The RFID or Real Time Location System market is still relatively immature. There are several technologies vying for dominance: 433MHz, 2.4GHz, UWB (ultrawide band), infrared, and ultrasound to name the main categories.

It's very difficult to pick technology winners, and that's the main reason why medical device vendors have not built tags into their products.

There seem to be two levels of positioning accuracy requirements in hospitals, zone or area level for basic asset management (where is something), and room level accuracy for advanced asset management (like has that pump been through sterilization), patient and staff tracking.

To date, the best technologies for room level accuracy are infrared and ultrasound. While RF based systems (many of which claim room level accuracy) are good for zone level accuracy.

Besides asset management, some hospitals use RTLS to improve patient throughput in the emergency department and surgery. They can also be used for hospital wide patient flow (especially bed management), observation patient management and infection control.

A big differentiator between many systems, regardless of positioning technology, is whether the receivers are wireless or wired. Pulling power and a network connection (even PoE) to positioning receivers is a big hidden cost of these systems. Vendors like Awarix [][/url] have receivers that plug in to wall power outlets like those little room fresheners. Others, like CenTrak [][/url] are "lick n stick" battery powered receivers.

As more medical devices become wireless, devices with Wi-Fi radios can be tracked by positioning systems like AeroScout [][/url] and Ekahau [][/url] without a separate tag.

Tim Gee: Connectologist & Principal at Medical Connectivity Consulting
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