RFID and WSNs have separately been used in medical healthcare applications such as emergency care, stroke rehabilitation, dental implants, and patient and staff tracking in hospitals. However, by integrating these two technologies their potentials will be extended. The treatment quality can be improved, because patient conditions would be monitored continuously and doctors can be easier notified in cases of a sudden deterioration of a patient’s condition. The patient’s location can be tracked using RFIDs, while their condition can be monitored using sensors. Furthermore, medication errors such as outdated treatments orders, inaccurate medical records, and increased costs can be avoided with the use of an integrated RFID-sensor network. Possible applications of integrated RFID and WSNs in the healthcare sector include sensing temperature, measuring blood pressure, heartbeat rate, or pH value. Among the proposed approaches of integrating RFID and sensor networks in healthcare applications we present some indicative applications.
IMEC-Netherland (IMEC-NL) a Dutch research institute has built prototypes of human-monitoring systems using active RFID tags, which are integrated with sensors]. The integrated sensor-tags are used to record and transmit data about a patient’s vital signs. The human monitoring system is mainly used for investigating conditions such as epilepsy and sleep apnea. Until now, a hospitalized patient suffering epilepsy is monitored via electrodes, which are attached to his face and scalp and they are connected with wires into a box. The box collects data about the patients’ facial and brain activity. This data is analyzed and used to track a patient’s condition. Similarly, a patient that suffers from apnea is monitored via electrodes attached to his face to measure eye and jaw muscle movement and brain activity. The IMEC research institute investigated the possibility of providing the patients the ability to move and even the option to be monitored while being at home by making these procedures wireless.
The researchers of the institute use sensors to monitor the patients’ brain activity. If the sensors detect unexpected brain activity they transmit an alarm to an RF interrogator 10 m away. The prototype has been tested at the Universitaire Ziekenhuizen Leuven (UZ) in Belgium. University hospital of Ghent in Belgium implemented an RFID-based real time locating system (RTLS) to provide nurses and other caregivers with a patient’s location in the event of an emergency. The implemented integrated RFID-sensor network detects when a patient is having cardiac distress and sends to the caregivers an alert indicating the patient’s location. In the proposed prototype Aero Scout T2 active Wi-Fi tags are used, which transmit the tags’ unique IDs to the hospitals Wi-Fi network. An integrated scheme of RFID and WSNs for in-home medication monitoring and elder healthcare was developed earlier. The goal of the system is to monitor the quantity of medicine required by elder people and to assist them in taking the accurate amount of medicine as an extension of the Caregiver’s prototype by Intel labs. The system is composed of an HF RFID reader, a UHF RFID reader, a weight scale, a base station, and three modes. HF RFID tags are placed on each medicine bottle in order to identify each bottle, while the HF RFID reader is used to monitor the location of the medicine bottles within its range. The movement or replacement of a bottle is detected by regular reads on a readers’ range. By using a weight scale, in combination with RFID tags embedded on medicine bottles, it is possible to determine which medicine and how much of the medicine was used by the patient. Each patient also bears an RFID tag and the patient is notified by the associated RFID reader to take the required medicine (via sound or light alarm). The proposed prototype is an extension of the approach proposed by Intel Labs, where an HF RFID reader and some tags are used along with two sensor nodes (motes) to monitor a patient’s intake of medicines. Intel Research Seattle and University of Washington also proposed a smart home prototype system, called “Caregiver’s Assistant and CareNet Display” that is able to detect, monitor, and record the daily living activities of elder people by collecting data through postage stamp-size wireless RFID tags attached to household objects.
Information regarding the objects and the time that they were touched, are collected and transmitted using a WSN. Statistical methods are used on this data to detect high-level activities and to fill out entries from state-mandated activities of daily living form (ADL). The goal of the proposed prototype system is to help elder people manage their everyday activities without the need for an around-the-clock caregiver. Thus, caregivers may focus on the quality of care of elder people rather than on performing tedious tasks.
For more information, see: