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 to improve health outcomes for patients. Embedding IoT connectivity across hundreds of thousands of square feet/meters in multi-story hospital facilities comes with a specific set of challenges. In addition to thick walls obstructing RF propagation, these environments present great interference from electronic and radio equipment that is in continuous operation.
BG22 Bluetooth SoC
RTLS Software Library
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 IoT products for digital traceability capable of asset tracking, patient tracking, and personnel tracking within the hospital to increase operational efficiency and patient care quality. Digital traceability can benefit applications including asset inventory management, asset utilization, patient throughput, and safety. Asset tracking represents one of the largest opportunities for healthcare systems to improve their operations because of the sheer volume of space that must be covered and the large number of potentially life-saving equipment that must 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.
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.
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.
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.
Silicon Labs has been working with Borda to bring the latest connectivity solutions to bear on their innovations, and we’re thrilled to be part of these applications that are leading the way in making the world smarter, healthier, and more connected.
To learn more about what we’re doing in this area, check out our Bluetooth Direction Finding page.
Silicon Labs has been working with Borda to bring the latest connectivity solutions to bear on their innovations, and we're thrilled to be part of these applications that are leading the way in making the world smarter, healthier, and more connected.