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Medicine Technology

RFID Tags Can Interfere With Medical Devices 120

Posted by kdawson
from the mind-how-you-radiate dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A new study suggests RFID systems can cause 'potentially hazardous incidents in medical devices.' (Here is the JAMA study's abstract.) Among other things, electrical interference changed breathing machines' ventilation rates and caused syringe pumps to stop. Some hospitals have already begun using RFID tags to track a wide variety of medical devices, but the new finding suggests the systems may have unintended consequences."
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RFID Tags Can Interfere With Medical Devices

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  • This is too much (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mensa Babe (675349) *

    The radio frequency identification, or RFID, is an inherently flawed idea [wikipedia.org]. It is a technological solution to a social problem that it created. It is a threat to our security [cnet.com], our privacy [junkbusters.com], our freedom [spychips.com], and now also our health! And this is not a just conspiracy theory. Some of the most respectable members of our society are protesting against RFID technology, including Bruce Schneier [schneier.com] and even Richard Stallman [stallman.org]. My only question is, how much more insult to our intelligence can we take as a society before we sta

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by arotenbe (1203922)

      Yes, but... think of the all of the jobs it would create for snails! [slashdot.org]

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      By merely asking the questions and and taking an outraged tone you're really doing no more than the people you're chastising. Instead of making vague mentions of what "we" should do, name a time and a place for people in your area to congregate and discuss action to take, and perhaps set up a website to help others in their area do the same.

      I don't disagree with your sentiment one bit, which is why I encourage you to take your own advice.

      If you're now thinking that I'm a hypocrite for not doing the same I'l

    • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @06:30PM (#23925545) Homepage

      Right. Because "quickly locating a very expensive portable medical device which may have been left in the wrong room in a 10,000-room hospital" is a problem that didn't exist before those evil overlords invented it. Heck, even the "gee it would be nice to track my supply chain better" problems are fundamentally real. And these things work.

      You talk of privacy issues and such? Oh, you betcha! They're real. But you can't pretend it's not a useful technology. That is the real insult to intelligence in this thread.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        But you can't pretend it's not a useful technology.

        If they want to put them on expensive medical equipment, I'm OK with that. But I absolutely don't want them on anything I carry,or wear, or my car, or my bike, not even my rollerblades. Certainly not on my currency or anything I use as currency. And I don't want them on my self (Google "SWIFT" and be appalled).

        Besides the fact that I find this surveillance culture creepy as hell, and absolutely do not trust any of the people who are likely to have access

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        "quickly locating a very expensive portable medical device which may have been left in the wrong room in a 10,000-room hospital"
        Who/what are you quoting? RFID is good at identifying things you have, not finding things you've lost. Distances like 30 cm aren't much help "in a 10,000-room hospital".
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by FooAtWFU (699187)
          Actually, my company occasionally works with active, battery-powered RFID tag technology. They chirp location beacons by themselves. I understand most of the applications are currently more "warehouse" than "hospital", though.
          • by blincoln (592401)

            Also, if you have scanners in highly-trafficked doorways, you can at least get a good idea of where a passively-tagged item is based on the last one it passed through, and possibly the last few (to give you a rough vector).

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          Who/what are you quoting? RFID is good at identifying things you have, not finding things you've lost. Distances like 30 cm aren't much help "in a 10,000-room hospital".
          You know, like how a barcode can't tell you where your package is if it is 1,000 miles away. Distances like 5cm aren't much help on a planet this size.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SomeJoel (1061138)
      Are you suggesting that because of some perceived misuse of the technology, we should protest its existence? RFID readers are used in some semiconductor manufacturing fabs to track carriers (and hence wafers). These allow for faster and easier reading than other tracking devices, such as barcode readers. This generally make an automated fab run more smoothly, and increases throughput. I don't think this particular use violates your security, privacy, or freedom.
      • by Awptimus Prime (695459) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @08:29PM (#23926897)

        I am on the same page as you. I suspect I am old enough to be one of the few people here who have had to do pre-IT work in my younger days. I once worked for a gigantic (800,000 sq ft) food distribution center. Many times, the outside of pallets "packages" would have the bar codes scraped off them due to handling with forklifts, lift-clamps, etc. If I had the option of just driving a big palette of food products through a scanning device that counted the products and gave me weights automatically, it would have added up to likely 10 hours of time saved per loader a week. Not to mention the hazards of having to get on and off an industrial lift repeatedly all day long, the shock to joints, the static discharge (sometimes reaching an 8" arc), and so on would have been nice to cut down on.

