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Real-time location system taps TI MCU, RF chipset

Posted: 05 Dec 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:RF technology? microcontroller? MCU? Zigbee?

Demonstrating the effectiveness of ultralow power control and RF technology for asset management, InnerWireless Inc. has announced it is using Texas Instruments Inc.'s MSP430 MCU-based wireless chipsets for real-time location systems (RTLS).

Based on 802.15.4 RF transmissions and Zigbee protocols, the InnerWireless Vision Platform operates within building networks of hospitals, hotels, factories and other targeted industries to achieve a combination of RTLS affordability and ease of use. This enables health care providers such as hospitals to immediately identify the room in which equipment can be found, reducing both search and response times for greater patient safety.

"The InnerWireless RTLS solution is easy to implement and readily adaptable to a variety of industries," said James McCoy, chief technology officer and senior VP, InnerWireless. "TI's ultralow-power MSP430 MCU and single-chip RF transceiver enabled us to develop this 802.15.4 product quickly, while achieving our goals of low-cost tags with long battery life."

Solving tracking issues
In hospitals, medical equipment from wheelchairs to heart monitors are moved continually, making it difficult to locate these items when needed. In fact, hospitals often over-purchase to compensate for missing equipment, and each employee wastes approximately 30mins/day searching for equipmentleading to unnecessary expenses and increased patient safety risks.

To address this, InnerWireless can track equipment and other items to the area in which an item is located by using RF technology based on the IEEE 802.15.4 wireless standard and Zigbee-like protocols for RF communications.

InnerWireless 802.15.4 systems comprise three networked components: beacons, tags and master radios. Rooms equipped with battery-operated beacons the size of a smoke detector broadcast unique identification signals that are received by tags. The tags, sized to attach unobtrusively to objects and collect location information from the beacons, periodically retransmit this information to the master radio; real-time results are displayed through Web-based applications for personnel.

The TI chipset used in all of this product's components combines an MSP430F155 MCU with a CC2420 802.15.4 transceiver to handle all the processing and communication needed for wireless RTLS tracking. The MSP430 MCU features a stand-by power consumption of 0.8?A and wakes up in less than 1s to an active mode of 250?A (1MHz). The combination of the MSP430 MCU's extremely low power standby current with an instant-on active mode and fully synchronized, high-speed system clock enables the trend toward smaller, lower-cost applications. Additionally, the CC2420 transceiver from TI's low-power RF group provides the industry's first single-chip 802.15.4 solution, supporting quick design for this low-bandwidth standard. The combined MCU and transceiver saves costs and space while allowing InnerWireless beacons and tags to operate reliably for up to seven years without a battery change or recharge.

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