Area coverage can save valuable time—and lives— during emergencies and is a key enabler for emerging long-range tracking applications. RFID sees widespread use for tracking workers in dangerous environments, such as mines or areas where exposure to chemicals, gases or radioactivity requires monitoring. Traditionally, these systems use battery-powered active RFID tags, which can cost $100 a piece. Because of the cost, deployment has mostly been limited to select high-risk environments. The development of standardized Gen 2 technology makes it practical to extend wireless area monitoring into many additional environments because readers and ID cards cost less.
Gen 2 readers afford easy outdoor or indoor installation, enabling diverse applications for managing workers in hazardous and disaster environments. Workplace regulations limit the amount of time workers can spend in a hazardous environment, such as where low-level radiation is present. These cases are excellent opportunities for installing readers to cover the area and automatically record all entries and exits. System software can track the amount of time each individual worker spends in the area, calculate real-time cumulative totals, and automatically generate alerts (by e-mail, pager or even alarm) as workers near their time thresholds.
Using RFID completely automates the data entry and calculation processes and can automatically generate and store necessary records. A network of readers covering rooms, labs, test facilities, tunnels, mineshafts and other areas can produce a real-time view of employee locations—information that is invaluable in case of emergency.
Compliance Tracking and RFID Information in Real Time
The same application principles apply to non-hazardous environments, where administrators require accurate, real-time information about where people are in the building or campus. These environments include hospitals, assisted living residences, schools, daycare centers, and other facilities where administrators are responsible for the custody and safety of residents, patients, visitors, and guests.
For example, a school could use Gen 2 staff and student ID cards to take automatic attendance daily, saving time for teachers and eliminating the need for office staff to manually enter attendance data into the computer records system. The key benefit is the system’s ability to provide dynamic, updated information. Traditional attendance systems provide a record of who was in the building at the start of the school day. RFID systems can track students during an evacuation and in day-to-day operations. The result is a real-time location record of each student and staff member at all times by using RFID readers to monitor classrooms, hallways, playgrounds and other areas.
Alerts could be issued when students attempt to enter restricted areas or leave the campus at unauthorized times. This added visibility of student movement also extends to school buses and other vehicles to ensure and/or confirm where and when students boarded and exited the vehicles. There is precedent for these use cases, as RFID wristband and ID card systems are already widely used in hospitals to prevent infant abduction and to detect patients wandering from Alzheimer’s and psychiatric wards. Another application includes RFID card systems installed at prisons and security services to monitor guard locations.