The Awarepoint Real-time Awareness Solution employs a standards-based wireless network to track people and equipment. This network is built on the 802.15.4 IEEE standard, designed specifically for wireless sensor networks. The physical layer radio technology and protocols are designed for very low power consumption at good data rates to prevent interference and are usable without license anywhere in the world.
Over the 802.15.4 standard, Awarepoint employs a ZigBee networking layer, developed by a consortium of companies called the ZigBee Alliance. The ZigBee Alliance is an association of companies collaborating to enable reliable, cost-effective, low-power, wirelessly networked, monitoring and control products based on an open global standard.
Awarepoint plays nice with other hospital systems, extending their value.
The Awarepoint Appliance supports many Web Services Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) allowing any application to become “location aware.” These interfaces can provide access to all asset attributes, including current and historical locations, as well as information about the covered facility. Hospital inventory systems, bed management systems, billing systems, and many others can be augmented and enriched through real-time location information.
Enterprise Awareness Sensor Networks – The Intelligent Solution
Early implementations of the Awarepoint solution utilized Wi-Fi technology for real-time asset and location tracking – leveraging the existing wireless LAN infrastructure. However, using Wi-Fi technology for this very unique task proved to be a poor fit at several levels: accuracy, interference, network security concerns and cost.
Because interference, interruption and downtime are not an option
Today, using advanced ZigBee technology and patented computational algorithms, Awarepoint’s Real-Time Awareness Solution returns asset location with both room level accuracy and precision to within 1.5 meters. ZigBee is a protocol specification and industry standard for a type of wireless communication network generally know as Low-Rate Personal Area Networks. This technology is characterized by low cost, low power wireless devices that self-organize into a short-range wireless communication network to support relatively low throughput applications such as RTLS.
Awarepoint’s Real-Time Awareness Solution® uses a dedicated, but interoperable, 802.15.4 ZigBee network that is extremely low cost to deploy and requires little maintenance. Further, the standard configuration of the Awarepoint Awarenet™ sensor network returns precise, room-level accuracy and further eliminates “floor hopping” which can be an issue with Wi-Fi based deployments.
Oftentimes, when RFID-RTLS are discussed for hospitals, leveraging the existing Wi-Fi network is reviewed as a possible solution. Many hospital administrators look to leverage the Wi-Fi network infrastructure for a positioning system, rather than implementing a separate network. But, the requirements of sensor data collection conflict with the original design goals of Wi-Fi. These conflicts can render Wi-Fi based RTLS impractical and expensive, and can adversely affect mission-critical applications running on the hospital’s Wi-Fi infrastructure.
Wi-Fi’s high data rates are required for e-mail, web users and intelligent, Wi-Fi-enabled equipment, but result in greater electronics complexity and higher electric current consumption than necessary for sensor networks. Sensor networks require far less throughput and offer greater flexibility than other network types. Lower throughput results in lower complexity, longer battery life and lower cost.
Networks of sensors can play an important role in automation of common tasks in hospitals, improving operational efficiency and reducing clerical data entry errors. The data collected from sensors can provide a rich warehouse of information that can be used to improve hospital business processes and asset utilization, and reduce capital, staff, and rental costs.
To obtain these benefits, sensors must be inexpensive to deploy and they must retrofit easily into existing buildings. Most importantly, they must co-exist with other hospital infrastructure technologies, such as LANs, WLANs (Wi-Fi), and the growing variety of network-enabled and wireless medical equipment.