Sensors Mag

The Pervasive Network

October 9, 2006 By: Tom Kevan

E-mail Tom Kevan

Described in abstract terms in a report last month, the vehicle for enhanced connectivity takes on tangible form in a disaster-victim tracking system demonstrated in Belgium. This advanced implementation shows how cutting-edge technologies will increasingly come together in the future.

The Network

On September 27, Sensors' Web site carried the news item "Eight Trends Driving the Connected World," which discussed the development of an all-pervasive network built around the Internet protocol. The Computer Sciences Corporation/Leading Edge Forum's report sees a paradigm shift in connectivity that will lead to this network "going into new places in new ways" and organizations bringing "dormant environments to life by leveraging wireless mesh networks and advanced radio-frequency identification."

Tangible Proof

The proof of this concept can be found in the news item "Belgian disaster victim tracking and tracing system demonstrated at University Hospital Antwerp," which appeared on the Medical Technology/Business Europe Web site.

The Belgian Victim Tracking and Tracing System, described in the article, simplifies the registration and identification of casualties affected in a disaster situation by enabling the rapid exchange and automatic processing of data collected by emergency workers at the scene of the disaster. The system—developed by Cisco Systems with AeroScout, CITS, Intermec, and Orion Health—collects critical information in real time, using Cisco's mobile and wireless network technology, and makes the data available to emergency workers and hospitals via a Web-based portal.

The core of the system is the Cisco's Mobile Access Router. This device can support many fixed and wireless network connections. AeroScout provided the WiFi standards-based active RFID tags and the Choke Point Exciters for detecting the victims' entry of and exit from hospitals. CITS contributed the backend and portal infrastructure, while Orion Health delivered the portal and integration software. Last but not least, Intermec supplied the system's RFID readers.

What I like about this new system, and why it is such a realization of the concept of the "pervasive network," is that wireless technology eliminates the tethers of wired communications, handles the challenges arising from the mobility inherent in the situation it is monitoring, supports the broad distribution of real-time information, and enables remote monitoring. Relying on several technologies to accomplish this, the new system reflects what the convergence of multiple cutting-edge technologies (RFID, WiFi. Web portals, and the Internet) can achieve.

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