AT&T offers RFID gear, service to health care providers

Carriers interested in revenues from RFID-based systems

AT&T announced Thursday it has begun selling health care providers a complete portfolio of tracking gear that uses RFID tags and Wi-Fi networks to help track everything from equipment to patients.

The announcement is unusual because AT&T is a network services company and not a network equipment maker. AT&T is offering RFID active tags that send a Wi-Fi signal at regular intervals, as well as software to find the tags via a Web browser. Other infrastructure and data storage are also available, the company said.

AT&T prefers to the sell the RFID capability as a managed service with a monthly cost, although the company will also provide equipment from a variety of vendors for a set fee and set-up cost, said Tim Cunningham, director of RFID development at AT&T.

AT&T already has one health care customer, which it would not name. The startup cost for that 300-bed implementation was US$300,000, Cunningham said. It was built atop an existing wireless LAN. "It all depends what is being tracked, and whether that includes patients or not," he said.