PanGo to launch new software, RFID tags

PanGo Networks will launch an upgrade of its asset tracking software Tuesday, as well as a second-generation active RFID tag that's half as big and less expensive than the original version.

PanGo's system is primarily deployed in hospitals, where it uses Wi-Fi networks to transmit data captured by radio frequency identification (RFID) tags placed on medical equipment to a central location. The technology is designed to help hospital administrators keep track of expensive assets, said Mike Braatz, vice president of business development at the Framingham, Mass.-based vendor.

The new software, PanGo Locator 3.0, further automates the site survey process and adds Web-based monitoring and management tools as well as a notification function to send alerts about the status of equipment that is being tracked, Braatz said. Pricing starts at US$30,000 for 500 endpoints, and the software is due for release next month.

Meanwhile, PanGo's Active RFID Tag 2.0 device costs about US$50 and is roughly the size of three AAA batteries -- 40 percent of the size of the initial tag that the company released a year ago. The 2.0 version includes advanced wireless security and 50 percent longer battery life, Braatz said.

Lifespan, a group of five hospitals based in Providence, R.I., plans to install about 500 of the new tags by year's end, said David Hemendinger, the health care provider's chief technology officer.

One function will be to provide the locations of medical equipment so that biomedical staffers can perform routine maintenance. Being able to find lost items "is just icing on the cake," Hemendinger said. "The real power of this technology is its ability to proactively manage assets and deliver them to the point of care before my users even think of having to find them."

Gary Bayston, manager of biomedical engineering at Rockford Memorial Hospital in Rockford, Ill., said he plans to deploy about 600 of the RFID tags in the next two months to track all kinds of hospital equipment. "I was amazed, but one nurse even said she was losing beds in a ward some nights," Bayston said. Apparently, workers in another ward had been borrowing them.

Ultimately, the hospital might use the tags to keep track of Alzheimer's patients and newborn babies, Bayston said. In addition, the system could be used to track the location of medical charts to help ensure the privacy of personal information about patients, he said.

Rockford will spend about US$80,000 on the PanGo software and tags, an amount that could be paid off within six months by savings on labor costs, Bayston said.

Other than PanGo, Ekahau in Helsinski, Finland, offers a location tracking system that works over Wi-Fi, said Marcus Torchia, an analyst at Yankee Group Research in Boston. Systems from several other asset tracking vendors require added hardware to receive a signal since they don't rely on a Wi-Fi infrastructure, he said.

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