Intelligent tracking of hospital stuff can be crucially important. External environment and duration of storage can affect usability of supplies such as blood bags that have to stay within a certain temperature range. RFID technology is often insufficient because the tags used are not self powered and require relatively strong external receiver radios to read them. German scientists have been working on special “radio nodes” that would keep track of things they are attached to and signal if certain parameters are met. In the case of blood bags, clinicians would be notified if a bag came out of its safe temperature range, for how long and whether it should be disposed.
From the press announcement by Fraunhofer-Institut für Integrierte Schaltungen:
The intelligent radio nodes were developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS and the Fraunhofer Working Group SCS in collaboration with their partners T-Systems, Vierling, delta T and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. The project is funded by the German federal ministry of economics and technology (BMWi). “In contrast to tags that use RFID – radio frequency identification – we do not expect intelligent radio nodes to interfere with hospital medical devices,” explains Jürgen Hupp, head of communication networks department at IIS. “While the transmit power required for RFID tag reading can be as much as two watts, radio nodes only transmit in the milliwatt range.” This is because RFID tags only consist of a memory chip and antenna. To read an RFID tag, it must first be activated by the reader. In contrast, an intelligent radio node is an active radio system that is battery-powered and has its own processing unit. Radio nodes can continuously gather information and trigger actions.
The system is built upon a basic platform which the researchers can tailor to different applications. One example involves using radio nodes to optimize the management of medical devices in hospitals. Devices such as syringe pumps and cardiac monitors often move between departments and can be hard to track down when they are needed. This problem could soon be a thing of the past, since attaching radio nodes to the devices enables them to report their position automatically.
Press release: Intelligent blood bags