February 20, 2007 6:25 AM PST

London hospital rolls out Wi-Fi tracking

The London Clinic, an independent hospital in London's Harley Street area, is rolling out an asset-tracking system that will allow its staff to quickly locate valuable equipment.

The system uses an existing Wi-Fi network in conjunction with wireless chip technology from Finnish company Ekahau. Using triangulation between the wireless chips and Wi-Fi access points, the system can locate items with an accuracy of about 10 feet.

"It's about finding assets when you need to find them," said Mike Roberts, IT director at The London Clinic.

Roberts said that workers will be able to view plans of the hospital on computer screens throughout the facility that show the location of items equipped with the chips, from syringe pumps to blood gas monitors.

The tracking system is due to be rolled out over the next few months, following successful trials in December.

Roberts also plans to find other ways to use the tracking technology to improve the experience of patients and to make medical workers' jobs easier.

For instance, the system could be used to locate staff when equipment needs to be retrieved, to log when patients go in and out of surgery, or to guide outpatients to appointments via "intelligent" ID badges equipped with chips that show patients their location in the building.

Another possible application: tracking assets and staff as they move between the clinic and new sites it is opening in the Harley Street area.

Roberts said the infrastructure for these innovations is already available and added that the hospital aims to be "as progressive as we can" in how it uses the technology.

Tim Ferguson of Silicon.com reported from London.

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