During the During the National Retail Federation’s annual Big Showin January, Eileen DiLeo, the executive vice president of stores at Hudson’s Bay, said that her company finds new use cases for RFID technology nearly every day.
DiLeo said that RFID will be fully deployed across its 140 Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor stores by the end of this year. The retail chain has asked all of its vendors to start shipping RFID tagged goods by this August.
As RFID becomes commonplace around the globe, statement’s like DiLeo’s ring true in nearly every industry. Healthcare, retail, oil and gas, mining, transportation and even consumer-facing services are expanding the use of RFID in ways that we never imagined.
This month I read about an intriguing new use case that is not only practical but can have life-saving consequences. A little over a year ago, a company called Cycle Alert rolled out an RFID-based solution on the University of York campus in England. By affixing an RFID chip to a bicycle, the Cycle Alert solution sends alerts to University buses and cabs that a cyclist is nearby.
The buses are outfitted with sensors on the side of the vehicles that read the RFID tags on the bikes, and then trigger an alert to a cab-mounted device with the location of the upcoming cyclist. Consider it another case of the Internet of Things, where different modes of transportation communicate with each other to improve safety.
Last month, the city of Croydon — considered the Silicon Valley of Great Britain — launched Cycle Alert in an attempt to limit collisions between heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and bicycles. According to an article in the Croydon Citizen, all four traffic fatalities in London this year were caused by collisions between cyclists and HGVs.
In a day and age where technology continues to mature rapidly, there is no reason why cyclist fatalities can’t become a thing of the past, especially when technology exists to prevent them. While questions still remain, like who foots the bill for the solution, I know riders who would gladly strap a $10 or $20 chip to their bikes if it made them safer.
Of course, I have been a strong proponent of RFID as a life saving tool for years. RFID streamlines operations for medical researchers, allowing them to concentrate on the research required to come up with cures for cancer and other ailments, instead of spending hours tracking down supplies and completing paperwork.
RFID allows doctors and nurses to enable better patient care by spending more time with the patient instead of wasting time chasing down missing equipment like wheelchairs and heart monitors.
RFID-enhanced hand washing systems afford patients better care by reducing the chance of exposure to hospital-acquired infections, and by ensuring that medications are given to the proper people and in the right dosages. The technology can also speed up procedures in the OR by ensuring that the necessary surgical supplies are on hand during operations.
Like their friends in retail, healthcare providers started down the RFID path with the goal of improving inventory accuracy. In this case, the inventory being tagged was not jeans and shirts, but critical assets like wheelchairs, heart monitors and even hospital beds. Just as in retail, healthcare providers soon saw the opportunity to expand use cases once equipment was tagged.
For example, many hospitals have expanded RFID to include staff management, so that doctors and nurses can be located quickly when needed. Some hospitals even use RFID to obtain better patient flow throughout the hospital. One solution used by a major hospital outfits a patient with an RFID-enabled wristband upon arrival at the ER. The system sends an alert to staff if the patient is not seen by medical personnel within a certain time frame. This not only allows hospitals to provide more timely care, but also to study data about the paths taken by hospital personnel and come up with more productive routes.
When it comes to increasing efficiencies within a healthcare setting, RFID-enabled cabinets and refrigerators are proven to be well worth the investment. For starters, hospital inventory management solutions like the ones offered by Terso provide a reliable and cost-effective way to manage your high-value medical and surgical inventories.
In addition, patient safety is enhanced by ensuring that the right medical supplies and drugs are on hand for every case, and because the solution automatically removes expired or recalled products from the inventory. In addition, hospitals know when to reduce waste, trim unnecessary backstock, and when to make bulk purchases.
It’s no surprise that improved inventory accuracy is so critical to retailers. A recent report by Intel estimates that inventory distortion represents about $818 billion worth of lost sales per year.
The stakes are just as high in healthcare. Imagine the impact of removing nearly a trillion dollars worth of waste and inefficiency from the healthcare supply chain each year. RFID can help us to get there.