Healthcare facilities around the world are facing the same challenge: how to provide critical healthcare to more people without introducing new inefficiencies. For nearly two decades, Borda Technology has used connectivity to improve efficiency in healthcare settings. The company’s mission to bring operational awareness and insight with actionable IoT data is reflected in their willingness to continually innovate in areas where they see the most need. Providing customers with high-performance wireless products to realize efficiency gains has enormous potential to make hospitals and other clinical settings safer and improve health outcomes for patients. Embedding IoT connectivity across hundreds of thousands of square feet/meters in multi-story hospital facilities comes with a very specific set of challenges. In addition to thick walls obstructing RF propagation, these environments present great interference from electronic and radio equipment in continuous operation.
To increase patient care quality and operational efficiency by developing a robust and scalable real-time location services (RTLS) solution to track medical equipment, personnel, and patients always on the move, across hospital settings of any size and level of complexity.
Bluetooth Direction Finding Solutions
Silicon Labs’ angle of arrival (AoA) solution, which is comprised of the BG22 Bluetooth SoC, Antenna Array Reference Board, RTLS libraries, and tools, enables accurate location estimation, low-power operation, and robust security for indoor location services.
By creating a Bluetooth-based RTLS solution to bring operational insight across large-scale hospital settings for better healthcare and business insight. The high-precision location services support hospitals make well-versed decisions while streamlining previously unmanageable processes and minimizing human intervention.
BG22 Bluetooth SoC
Antenna Array Board
RTLS Software Library
Secure, Reliable Bluetooth Asset Tracking for Healthcare
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that government health expenditure between 2000-2018 was more than $8 trillion or 10 percent of global GDP. Current staffing challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the rise in healthcare costs have exacerbated these challenges. This growth put a strain on most healthcare systems, but Borda Technology, and companies like it, are using technology to level the playing field. Wireless connectivity in particular is making a dramatic impact in this area.
Borda set out to develop a digital traceability IoT products capable of asset tracking, patient tracking and personnel tracking within the hospital, to increase operational efficiency and patient care quality Digital traceability is turned into benefit with products such as Asset Inventory Management, Asset Utilization, Patient Throughput Management/Patient Flow, and Patient Safety. Asset tracking represents one of the largest opportunities for healthcare systems to improve its operations because of the sheer volume of space that needs to be covered and the large number of potentially life-saving equipment that needs to be accounted for. To put this challenge into real-world terms, one statistic reveals that in a single shift, nurses spend, on average, 30 minutes tracking down the equipment they need to do their jobs. A real-time location services (RTLS) system makes it possible for hospitals to focus on providing care instead of continually committing more and more resources to operational challenges, which just isn’t sustainable.
Silicon Labs Bluetooth Solutions for RTLS
Introducing new infrastructure for location services into a hospital setting can be an intimidating proposition for administrators. Borda needed a way to ensure a return on investment (ROI) for customers and eliminate the need for extensive installation costs. Bluetooth, one of the most ubiquitous and well-known networking protocols in existence, holds the key to unlocking this challenge. With the introduction of Bluetooth location services, including angle-of-arrival (AoA), in Bluetooth 5.1, it became possible for devices to determine the direction of a Bluetooth signal. This was an important development for healthcare applications because a lot of hospital settings are large, single-room wards where people and equipment are constantly on the move and interacting in all kinds of ways.
Borda introduced its tamper-proof tracking tags and locators, based on Silicon Labs' BG22 Bluetooth SoCs, that take advantage of the high-precision accuracy offered by current Bluetooth specifications. These tags offer the ability to track the utilization of devices as well as the interactions with the asset by patients and hospital staff. Previous networking limitations made it possible to track movement, which was a step in the right direction but created the assumption that if something was moving around within an area that it was being used. In a real-world setting, assets are moved around all the time without being used, so Borda set out to provide a much clearer picture of utilization. The result is a tagging solution that equips staff with operational insight to inform better healthcare and business decisions.
Being able to quickly locate assets not only benefits caregivers and patients, but it also means biomedical engineers or calibration staff don’t spend as much time tracking down equipment to be maintained. The Borda solution prevents uncalibrated equipment from being used by setting alarms that can alert staff to equipment that needs attention. For example, electrocauterization devices are used in surgery to destroy damaged tissue or to stop bleeding. If one of these instruments is not calibrated properly, it can result in burning the patient. This level of insight decreases the margin of potentially dangerous errors and increases the quality of service.
A Hardware, Software, and Tools Approach to Bluetooth Location Services
Generally speaking, silicon providers typically provide just the hardware and software stacks, but most system development falls to the developer. For location services applications, Silicon Labs provides the chip as well as the antenna array and an extensive software library that customers can implement to speed up time-to-market and eliminate the cost of in-house development.
- 160 x 160 mm, 16 antenna array (4 x 4 matrix)
- Based on EFR32BG22 wireless SoC
- Reference design files provided
- AN1195 provides design, matching and test results
- 1 x BRD4191A BG22 Dual Polarized Antenna Array Radio Board
- 1 x BRD4002A Wireless Pro Kit Mainboard
- 1 x BRD8010B Debug Adapter Board with Simplicity Mini+ Connector
- 1 x SLCBL007 Mini+ Simplicity Cable
We worked with Borda to provide the infrastructure to run their solution including debugging, development, and test tools to build their product on top of existing technology to decrease development time and increase how quickly they can get their products to market. The BG22 was developed with high-volume, cost-sensitive applications in mind, and Borda’s asset tagging solution is a great example of why Bluetooth is well-suited for RTLS applications. In addition to Bluetooth’s low-power operation, it’s also virtually ubiquitous in the devices we use and familiar to most users. The simplicity of the BG22 and working with a silicon vendor that takes a holistic approach to RTLS development has also helped Borda dramatically decrease how long it takes to install its solution. What once took months can now be up and running in just weeks.