High accuracy in labeling specimen – less than 1% error rate

·       Increase in lab productivity – up to 5X normal productivity levels

·       Decrease in time to process samples

·       Nurses can focus less on paperwork and more on patients

This system not only benefits the hospitals and clinics, but also helps in providing better health care to patients across the globe.

If you are interested in adopting proven medical automation with data-backed results contact a health care expert at ODIN via email sales@ODINRFID.com and bring your lab into the 21st century. 

Next Generation UHF RFID Specimen Tracking

  
  
  
  

Last year, after nearly two years of development, we brought RFID Specimen Tracking from concept to reality with our partners, Mayo Clinic. Since going live we've engaged with laboratories across the US and Europe to build our roadmap, and the response has been exciting - demand for this solution is stronger than we projected as every lab we speak to understands the flaws and risks inherent in current manual processes.

While developing RFID specimen tracking, we focused on a feature set that closely matched our initial customers' tactical requirements. In the same way Apple release a limited set of extremely high quality features with each new product, we strictly controlled our scope to ensure EasySpecimen was accurate and robust out of the gate.

Our product team couldn't sit still for long though. There's too much 'stuff' that is valuable to our customers and will directly improve patient care - to the point of saving lives. So here's what we can say so far about 2012:

HL7 Support - late in 2011 we added fully-featured HL7 support to deliver better integration at the point of collection with surgical information systems, and when accessioning into the lab with laboratory information systems. Robust, highly configurable data integration is key to eliminating transcription errors.

UHF Label Support - in Q1 2012 we added support for UHF label tags, which are far less expensive than the HF variety initially supported. They are also significantly more flexible so can be applied or embedded into a broader range of container types. In addition, UHF tags can be read in many different ways - pads, mobile readers, tables and even portals. While the physics of UHF are more challenging, we were confident that our RF engineering expertise would enable us to achieve accurate UHF results when coupled with new innovative counting algorithms in our software. The result means the per-sample cost of adoption and sustainment drops dramatically, and enables new efficiencies such as...

Single Step Container Setup - the team are now busy leveraging HL7 and UHF support to make container setup much more efficient for clinical teams. Previously, containers were first tagged with an expensive HF tag, and labeled again during the collection process with required human-readable information. The HF tag must be very close to the read surface at each read point, so typically is installed on the underside of a container and therefore is not suitable for displaying human readable information.

With HL7 and UHF support, EasySpecimen will dynamically take patient/sample/test data via its HL7 interface from a surgical information system, encode a UHF label on demand, and print the required human readable information on the same label - all in one simple step. EasySpecimen then associates the label's electronic product code (EPC) to the sample data held in the EasySpecimen database, and locates the sample to the point of collection.

All this with a single press of a button, ensuring the clinicians' workflow is not impacted negatively when adopting the technology.

Aggregation and Analytics - I mentioned that EasySpecimen is focused on solving the transactional nature of specimen handling and processing. Later this year our team will release a strategic analysis portal based on our existing IAM (Intelligent Asset Management) asset visibility platform, which will aggregate specimen handling data and enable broader analysis and workflow.

Daily Mean Delivery Times

Customers will be able to analyze specimen processing metrics across collection points and delivery routes, evaluating where and why delays or errors occur and react accordingly. IAM provides rule-based alerts to warn lab teams when samples are collected but not delivered to the lab within a given time period, or alert users when samples are separated, seen at incorrect locations, or breach time limits for delivery between points. The possibilities are very real, and very important to patient care.

Lastly - well, I could continue...and we will do more. For example, with IAM in place we will be able to deliver tablet support with a new breed of mobile bluetooth reader no bigger than a pen, which we are currently developing for other clinical asset visibility use cases. Using smart RFID-enabled mobile devices such as tablets to securely identify and location clinical assets is an area we are working on as I write this blog.

There is much to do - stay tuned!

 

Ronan Wisdom

Responsible for operations at ODIN

The Global RFID Spectrum slims down for Summer

  
  
  
  

The FCC welcomes MIC

Starting July 25, 2012, Japan will shift its UHF RFID spectrum from the traditional 952.2 - 957.4MHz range to 916.8 - 923.4MHz.  This means that the entire band will fall within the current FCC approved UHF spectrum (902 – 928 MHz), which is used throughout North America.  Thus, all future Japanese certified EPC Gen2 UHF RFID tags and readers will be modified to operate in the new band.  The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC), the body that regulates the Japanese Radio Frequency Band, has made the decision after erecting the previous standard in 2002.

What’s In It for Me?

In short – Global UHF tags will work better.

