Wednesday, December 15, 2010

WiFi RTLS and your Business will it work for you?

Just another day in the office, and the same question came up in a conference call today. What do I have to put in place to get my business ready for RTLS deployments?

This is a hospital style environment that again is trying to stretch their WiFi network deployment dollars to include RTLS. The allure here to use existing infrastructure to support location tools is a noble one, and has valid cost advantages, but in retrospect this is not always the end result. Additional WiFi infrastructure is in most cases required, and if not that, additional location beacons or devices need to be used in tuff to locate areas.

This is not to say WiFi does not work, or that it is not a great cost effective tool. We base WiFi location systems value off of the extensive research and customer statements that point out the overall success rate of total WiFi RTLS / Location solutions is much lower than the WiFi industry vendors would like us to believe. Yes I have used WiFi, and deployed it in these environments but our customers know going in that we are using the technology for this because: XYZ, and if requirements increase or areas are troublesome then: ABC will have to be installed or added on.

WiFi has been around a long time in the RFID world, it is a technology designed for communication that has been asked to be a location system as well because, well in theory it can. ZigBee fits this description as well, and some other technologies but that is the core of the issue. I used a framing hammer the other day to put up trim in the bathroom, not because it was the right tool but it was what I had and I was too lazy to drive from the office back home for the correct tool. Bottom Line the trim is up but it has a few more marks in it then it needed, and it took and light hand with hammer and longer to do. In the end the results are poor compared to if I would have used the correct tool.

Let’s not forget the reason the location tools are needed. If you ask the customer what they want it for you receive some varying answers, and in many cases receive vague answers. Customers have the concept but not solid answers as to how they want to use it. This is where the vendor must do a good analysis of the process stream and flow, mapping this out as to where the value of the location information can be used and how. Without this data being placed in a good software tool you have a limited value prop for you deployment. Given most RFID hardware vendors have software that works with their hardware only you have another problem. Proper Software platforms must be able to handle any tool you throw at it. Take our hospital we discussed today, they will have pharmacies sending items with bar-codes, or passive RFID tags. WiFi tags may work in some departments but not secure enough for tight control of secure floors or restricted patients environments. Will all of this fit into the system that controls your location system? In almost every case the answer to this is no.

Bottom line here again; do site analysis of the processes first, find out what they need to track and how that information needs to be handled and presented, select the software that fits these requirements, then you can look at the location technology that fits the requirements of the covered areas.

With these simple few step processes you will have a complete synchronous flowing system that goes in quickly and performs from day one with limited retuning and adjustments. As well this is reducing required upgrades and retrofits later on in the use of the system. Byron

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