The IEEE has begun work on a new standard, IEEE P1902.1(TM), which will improve upon the visibility network protocol known as RuBee(TM). RuBee is a bidirectional, on-demand, peer-to-peer, radiating, transceiver protocol operating at wavelengths below 450 Khz. This protocol works in harsh environments with networks of many thousands of tags and has an area range of 10 to 50 feet.
One of the advantages of long-wavelength technology is that the radio tags can be low in cost, near credit card thin (1.5 mm), and fully programmable using 4 bit processors. Despite their high functionality, RuBee radio tags have a proven battery life of ten years or more using low-cost, coin-size lithium batteries. The RuBee protocol works with both active radio tags and passive tags that have no battery.
IEEE P1902.1, "IEEE Standard for Long Wavelength Wireless Network Protocol", will provide for asset visibility networking that fills the gap between the non-networked, non-programmable, backscattered, RFID tags widely used for asset tracking and the high-bandwidth radiating protocols for IEEE 802.11(TM) local area networks and IEEE 802.15(TM) personnel area and data networks.
IEEE P1902.1 will offer a "real-time, tag searchable" protocol using IPv4 addresses and subnet addresses linked to asset taxonomies that run at speeds of 300 to 9,600 Baud. RuBee Visibility Networks are managed by a low-cost Ethernet enabled router. Individual tags and tag data may be viewed as a stand-alone, web server from anywhere in the world. Each RuBee tag, if properly enabled, can be discovered and monitored over the World Wide Web using popular search engines (e.g., Google(TM)) or via the Visible Asset's ".tag" Tag Name Server.
RuBee networks and tags are distinguished from most RFID tags in that they are unaffected by liquids and can be used underwater and underground. IEEE P1902.1 devices will be able to be used as implantable medical sensors having a 10-to-15-year battery life, depending on the number of reads and writes. The ability of RuBee tags to maintain performance around steel, so they work well when steel shelves are present, removes a key obstacle for low-cost deployment of RFID in retail, item-level tracking environments.
"Long-wavelength visibility networks have many applications with respectable ROI's in healthcare, agriculture, government and retailing," says John Stevens, chair of the P1902.1 Working Group and Chairman of Visible Assets Inc. "Visibility networks are now providing a wealth of real-time inventory data, timely billing information, audit trails and point-of-use data with little or no process change within an organization.
"The use of visibility networks may include providing the status and location of people or high-value assets in a user-configurable area, as well as providing audit trails that meet 21CFRPart11, SEC Rule 17a-4, HIPAA, Sarbanes Oxley, and DoD 5015.2. Since RuBee is a peer-to-peer, on-demand protocol, tags can issue "pair-wise" matching alarms. They also can provide sensor alarms and data logs, e.g., a hospital staff could verify that blood was held at the correct temperature during distribution or that the correct drug and blood type are used during an operation."
IEEE P1902.1 will be developed within the IEEE Corporate Standards Program. It is targeted for completion in late 2007.
"We're developing IEEE P1902.1 to encourage and support the growth of visibility networks within many industries," says Stevens. "The standard will be essential for the widespread, international commercial use of RuBee.
"To speed deployment, we decided to work within the IEEE Corporate Standards Program. This program has been highly supportive and given us strong technical and standards development assistance, as well as extensive TCP/IP expertise. IEEE also provides dedicated services, such as project management, that we'll need to get our job done quickly."
The new IEEE P1902.1 standard will address physical and data-link layers based on the existing working RuBee protocol now in use. The new IEEE standard will support interoperation of RuBee tags, RuBee chips, RuBee network routers and other equipment now slated to be rolled out by several different manufacturers.
RuBee networks are already deployed in commercial applications, including: smart shelves for high-value medical devices in hospitals and operating rooms; smart, in-store and warehouse shelves for inventory tracking; and a variety of agricultural visibility networks for livestock, elk and other exotic animals.
Stevens adds, "The formation of the P1902.1 Working Group has attracted a broad array of members, including medical device manufacturers, retail vendors, networking companies, several major hospitals, and hardware, software, silicon and search vendors, and others who support or use visibility networks. A widely-deployed long-wavelength standard will serve as a platform for growth in many industries, so working group members are motivated to produce a high-quality and practical working standard as quickly as possible."