Saturday, May 26, 2007

RF-WiFi-ID – Tracking With Combined Technologies

People can wear the Siemens/Ekahau tags – Image Credit: BBC News

RF-WiFi-ID – Tracking With Combined Technologies

At a recent exposition held at London’s Olympia Exposition Centre, The Wireless Event – delivering enterprise mobility, Motorola, and Siemens unveiled systems that were jointly developed with the Finnish firm Ekahau, which can track objects or people.

By using technologies that were already deployed in most business and public controlled environments, one can track objects and people throughout a managed WiFi radio space.

RFID tags, and some software stitch this application together so that through the triangulation of sensed ping information, the specific location of a person or thing is easily determined.

Excerpts from BBC News -

Wi-fi and RFID used for tracking
Wireless tracking systems could be used to protect patients in hospitals and students on campuses, backers of the technology said.

BBC News - Published: 2007/05/25 11:56:43 GMT

The combination of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags and wi-fi allows real-time tracking of objects or people inside a wireless network.

Angelo Lamme, from Motorola, said tracking students on a campus could help during a fire or an emergency.

"You would know where your people are at any given moment," he said.

Marcus Birkl, head of wireless at Siemens, said location tracking of assets or people was one of the biggest incentives for companies, hospitals and education institutions to roll out wi-fi networks.
Battery powered

Battery-powered RFID tags are placed on an asset and they communicate with at least three wireless access points inside the network to triangulate a location.

Mr Birkl said: "The tags have a piece of software on them and they detect the signal strength of different access points.

"This information is sent back to the server and it then models the movement of the tag depending on the shift in signal strength detected."

For the system to work, the building or area that has been deployed with a wireless network needs to have been mapped and calibrated.

To effectively locate objects a wireless access point is needed every 30 metres and Siemens said it was able to pinpoint assets to within a metre of their actual position.

Mr Birkl said: "It's very useful for the health care industry - where there are highly expensive pieces of mobile equipment that move around a hospital.

RFID tags could track patients and equipment – Image Credit: BBC News

"At every point in the day health staff need to know where it is."

The system can also be used to track wi-fi equipped devices, such as laptops, tablet PCs and wi-fi enabled phones.
'More popular'

As wi-fi becomes more popular in schools, the technology could also be used to track students.

"It has to be aligned with the understanding of the people who are tracked," said Mr Birkl.

There have been privacy concerns expressed in some quarters about RFID tags, especially around the possible use of tags on shopping goods to monitor consumer spending habits.
"There needs to be standards put in place so the data is not abused for other purposes," said Mr Birkl.

He added: "But there are clear benefits to keeping people safe."

More than half of respondents to a recent pan-Europe consultation on RFID said regulations were needed to police the use of tags.
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