Real-time location systems (RTLS) for hospital equipment require battery-powered tags, and those batteries require periodic replacement. For large installations, that can mean significant service headaches. Startup company Emanate Wireless, Ijamsville, Md, is hoping to solve that problem with new kind of asset tag it will introduce at the upcoming HIMSS conference in April. According to company executives interviewed by 24×7, their new Powerpath tags not only reduce those problems, but also offer enhanced device utilization data as well as smartphone apps that help pinpoint device location.

Company CEO Neil Diener describes the tags as “inline,” since the tags plug directly into the AC power port of devices on one end and the device’s power cord on the other. As a result, Diener says, “it’s targeted at devices that plug into AC when in use,” which he estimates covers up to 90% of the equipment typically tracked in a hospital.

emanate-wireless_tag-300One key benefit of this design, Diener says, is the rechargeable battery built into the tag. “Because we’re inline with the AC, any time the device is plugged in, we can recharge the battery,” he explains. “It’s designed to get 6 months off a single charge, so if it is sitting in the closet you can still locate it.” The battery has a lifetime of 10 years, he adds.

The other “major advantage” of the tag design, Diener says, is the ability to measure device utilization. “We’re actually measuring the current draw of the device and we can tell about the usage state of the device,” he says. “Is it unplugged, is it plugged in and off or idling, or is it actively in use? And that’s very important.”

According to Diener, the insights into utilization provided by the tag set it apart from other types of RTLS tags on the market. “They have to essentially approximate [utilization] based on the location of the device,” an approach that he says is “prone to error.” By contrast, he says, the Powerpath tags provide more reliable information about the state of a device. For staff trying to locate a device, for instance, “it’s important to them to know whether that device is already in use or not, because a device that’s in use is not one that can be taken somewhere else or serviced.” The utilization data are also valuable from a wider enterprise perspective, helping to optimize asset flow and acquisition, he adds.

The radio technologies built into the tag are designed to make it compatible with many existing RTLS systems. The tag uses WiFi and is compliant with Cisco’s CCX location measurement protocol as well as Cisco’s Mobility Service Engine platform. (Emanate’s key founding executives all previously worked for Cisco.)

The Powerpath tag also supports infrared, low-frequency, and ultrasound exciters or beacons, Diener adds. Consequently, he says, the tags can “interoperate with deployments … from most of the major players out there,” including CenTrak, Ekahau, Sonitor, and Stanley Healthcare’s AeroScout.

In addition, a Bluetooth low energy radio built into the tag is designed to take advantage of the increased prevalence smartphones among hospital staff. This allows for what Diener calls a “hybrid location model.” While WiFi may locate a device within 25 feet or so, he explains, “you get there and you don’t see it because it’s around a corner or in a room.” Using the Bluetooth radio with the company’s smartphone app, “you can essentially connect and see the tags that are around you, and you can cause them to play tones and flash. It’s similar in concept to how you would find your cellphone if you lost it in your house.”

Diener acknowledges that at a list price of $110 per unit at low volume, the Powerpath tags are more expensive than other types. But in terms of return on investment (ROI), he says, there are savings that result from not having to service or replace the batteries as well as from “the overall effectiveness of the solution,” including the “big ROI of being able to optimize the number of assets that you’ve bought.”

Emanate expects to pilot its tag at a major US hospital this April. The company will be exhibiting at HIMSS booth 6656-9, April 12–16, in Chicago.

John Bethune is editorial director of 24×7. Contact him at jbethune@allied360.com.