Lack of RFID standards leads to media panic

There is no standard that will tell hospitals what frequencies the tags are using. Thus they can't tell when the frequencies being used by the tags might interfere with other gear.

USB Panic button from Brando.com.hkIt's scandalous sometimes how reporters can screw up a simple press release. (A panic button, like this one from Hong Kong, makes a great stress reliever.)

Let's quote from the release, shall we?

"The lack of standardization of RFID in health care permits RFID systems originally designed for logistics to enter the medical arena on the basis of requirements such as the range at which medical tagged items or individuals are to be detected...The intensity of electronic life-supporting medical devices in this area requires careful management of the introduction of new wireless communications such as RFID."

There. I boldfaced the key points so you can't possibly get it wrong. Can you?

I guess you can. So let's back up again and explain it slowly.

There is a problem with RFID in hospitals. There is no standard that will tell hospitals what frequencies the tags are using. Thus they can't tell when the frequencies being used by the tags might interfere with other gear.

This problem is very easy to fix. The industry gets together on an RFID medical standard, which specifies which frequency is to be used. My choice would be the upper range of 802.11, around 5.8 MHz. Medical devices don't run there.

This use of unlicensed spectrum should guarantee there is no interference with any gear running on licensed frequencies, and there are frequencies licensed specifically for use by medical devices.

And that's the problem. Many RFID tags being sold to hospitals run on the ISM band. It's a nice, low frequency so signals can go a long way. The M in this case stands for medical, and the rules state they are supposed to tolerate interference well.

Now, the Dutch study demonstrates that many ISM devices in hospitals don't tolerate interference as well as they should. On-site tests of emissions should take care of any problems from old RFID gear running in those bands, it says.

But panic is so much more fun.

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