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Growing Trend: Tracking People as Assets with RFID Asset Tracking Software

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college students with idAssets in most all shapes and sizes can be tracked with RFID. One of the most often referenced industries using RFID as an  asset tracking solution is education. From tracking students–elementary school to college, RFID has been in the news in the education industry since 2005, but what RFID is tracking now shows the strides this technology has made in the past 10 years.

RFID is being used to make schools safer for children and teachers around the nation. In a Nebraska school, RFID ensures students arrive at school safely while riding their bikes in the Ride-Your-Bike-to-School program. Solar powered passive RFID readers at the school read the RFID tags on each students’ backpack, and that information is uploaded to the internet for parents, students, and school administrators to view.

Other school systems are tracking assets like books (loaned and school library books), IT equipment, and other school property enabling them to protect themselves from theft and loss. Attendance tracking is also currently deployed in colleges which will ultimately reduce time to take roll, as well as encourage student attendance.   Apptricity monitors school children as they get on and off a bus and that data can be easily applied for safety and attendance records.

Institutions dealing with a human populations can also benefit using passive RFID for tracking their “organic” assets—real-time tracking of incarcerated inmates and patients within a hospital.  Tamper proof RFID transmitters send an alert signal if the tag has been tampered with, and systems triggering alarms when high-risk assets are within a pre-defined range or detect that they are not within a specific area (geofencing).  Tracking elderly care residents, mental health patients, as well as service dogs and animals can be easily achieved leveraging RFID technology and their supporting software systems.

Maryland’s Medical Examiner uses RFID to track human bodies, parts and their files.  Bar codes are employed in order to associate a file folder with an RFID tagged body or body part.  Systems monitor both the file to pinpoint the file location within a room while the RFID tag tracks the cadavers’ location.  In addition, software displays alerts in the event that a file remains unmoving for a long period of time.  The tracking solution would also provide information to physicians. For example, a doctor would be able to log onto the system in order to view a list of which bodies were in the cooling unit at a given time, indicating the quantity required for examination. The historic data would provide a record for transplant patients receiving organs, verifying that the organs were viable, based on the length of time that the body was located in the refrigeration room.

Not only can RFID be used as an asset tracking solution to track assets, but it can also monitor behaviors.  Children’s Hospital of Alabama uses the technology to monitor when personnel wash or sanitize their hands while working.  Professional skin-care products used in dispensers utilizing specialized RFID readers enable customers to track the hand-washing behavior of individuals wearing RFID badges.

In Sweden, researchers are using RFID as a tracking system to identify “occupancy” based on human behavior.  The goal of this study is to better track real-time dynamic demand for lighting, heating and other conditioning controls.  Used to program systems in a typical office building in the Netherlands, steps are being taken to improve energy consumption for comfort through demand-driven process control strategies.

We can move beyond using RFID or passive RFID to validate human identification from our credit cards, passports, government issues IDs (driver’s license) as well as real-time location of those assets.  Combined with Internet of Things (IoT), GPS Technologies, machine-to-machine telemetry and supporting software systems we can track individuals, their vehicles, speed, waiting time, and supporting data of those systems—we are just opening the door for how, what and where we interact with our world leveraging RFID.

Some other uses of RFID on a more global scale include tracking Immigrant status or even migrations of peoples.  As immigrants and refugees are processed this data can be analyzed.  Truly “big data” as we start amassing information on border crossings, travel destinations, arrival and departure information, digital photographs and finger scans.  Even though it’s been around a while, RFID tracking is still in it’s renaissance as companies and spill-over information from tracking movement, behavior and humans is just on the cusp of breakout.  Even as the surveillance capabilities grows in power, we must also strengthen policies that champion our privacy.  I see a near future where we may implant RFID technology…what then?

RFID and passive RFID brings us great power and intelligence to track people, assets and behavior.  “With great power comes great responsibility”—Anonymous

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