Intermec Adds RFID to Ultra-Rugged Data-Capture Devices

Intermec has upgraded its line of ultra-rugged mobile computers to allow for RFID asset tracking in industries such as health care and retail.

Intermec has unveiled an upgraded line of 70 Series ultra-rugged mobile computers featuring radio-frequency identification. The devices enable professionals in health care and retail to track equipment and merchandise.

The company launched the new models Jan. 14 at the National Retail Federation Show in New York.

The 70 Series consists of the CK70, CN70 and CN70e mobile devices with integrated RFID and no external antenna. Models in the series were built to handle separate applications in a supply chain, Kurt Mensch, principal product manager for Intermec, told eWEEK.

Of the three 70 Series models with RFID, the CN70e has the most compact form factor and is meant for highly mobile environments, said Mensch. With the 70 Series' compact size, it's small and pocketable for clinicians and technicians in a hospital, he said.
The new devices run Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5.3 and support voice over IP (VOIP), speech-recognition and push-to-talk applications.

They are distinguished by their keypads and battery life, Mensch noted. The CK70 has a longer keypad than the CN70 and CN70e, according to Mensch. The keypad is suitable for environments, such as hospitals, where users need to wear gloves, he said.

As for battery life, the CK70 lasts up to 14 hours, and the CN70 and CN70e run for about 11 hours, said Mensch.

The devices can read tags to track inventory in the retail, health care, industrial and government markets.

Intermec's 70 Series offers a single platform that consists of one software build, set of peripherals and charging system, the company reported.

The Intermec devices can be used to tag wheelchairs, hospital beds and diagnostic equipment, said Mensch. Hospital staff can track the items' location and maintenance history, said Mensch.

"You can do a quick master inventory of an area," he said.

Staff in hospital emergency rooms can use the 70 Series to make sure doctors have the equipment they need for emergency procedures. RFID is also used to spot sponges and instruments inside patients after surgery, Mensch noted.

The items have small RFID tags attached to them. RFID can also help the food industry prevent illness outbreaks.

With infants lying in carts, fixed RFID readers on the devices can scan newborns' wristbands to keep track of them and spot when they're moved.

"You can tell whether or not something is passed through the doorway," said Mensch.

The devices can help parents avoid the horror stories of newborns being swapped and going home with the wrong family. RFID can also help identify patients who are suffering from dementia or being treated in a mental health ward.

"People-tracking becomes important because it's a safety concern," said Mensch. "You want to make sure that you have the right patient or that a patient didn't go out the doorway."

RFID has advantages over bar codes, Mensch explained.

"It's a little less obtrusive with RFID versus bar code where you have to twist the wristband around to read it," he said. "With RFID, if they're sleeping or rolled over on their side, you can still make sure it's the right patient."

Components in field sales kits such as screws are also RFID-tagged, said Mensch, and the Intermec handheld devices allow sales workers to keep track of equipment.

Users can run applications on the 70 Series itself or connect to a wireless LAN to access electronic health records or maintenance record databases, said Mensch.

The Intermec devices are able to withstand harsh working environments, such as temperatures of -4 degrees Fahrenheit to 140 F. The devices conform to the military standard MIL-STD 810G and can survive an 8-foot fall to concrete.

In addition, the devices have an Ingress Protection rating of IP67 for resistance to rain and dust.