If blood bags are not needed, they can only be reused if the cold chain has been maintained. Up to now, monitoring this chain has been a tricky process, but, in the future, a radio node attached to the blood bag will constantly monitor the temperature to ensure that most of these blood supplies can be reused.
The radio nodes should also help to improve safety. For example, using the wrong blood by mistake during a blood transfusion could have fatal consequences for the patient. Radio nodes attached to the blood bags and to a patient wristband can exchange information. If the donor blood does not match that of the patient, a warning signal sounds and a red light illuminates.
“In contrast to tags that use RFID – radio frequency identification – we do not expect intelligent radio nodes to interfere with hospital medical devices,” explains Jürgen Hupp, head of communication networks department at Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (IIS). “While the transmit power required for RFID tag reading can be as much as two watts, radio nodes only transmit in the milliwatt range.” This is because RFID tags only consist of a memory chip and antenna. To read an RFID tag, it must first be activated by the reader. In contrast, an intelligent radio node is an active radio system that is battery-powered and has its own processing unit. Radio nodes can continuously gather information and trigger actions.
The system is built upon a basic platform which the researchers can tailor to different applications. One example involves using radio nodes to optimize the management of medical devices in hospitals. Devices such as syringe pumps and cardiac monitors often move between departments and can be hard to track down when they are needed. This problem could soon be a thing of the past, since attaching radio nodes to the devices enables them to report their position automatically. A six-month test phase is set to begin at Erlangen University Hospital in January 2010.
MEDICA.de; Source: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft