Med Center Uses RFID to Ease Parking Garage Woes for Staff & Guests

February 22, 2010

The Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, a new hospital on the UCLA campus, is developing an RFID system that it hopes will make parking in its garage easier and more convenient for hospital staffers, patients, and guests.

For now, the RFID solution includes a network of sensors mounted at the parking garage’s entry and two exit points. When cars enter and leave the garage, the system records the information and sends it to a back-end software application. From there, UCLA administrators can analyze the data to determine the number of available parking spots on the monitored floors. Future plans include monitoring not only each floor but also each individual parking space.

In the long run, according to UCLA’s Department of Transportation, the data could enable the hospital to optimize the number of parking spots allotted to staff and guests, as well as provide guests with guidance to exact available parking spots. In addition, there are plans to create a mobile application that will show these visitors where available spots in the garage are before even arriving at the hospital, which could encourage the use of alternate transportation if the garage is full. This could keep the medical center from needing to perform the expensive and inconvenient task of expanding parking on the UCLA campus—a bonus, as there is only room for about 2,000 more spaces.

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Wake Forest Medical Center Deploys Hybrid Infrared-RFID System to Track Assets and Vaccines

December 8, 2009

In what is set to be the largest healthcare tracking deployment to date, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center ( has begun using hybrid infrared-RFID technology to track assets and vaccines throughout its 4.1 million square feet of hospital space. In addition to simply being able to locate the vaccines throughout the vast area, Wake Forest will also be able to track their temperatures within its 300 refrigerators and freezers.

Located in Winston-Salem, NC, the 1,056-bed Wake Forest began looking into RFID approximately three years ago. At the time, the medical center was interested in finding a way to track its growing inventory of infusion pumps, wheelchairs, and other higher-value mobile equipment.

After piloting an RTLS system that used Wi-Fi-based RFID tags, however, Wake Forest found itself still unable to track an asset’s location to a specific room. To solve this problem, the medical center decided to deploy infrared transmitters and sensors to track its 900 MHz RFID tags at room-level. There will soon be approximately 1,300 infrared transmitters (one per room) and several hundred RFID readers installed throughout the facility.

As well as tracking medical equipment using RFID, Wake Forest has installed temperature-sensing RFID tags to the exterior of refrigerators and freezers, with temperature probes placed within. Each tag transmits a signal encoded with a unique ID number, as well as location, date, time, and temperature. If the sensor determines that a vaccine temperature is outside the safe threshold, the system alerts the appropriate personnel via text message, e-mail, or page. This further enhances the safety of the patients at Wake Forest.

In the future, Wake Forest aims to expand the deployment to include tracking patients, staff members, and additional assets throughout the hospital (

Metro Group Tracks Pallets with RFID, Achieves Nearly 100 Percent Read Rate

December 3, 2009

Two years ago, international retail company Metro Group ( began using RFID to track pallets of goods it ships to supermarkets and wholesale food stores. Now, the system has been expanded to include all of the company’s food markets in Germany, as well as nearly 90 in France. Why such a rapid expansion? The RFID system uses new, more effective ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags that can be read even when attached to products containing liquid or that are packed in metal cans. The result is a read rate of nearly 100 percent.

The tagging process begins when one of Metro Group’s nine distribution centers (DCs) in Germany receives an order from a store. Then, employees pick the desired cases of goods and set them on mixed pallets. Before shipping those pallets to the store, employees tag each one with an RFID tag that is encoded with a unique ID number. RFID interrogators at the loading dock capture that unique number—even if the tag is blocked—as well as the date and time the pallets are loaded onto trucks. Metro Group’s backend software then interprets the data to track when the pallets are shipped and where they are at a given time.

When one of Metro Group’s 400 retail locations throughout Germany and France receives a pallet, fixed RFID interrogators at the receiving docks read the tags and capture the ID numbers. That information is then sent to update Metro Group’s backend software, letting the company know that the pallets have been delivered.

Last year, Metro Group tagged and tracked approximately 3 million pallets from DCs to retailers. A company spokesperson told the RFID Journal that there is interest in starting to tag cartons as well as pallets. However, there is currently no definitive start date for that phase.

Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium Uses RFID to Entertain and Teach Kids

December 1, 2009

After a $50 million revamp, the Oceanarium exhibit at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium now includes a special addition: an interactive kiosk that harnesses the power of RFID to connect with and teach the aquarium’s youngest visitors (’s-shedd-aquarium-uses-rfid-for-new-exhibit).

The kiosk resembles those used at carnivals and fairs across the world, in which users maneuver a mechanical claw to pick up desired items. At the aquarium, kids use that claw to pick up such items as shells and stones, which are embedded with RFID tags. An RFID sensor in the claw reads those tags and triggers an animated video to appear on the kiosk screen. Kids can watch that video to learn more about the specific item picked.

