New product categories cross some boundary when they are OEM'd by one of the big medical conglomerates. Such a transition was made today when Philips Medical Systems announced they were selling an asset tracking RFID solution from AeroScout (press release).

The Philips asset tracking solution utilizes technology that
includes wireless tags, a location engine, and the MobileView user
interface. The tags, which can be attached to most mobile assets, transmit to the hospital’s existing 802.11 infrastructure.
This information is fed into the location engine and the asset’s
position can then be portrayed on a map, or in a table or report format
for any networked hospital user.

Asset tracking has become many hospitals first entry into RFID - the application is straightforward and easy to justify. Asset tracking is also the least technically challenging indoor positioning application for hospitals, requiring the least amount of spatial resolution or accuracy. Asset tracking systems typically return a zone level location, rather than room level or positioning within 2 to 3 feet. I suppose GE and Siemens will eventually follow Philips so they too can offer a branded asset tracking app to their vendor-exclusive hospital clients.

“While it is an obvious benefit to staff who spend numerous hours searching for equipment, Philips asset tracking solution is so much more than finding equipment,”
said Tom Kirkland vice president, customer services, for Philips
Medical Systems. “With the information that is gathered through the
asset tracking solution, asset utilization, work flow efficiencies, and
staff productivity can be improved.”

It will be interesting to see how far Philips can push the basic asset tracking solution. Providing contextual information about location data is critical to extracting real value from the data beyond simple "pump 12 is in closet 102B" location data. Undoubtedly there are opportunities to massage asset location data to
look at hospital-acquired infections, asset usage patterns over time,
and other metadata type applications. Perioperative applications like those from SIS and Picis use location data to optimize workflow, and are specialized comprehensive applications - you're not going to push a simple asset tracking system to these limits. These specialized workflow applications access location data through an API (application programming interface) between the RFID location engine and the target application.

The applications Kirkland alludes to will either require manual data entry and correlation or an API that talks to another application that does the real analysis. The risk here is that Philips new asset tracking system could be mistakenly over-sold by making claims beyond asset tracking.

Pictured right is an AeroScout tag shot at the last HIMSS exhibition.