Guest Column | November 10, 2010

RTLS Providers Cite Strong Demand From Hospitals

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By Claire Swedberg, RFID Journal

In January of this year, a market report published by health-care technology research firm KLAS Enterprises claimed a lack of knowledge and education regarding real-time locating systems (RTLS) in the health-care industry has stalled the applications of RFID and other wireless tracking systems that can help end users manage assets, control temperatures and oversee employees and patients. Some vendors mentioned in the report, however, have recently announced significant growth in the health-care market, with hospitals, in some cases, outpacing other industries in RTLS installations. Case in point: Last week, Wi-Fi RFID technology provider AeroScout announced 150 percent health-care revenue growth in the first quarter of 2009, against the same quarter of the previous year.

With familiarity being cited as one of the more critical deciding factors for end users, the KLAS study noted, Wi-Fi has taken the bulk of RTLS deployment as a technology that is easy to install since, in many cases, the backbone is already in place. A Wi-Fi system may be considerably less intimidating to health-care providers than a hybrid system using, for instance, active 433 MHz RFID tags in one location, and a different type of technology (such as ZigBee) elsewhere.

Although systems that use Wi-Fi tags and readers account for more than half of the RTLS deployments in health care, that does not make them the best solution in every case, according to Steven Van Wagenen, KLAS' marketing and research director. Adding asset tracking or temperature tracking to an existing Wi-Fi system, for example, introduces an additional data source to an organization's computer network, and extra traffic can negatively affect network performance.

Used with permission from RFID Journal, Inc.