The Shedd Aquarium follows the example of Singapore’s Underwater World. In 2007, that aquarium embedded its fish with RFID tags with the goal of helping visitors identify the different species more easily. When tagged fish swam by an RFID sensor, the system triggered information about the fish’s name, species, and more to be sent to a touch screen for visitors’ review.

In 2008, meanwhile, Munich’s Mulenhof Museum used RFID to create an interactive multimedia experience, or a “Mobile Visitor Information System” (MoVIS). Before system deployment, RFID tags were placed in individual exhibits and locations. Now, when a visitor holding a museum-issued PDA with an integrated RFID reader approaches an exhibit, the PDA launches multimedia content relevant to that exhibit. In addition, the RFID system provides the museum with data such as how long visitors spend at particular exhibits, which could help the museum with future planning (

Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, Singapore’s Underwater World, and Munich’s Mulenhof Museum exemplify how RFID can be used by such institutions to promote learning and entertainment.

RFID Helps Danish Dairy Farmers Increase Production and Profits

November 27, 2009

In Denmark, dairy farmers are finding new uses for RFID and Real Time Location System (RTLS) technology: to locate individual animals within herds and to analyze those animals’ movements in order to predict which are entering heat and which are ill. With this information, the farmers can better schedule insemination of those that are ovulating and remove sick animals from the herd in hopes of treating the illness. The results: more successful pregnancies, better farm production, and increased profits (

The system is comprised of active, ultra-wide band RFID tags and readers. The tags emit a series of extremely brief signals (lasting billionths of a second or less) at frequencies between 6 and 8 GHz. As the pulses are emitted, the RFID readers calculate the tags’ locations by using time difference of arrival (TDOA) and angle of arrival (AOA) techniques. Because of the pulses’ brevity, the signals are less affected by interference from objects and other RF noise than most conventional RFID RTLS systems—thus improving accuracy and reliability.

In addition to using the technology to monitor which animals are ill and which are in heat, some dairy farmers are using RFID to ensure that cows are milked multiple times each day. These farmers use robotic, automated milking machines, over which RFID readers are mounted. The readers catch the signal emitted by the passive, ISO-compliant 134.2 kHz RFID tag attached to each animal’s ear, letting farmers know that the animal has been milked. If the data captured by the system suggests that a specific cow hasn’t been sufficiently milked, the farmer can use the system to track the cow to its exact location—a chore that used to take hours to complete.

With the system, Danish farmers are realizing a savings of  $60 to $67 per animal, per year. On larger farms, this could translate to annual savings of nearly $40,000.

Tracking Systems Follows Mooving Cows

July 28, 2009

A new RFID-enabled livestock tracking system enables dairy farmers to keep track of their cows’ milk production in real time. The system, which uses glass-encapsulated RFID tags injected into the animals’ legs, deploys three elements to create a comprehensive tracking environment.

The first element, a gate reader, can be installed either on gates of a wide variety of dimensions. Or it can be directly embedded in the ground to create a sort of virtual gate. The elements on the gates monitor the cows as they pass through specific checkpoints.

The second element, a position reader, provides a more general image of the locations of herd members, especially their milking positions. The third element, a wireless ZigBee coordinator collects data from up to 75 position readers.

The entire system is tied together by a single, front-end application software system. All components of the system are encased in water and dust proof housings. The system is also accompanied by a built-in database for storage and retrieval of current and historical milking data.

The new system joins an increasing variety of RFID systems used on food and livestock that are offering proven paybacks. Pigs are tagged in Thailand and many other countries; in Spain, hams are tagged right through to the retail shelf. Fish are RFID tagged in the millions in Canada and elsewhere for conservation studies and control. In Australia, leading tomato grower Moraitis tags its cardboard trays. The U.S. military uses RFID interrogators in its forklifts which read pallet loads of food as they are lifted and placed.


Two U.S. Food Retailers Trial RFID-Based Shelf Labeling System

May 28, 2009

In the U.S., grocery store chains use millions of paper labels annually to update product prices on shelves. Now, two U.S. grocery retailers (who declined to be named in the RFID Journal) are test piloting an RFID system that would enable them to change the prices on thousands of products simultaneously-saving paper, labor, and tens of thousands of dollars.

The electronic shelf system (ESL) features RFID-based LCD displays that attach to store shelves to identify products and their prices. Grocery store employees can manage the system from a remote location. As chain retailers typically make 10,000 to 12,000 price changes per week, the convenience of such a system is invaluable. That’s especially the case considering that creating shelf labels currently involves printing paper labels and requiring employees to attach them to the shelves, resulting in frequent errors.

The ESL RFID system includes readers installed in the ceilings of each grocery store. Meanwhile, a computer server located in each store’s back room receives pricing updates via the Internet from the stores’ headquarters. The server then sends those updates to the interrogators via an Ethernet cable, and the readers transmit the information to the shelf labels. The LCD screen updates the product information upon receiving it from the reader and sends a confirmation to the interrogators when the pricing is changed. With this system, 10,000 labels can be updated in less than an hour.

The ESL RFID system promises a ROI in one and a half to two years.