Historically, “world” or “global” tags (which include most label tags and some of the newest metal mount tags) have operated from 865 - 960 MHz; that is, from the lower end of European spectrum (865.6 – 867.6 MHz) to the upper end of the Japanese Spectrum.  The bandwidth they will be designed for now is about 30 MHz and 30% skinner; thus, future world tags can have greater sensitivity because their operational band need not be so great.  As a result, world tags will read farther.  Additionally, manufacturers, when crafting region specific tags and readers, need not devote any time to a third design (outside of the FCC and ETSI versions).  For those of us with an already deployed Japanese UHF RFID Solution the news is not so great: future tag innovations and part availability will decline rapidly.

Europe’s regulatory body, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), has been investigating a similar voyage to the FCC spectrum, which could happen as soon as 2014.  These developments, along with recent events such as the Impinj IPO, Avery Dennison’s prediction for 2011, the Motorola Split, the new Sirit and OEM Motorola Reader, and the shrinking number of tag manufacturers suggest a maturation of the RFID market that will pick up steam.

Looking for an investment to diversify your portfolio? 

“There will be a public bid for the 950 MHz band ... and there is a huge debate going on currently on the possible auctioning of the band for the first time in Japan.”

Jin Mitsugi, associate at Keio University, and member of the ministry's UHF RFID regulation development working group.

For more information on this or any other industry news contact the experts at info@odinrfid.com or +1 703 968 0000

 

William H Solomon

Senior ODIN Engineer

As one of ODIN’s senior engineers, William has spearheaded the design, delivery, and management of ODIN products and clients in the fields of healthcare, aerospace, financial services, and government/military

p.s. Congrats to O's DH Chris Davis on his 17th inning win as a relief pitcher yesterday, and to Nat's OF Bryce Harper on his first career stolen base, home plate.

A Dose of UHF for Healthcare

  
  
  
  

HF RFID technology is designed for applications requiring one meter or less communication range. The orientation of the HF tags to the reader antenna is critical and can impact communication. For optimum communication, the tag antenna should cut the magnetic field generated by the reader’s antenna. On the other hand, passive UHF RFID tags are usually powered from the electrical energy emitted by the reader through electromagnetic backscatter coupling. Read ranges of several meters are possible and orientation of the tag to the reader antenna is not critical with a well-designed tag.

Prior to 2005-2007, the medical industry preferred HF technology over UHF because:

  • HF was best suited for tagging liquids
  • HF was best suited for item level tagging
  • Manufacturing lines for HF technology were well established

But capabilities of UHF have changed over the years - well-established standards and large-scale mandates by Wal-Mart and DoD drove the adoption towards UHF. These large adoptions brought R&D funding and improvements in manufacturing and tag conversion lines. This influx of resources and funding helped UHF RFID technology overcome most of the challenges mentioned above. Today, UHF tags can work on metals (metal mount tags) and liquids (near field UHF technology) at a cost of under half of typical HF labels (under $0.15 for UHF labels vs $0.35-0.50 for HF labels).

 

As a result, most medical device manufacturers now apply UHF RFID tags on implants, stents, catheters, etc., at the point of manufacturing and benefit from supply chain visibility, tracking expiration dates and recalls, minimizing out of stock conditions and planning manufacturing based on market needs. Medical device manufacturers use ODIN’s EasyKit solutions with EasyTunnel, EasyCabinet and EasyRack hardware systems to track devices from manufacturing to distribution. Healthcare facilities can then use ODIN’s EasySpecimen to track parts and samples using the same tags.  With UHF RFID, inventory can be tracked automatically in real time in hospitals and point of use. Hospitals, distributors and suppliers experience many benefits including:

  • Viewing inventory at hospitals in real time
  • Automatic alerting for expired inventory
  • Track consigned inventory consumption by person automatically
  • Lock down the cabinet remotely in the case of a recall
  • Manage inventory security

When selecting any RFID enabled solution for healthcare applications, consider the following keys to success:

  • Material Dependency: How well does the RFID solution perform when reading tags applied on metal, liquid, or polymer, etc. products?
  • Orientation Sensitivity:  How well does the solution read RFID tagged items placed in random orientations?
  • Null Spot:  Are there any null-spots where a tag will not be read?
  • Product Density: How well does the solution capture large populations of tagged items?

UHF RFID successfully meets these above keys to success.  HF requires tags to be placed in defined orientations or may require multiple tags to achieve higher read accuracy and only works well on non-metal devices. 

 

Chetan Karani
ODIN VP Engineering
Chetan is ODIN's VP Engineering and has led the company's RFID  research and development programs for the past seven years

The spring blossoms continue in RFID - bright colored tags

  
  
  
  

Innovative RFID Tags

Onchip a subsidiary of FEC Inc. displayed the world’s smallest on metal and non-metal mount RFID tags at the show. The on metal RFID tag utilizes the metal surface as a booster antenna for optimizing RFID read performance. Both tags have a very short read-range, but are suitable for authentication and loss prevention.ONchiip RFID Tag resized 600

Figure 1: An Onchip tag attached to a specimen vial on

Xerafy and Omni-ID continued the trend of battling each other with similar solutions established with tool tags (as discussed in our last blog post) as both companies used the RFID Journal Trade Show to introduce thin metal-mount tags designed for use in label printers.

