RFID Interference Tested for Potential Safety Issues for Emergency First Responders
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has begun testing for firefighters and other emergency first responders to ensure that the alarm beacons will respond and operate accurately while in the presence of other wireless devices.
The most recently conducted test for NIST focused on the interference between Personal Alert Safety Systems (PASS) with wireless alarm capability, and RFID systems. When a firefighter remains inactive or motionless for too long, the PASS devices can monitor movement and activate an alarm. Often, firefighters may be required to carry RFID tags for location tracking, or may be in warehouses or other buildings using RFID inventory systems, these situations can lead to potential interference.
Additionally, NIST tested interference with radios, cell phones, local area networks, and urban search rescue robots to evaluate how well these devices worked in real life situations.
According to NIST research:
• Results show that, when signals are weak due to environmental or other conditions, a portable PASS unit’s receipt of an alarm from its base station can be delayed or fail even without interference, and it becomes more likely to fail in the presence of only moderate RFID interference.
• Strong interference caused longer and variable delays that sometimes exceeded a minute, defined by the researchers as signal failure. NIST researchers also found that an RFID system can be less reliable when the PASS unit is nearby.
Currently, NIST is working with the National Fire Protection Association, which will consider adopting the NIST tests as part of revised PASS performance standards. These new standards could be approved by 2013.