RFID: The Next Big Thing?

Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags are tiny devices that consist of silicon chips and an antenna that can transmit data to a wireless receiver. You may recognize the technology in your "Speedpass." But one A/E industry consultant thinks the chip may be the next big thing in intelligent building design.

01/01/2004


Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags are tiny devices that consist of silicon chips and an antenna that can transmit data to a wireless receiver. You may recognize the technology in your "Speedpass." But one A/E industry consultant thinks the chip may be the next big thing in intelligent building design.

According to Robert Martino, who leads the building security consulting team for consultant Shen Milsom & Wilke, his firm is studying the use and installation of RFID in a new healthcare facility scheduled for completion in 2010. The system will use the facility's information technology and telecommunications infrastructure.

According to Martino, the signal from a chip is transmitted to a computerized database where it triggers a range of different actions. "If the chip is part of a hospital patient's ID bracelet, it might indicate that the patient needs medication or is ready for a meal. A physician might use a laptop or handheld computer to intercept a patient's ID and automatically connect to his or her chart, or it may be embedded in an IV pole so that a nurse can locate it." says Martino.

RFIDs, he says, can—and will—be used to track everything from product inventory to people, says the consultant. "And they are increasingly important to intelligent building design."

As an example, he says SMW is using its experience with building security, wireless and audiovisual technology to create paging systems that combine with RFID to create a system that "knows" where a worker is. The system automatically activates the speaker closest to the worker instead of disrupting the entire facility.

The chip is available in a range of configurations, as a flat card, tag, bracelet, or embedded device. In this way, a chip might be attached to a part in a manufacturing facility that is then tracked throughout the plant to make sure it follows the correct path. A chip might even be implanted in an employee's ID card so that office security can track that individual's movements.

Ultimately, he says, RFID technology will tie into the Internet.





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