February 22, 2024

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A*STAR and Local Start-Up to Develop Wirelessly Powered Localisation System

Image Credits: A*STAR Singapore, Press Release

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and a local start-up announced a collaboration to develop and productise an asset tracking and localisation system that can be adopted for indoor and outdoor applications based on a sensor network that is being powered wirelessly.

Founded and based in Singapore, the start-up provides multi-dimensional Internet-of-Things (IoT) smart solutions. The company has licensed A*STAR’s wirelessly powered localisation system for asset tracking to develop a variety of practical applications.

By merging A*STAR’s research capabilities and expertise in user interface application development with the start-up’s strengths in solutions integration, both parties have jointly developed an asset tracking system that can automatically track the physical location of hospitals’ wheelchairs, which typically range in the hundreds per hospital.

This asset tracking system was tested and later deployed in 150 wheelchairs at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) in April 2021, across common areas including wheelchair parking zones, car park lobbies as well as wheelchair parks outside Specialist Outpatient Clinics. Wireless tags were attached to the wheelchairs and served as beacons; the tags send location information to network devices installed at strategic positions within the hospital.

The data is then presented on a mobile application, and hospital staff such as Patient Service Associates (PSA) can easily monitor and track the location of wheelchairs. They are notified when the number of wheelchairs at designated key areas are running low and need replenishing, as well as which areas they can find excess wheelchairs. Staff productivity has improved and it has also helped ensure that wheelchairs for patients are constantly available.

The application’s intuitive digital dashboard is easy to use and shows, at a glance, which wheelchairs are due for servicing. This further enhances the overall productivity and safety of the hospital’s wheelchairs.

This project was supported with Gap Funding from A*STAR’s Enterprise division, where funding and resources are given to support the translation of research into impactful new products and services that benefit the economy and society and to support the commercialisation of new technologies based on licensed A*STAR technologies. Besides tracking wheelchairs in hospitals, other potential applications of the wirelessly powered localisation system include industrial IoT, smart buildings, and environmental monitoring.

The Technology Behind the Wirelessly Powered Localisation System for Asset Tracking

The asset tracking system includes a Radio Frequency (RF) energy-harvesting interface to recharge the battery, a power management unit, and ZigBee System-on-a-Chip (SoC) to support data connectivity.

A*STAR’s Institute of Microelectronics (IME) created a miniaturised antenna solution for Radio Frequency (RF) energy harvesting with higher sensitivity than commercially available solutions. By applying the RF energy harvesting capability to the sensor nodes or end terminals, the system aids to extend the battery lifetime and improving operational efficiency. This is complemented by ZigBee networking protocols and firmware from A*STAR’s Institute for Infocomm Research (I²R).

The asset tracking system uses this differentiating technology with Zigbee Mesh Topology to provide coarse localisation of over 300 existing wheelchairs on KTPH’s premises, further enhancing the engineering to provide long-range transmission. Since the end-to-end solution relies on both hardware and software, these capabilities work synergistically for power-efficient operation, providing a wireless-powered solution for asset tracking and monitoring, including predictive maintenance. With this advancement, end-users can expect to power the system for longer and attain greater cost-effectiveness. Such systems are useful for applications where human intervention is limited, such as in chemical plants.

The Executive Director of A*STAR’s IME stated that IME, alongside other A*STAR research entities, works with local SMEs to address industry challenges by leveraging innovative technologies. This wireless-powered sensor technology will aid the adoption of IoT across various sectors such as machine health monitoring in heavy industries, microclimate sensing in agriculture, smart home solutions, and manufacturing plants where limited human access is preferred due to hazardous conditions.

The Founder of the start-up noted that together with A*STAR, supported by KTPH and the interns of Singapore Polytechnic, the company is the first to provide localisation trackers with over-the-air wireless charging. The sensor network we have developed is further extendable to cover all areas in the hospital to achieve active tracking and monitoring of wheelchairs that will improve the productivity and safety of these hospital assets that are used by patients daily. The collaboration with A*STAR has enhanced its service offerings, allowing it to target new market segments and create new opportunities for us to partner with local manufacturers to develop new solutions.

The Chief Operating Officer of KTPH stated that the hospital is always looking for opportunities to improve its patient experience through engineering innovation. A large majority of its patients require wheelchairs to move around KTPH. Wheelchairs are parked at multiple locations for patients’ convenience and will need regular maintenance. Previously, staff may have had to spend more than 30 minutes scouring for ‘lost’ wheelchairs, but now their real-time location is available.

This enables the hospital’s Patient Relations Associates and maintenance colleagues to top up wheelchairs where needed and to bring in any wheelchairs for timely maintenance. The time saved can now be used to care for patients.

Given the success of implementation, this system could be scaled to track other high movement equipment. KTPH is also exploring areas like recording temperature data, monitoring lighting conditions or controlling external devices. By leveraging modern technology to provide innovative solutions, we can improve the efficiency and productivity of our hospital’s overall operations and processes.

PARTNER

Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

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CTC Global Singapore, a premier end-to-end IT solutions provider, is a fully owned subsidiary of ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC) and ITOCHU Corporation.

Since 1972, CTC has established itself as one of the country’s top IT solutions providers. With 50 years of experience, headed by an experienced management team and staffed by over 200 qualified IT professionals, we support organizations with integrated IT solutions expertise in Autonomous IT, Cyber Security, Digital Transformation, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

Well-known for our strengths in system integration and consultation, CTC Global proves to be the preferred IT outsourcing destination for organizations all over Singapore today.

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Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit www.planview.com.

SUPPORTING ORGANISATION

SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

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HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

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IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.

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