Metal Mount RFID Tags from Printers

The Xerafy MetalSkin and the Omni-ID Flex LP/AI RFID Tags are sold on rolls that can be printed and encoded with Zebra, Intermec, or other RFID UHF printers. Printer vendors commented that it would take some tweaking and tuning for the printers to print and encode either tag, but the ability is not far off.

Omni ID Metal RFID tag resized 600

Omni ID Tag resized 600

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 2: The Omni-ID and Xerafy printable on/off metal RFID tags

Omni-ID won Best in Show for the ProView UHF RFID tag. The ProView operates on both passive UHF and active 433 MHz protocols, and includes an LCD display that can be programmed over either protocol. The ProView is suitable for changing human readable information on re-usable bins in manufacturing, supply chain, advertising and similar verticals.

IMG 0420 resized 600

 

Vizinex (formerly RCD) released a line of wristband UHF tags meant for people tracking. Applications such as automatic patient tracking at hospitals will benefit from these tags. Integration into a dwinQ based social-media solution at sporting events, conferences or shows will allow users to experience full social media integration into everyday activities.

PS - if the Caps and Bruins series wasn't such a nail biter this blog would have been up much sooner. Go B's! CAPS!! (correction made by editor)

Newest crop of RFID readers and tags blooming for spring

  
  
  
  

The ODIN engineering team made a full on assault of RFID Journal Live this year, the 10th Anniversary edition. It was clear that the show had changed significantly, from a showcase for end-users to now (indicative of the RFID market) a marketplace for software and integration companies to learn about the latest-and-greatest products to make their clients more successful in adopting RFID solutions. 

The first class of products I'll cover in this completely non-scientific review (I know, not very ODIN-like) is the latest readers. 

RFID Reader Innovations

MTI Micro RFID Reader iPHone Android

Microelectronics Technology Inc (MTI), displayed the RFID Mini ME that converts Android smartphones and tablets into UHF RFID Readers. MTI provides a low level command set API that integrates with the Android 4.0 SDK. MTI RFID ME™ GUI can be downloaded for free as an Android app at Google Play. MINI ME™ is just 38mm x 33mm x 15 mm and has adjustable output power control.

Impinj showed the Antenna Hub, a MUX device that allows a single R420 reader to control up to 32 antennas, as well as a new firmware to make integration of the MUX a seamless experience. This is ideal for areas that need blanket RF coverage in a close zone, such as RF-enabled retail shelves.

Improvements in RFID Tagging Capabilities

 

The Murata MAGICSTRAP and the NXP UCODE I2C chips are UHF chips designed for placement on a PCB of a laptop, tablet, phone or any other electronic device. Both devices come with application guides for PCB design engineers. The NXP chip communicates with the host processor over I2C, allowing pre-configuration of a device without turning it on.

PCB Tag resized 600

 

Figure 2: The Murata MAGICSTRAP on a PCB

Xerafy and Omni-ID both showed solutions for tagging hand tools by tool manufacturers. Both companies worked with Cribmaster, a division of Stanley Black and Decker to come up with methods to attach tags to sockets, wrenches, screwdrivers, and similar hand tools. This is a huge improvement over the standard approach of using adhesives and heat-shrink, which interfere with the use of the tools and are at risk of falling off.

Additionally, both Xerafy and Omni-ID showed new metal mount tags thin enough to be printed and encoded with standard RFID label printer/encoders.  Printer manufacturers said there will be some adjustment needed to make the tags print well, but not too much.  Both companies showed a tag with approximate dimensions of 4" x 1" and promised more form factors in the future.

OmniID Label MMT resized 600

RFID tags for asset tracking tools




Figure 3: Omni-ID's tool tags on right and Xerafy's printable tags on left

The tortious like growth of electronic medical records

  
  
  
  

Yes, that's a pun in the title - you could infer the reptilian speed of adoption or I might be referring to the rack-like pain that companies have endured, or it may be a simple slag on the amount of money lawyers have made from the e-record process. Either way it's a broken solution with a single digit adoption rate.

At ODIN we've been using RFID in health care for five or six years now and, true, the sales cycles are looong, but the benefit is tremendous. Our specimen tracking solutiuon took Mayo Clinic's industry average error rate from around 10% down to below 1%. That saves lives, and it saves money.

Other smart hospitals and labs have started adopting both specimen tracking using RFID and asset tracking using RTLS. Why? Because it makes great financial sense and saves lives.Efficiency and cost savings!

As long as medical records provide little or no benefit beyond the existing systems, they will be much like the Wal-Mart RFID mandate of 2003 - people will do the least amount to comply with them, and try to find every short cut around the system. 

Giving RFID a Slice of Raspberry Pi

  
  
  
  

Yesterday the Raspberry Pi foundation released their microcomputer for the everyman. It’s the size of a credit card and costs $35. You plug it into a keyboard and TV and have a mini-ARM based PC that can do much of what your desktop can do. It runs a Linux OS.

This is what it looks like and here are the specs:raspberry pi RFID module resized 600

  • Broadcom BCM2835 700MHz ARM1176JZFS processor with FPU and Videocore 4 GPU
  • GPU provides Open GL ES 2.0, hardware-accelerated OpenVG, and 1080p30 H.264 high-profile decode
  • GPU is capable of 1Gpixel/s, 1.5Gtexel/s or 24GFLOPs with texture filtering and DMA infrastructure
  • 256MB RAM
  • Boots from SD card, running the Fedora version of Linux
  • 10/100 BaseT Ethernet socket
  • HDMI socket
  • USB 2.0 socket
  • RCA video socket
  • SD card socket
  • Powered from microUSB socket
  • 3.5mm audio out jack
  • Header footprint for camera connection
  • Size: 85.6 x 53.98 x 17mm

While this is aimed largely at the education market to get kids excited about programming, the implications go well beyond tinkering and DIY projects. What Raspberry pi has done is bring a full on, real-deal computer to the market for 35 bucks. If this type of technology exists, and the creativity to make it happen there is no reason that some smart RFID guys (or gals) couldn’t bring an RFID device to market that works at long range, with I/O functionality for around $100. 

No matter what anyone tells you tags are cheap enough, the hurdle is the cost of the readers.When there is a $100 RFID reader the world will become truly connected and we can enable an Internet of things.

RFID in Hospitals will revolutionize health care. Asset tracking will become a thing of the past because everything will be visible. Social media will become frictionless through automation. And the world will will have an Internet that doesn't stop at laptops and mobile phones but extends into the real world.  Take a slice of Raspberry pi and go make yourself a cheap reader and change the world!

 

Beating Health Care's rising costs using military strategy

  
  
  
  

Maneuver Warfare and applying combat dynamics may be the secret to saving health care in the United States. For regular readers of my blog you know that I am a huge fan of a great unsung American hero – the late Col John Boyd.  He is a modern day Sun Tzu.

Col Boyd successfully developed something called the OODA loop and applied the second law of thermodynamics to systems of combat.  He looked at a battle as a closed system and determined that the faster you get through the decision cycles of a changing battle, the more predictable and manageable the entropy of the system becomes, the easier it is to optimize.

Entropy is a complex way of saying that the more you try to keep the status quo the more something will want to change. This is exactly the issue hospitals wrestle with when it comes to using people or materiel. One nurse or doctor does not take the view of optimizing the entire system because he or she can’t see the big picture. Their Orientation (The first O of  Boyd’s OODA) is that which is right in front of them. How do I best serve _my _ patient. Unfortunately that often means squirreling away expensive equipment like IV pumps or difib’s so they can have speciality equipment at their fingertips. The effect on the system is that the equipment that is supposed to be mobile and migrating from location to location isn’t. So what do hospitals try to do? Regulate a solution, or slow it down. Col Boyd proved that’s futile and a losing approach. 

The hospital administrator will say it is against the rules to overstock closets above par value. They are trying very hard to stop the entropy of the system – and what happens? It continues to decay further and faster toward that undesired state of chaos.

The solution really lies in allowing a system to move at its natural pace, but have visibility to aggregate a total view and act in real time, upon a constant feedback loop. Speed up rather that try to slow down the decison cycle.

According to Col Boyd you must be able to:

Observe what is going on – where are all the critical people and assets around the entire hospital?  Where do they move to and from, and how quickly?

Orient – take in all the information you know from past experience and what you know about the system and see how that effects your observation

Decide – make an instantaneous choice about where to move things or people, when to buy more items, when to allocate resources. You must decide very quickly, to get more information.

Act – do it. 

Once you make the change to seeing the entire system and it change or entrop in real time you need immediate and accurate feedback as to how that effects the entire system and you run the OODA loop again. This running health care operations through the OODA loop will solve the majority of issues around assets, the second biggest cost center for any hospital. The requirement to make this happen however is visibility into the system. This is why radio frequency identification RFID is such a big hit in the health care industry of late. Either passive RFID or active RTLS are both being deployed to get that visibility, and they are being combined with care coordination system all the information  can be translated into actionable intelligence.

If you want to try combatting the waste in your hospital with the adoption of RFID and Col Boyd’s OODA loop drop us a line at ODIN. If the US Department of Defense trusts us to track nuclear weapons and classified documents, think about what we can do for your personal battle ground.  

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