        My impression with a lot of the folks who play a scared advocate on such technologies don't have much of a grasp of what the rest of the world has to put up with in their day-to-day experiences and could care less about their lives being easier, because, there *might* be some madman somewhere ready to spy on them given the chance. These same people probably do their banking online, have credit cards, and homes without decent security systems. Those are the real things to worry about, in my opinion.

        This same line of thought often reminds me of the "sticking it to the man" attitude I see around here a lot. Like "It's about time Company X learned it's lesson", well, Company X doesn't usually learn a lesson. The individuals on the lower end of the employment ladder just get treated worse, while the shareholders and executives don't really have much to worry about. Or, "Corporate greed", got to love that one. It's the individual greed of many people combined with a lot of Joes trying to keep their households afloat. There I go rambling again.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Gewalt (1200451)

      My only question is, how much more insult to our intelligence can we take as a society before we start actively protesting?

      Yea, um. Ok, I'll start protesting against the insult to my intelligence that is your posts. I mean, since you requested action, I feel compelled to deliver.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by fragmentate (908035) *
      You had me...

      Right up until you brought up Richard Stallman.

      That guy would protest clean underwear, not just RFID tagged underwear.

      Next.

      • by Repton (60818)

        Nothing wrong with clean underwear, but if you're wearing underwear, anyone who doubts its cleanliness should be able to inspect it themselves.

    • Oh, please (Score:5, Insightful)

      by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary&yahoo,com> on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @06:37PM (#23925655) Journal

      Lets take these points one by one. First, it is not a flawed idea, it is a flawed implementation. All privacy concerns can be easily mitigated, with or without cooperation from RFID manufacturers. Pop your undies in the microwave for ten seconds and they won't be reporting back to the mothership, don't worry. Second, they are a technological solution to a physical, not social problem: inventory tracking. The fact that they are being used in other ways does not change the fact that this is what they were invented for, and they do a good job keeping costs down and efficiency up.

      Bruce was complaining about their use in passports. So, screen the passports so they can't be read unless opened. Besides the passport issue, here is Stallman's fear:

      Progress in gel batteries could result in RFIDs readable from 300 feet. If one of them is inserted in something you carry, you could be scanned from a block away! Total monitoring of everyone's movements could be a reality.
      Gosh, that could never happen with any other kind of technology, oh wait, spies have been doing that for years, and tracking people over a much longer distance. How would protesting RFID change that, exactly? There are much, much scarier things to protest against than RFID tags, get some perspective please.
      • by johnny cashed (590023) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @06:48PM (#23925773) Homepage
        Pop your undies in the microwave for ten seconds and they won't be reporting back to the mothership, don't worry.

        But it is what's in my undies that concerns me...

        on another tangent...

        But how do I know that my microwave doesn't have an RFID reader that enables it to know that there is an RFID tag inside and it only goes through the motions of microwaving my undies, thereby rendering any RFID chip(s) in my undies untouched and fully functional? Far fetched? Future microwave dinners and popcorn might have RFID tags embedded which tell various microwave oven how long to cook the product. Can I get thicker tinfoil for my hat?
        • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary&yahoo,com> on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @06:55PM (#23925849) Journal

          Oh man, you are using actual tinfoil for your hat? You know that's made from aluminum, right? Aluminum amplifies the mind control rays.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by johnny cashed (590023)
            No No, it's tinfoil all right. It says so on the label...wait a minute, how do I know if Fisher Scientific isn't in on it as well... Everyone is conspiring against me...
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by maxume (22995)

          Fear not, Ice T and Henry Rollins will have a microwave that is free of government control. You will be able to take your undies to them for sanitization.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          But how do I know that my microwave doesn't have an RFID reader that enables it to know that there is an RFID tag inside and it only goes through the motions of microwaving my undies, thereby rendering any RFID chip(s) in my undies untouched and fully functional? Far fetched? Future microwave dinners and popcorn might have RFID tags embedded which tell various microwave oven how long to cook the product. Can I get thicker tinfoil for my hat?

          Simple, but some pizza in cheese and nachos in thier with your undies,
          if the cheese melts, the microwave worked your undies are now untaged
          if the cheese doesn't melt, the microwave is goverment controlled AND you dont have any cheese nachos, so you pretty fucked tbh.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Well, just stick an AOL CD in there with it. If the AOL CD is disabled, then so is your underwear. ;)

          -Huck

      • by jnork (1307843)

        "Pop your undies in the microwave for ten seconds and they won't be reporting back to the mothership, don't worry."

        I first read this as "reporting back to the motherchip". Heh, heh.

        I like it. :)

    • by Itninja (937614)

      My only question is (well, your first question anyway) , how much more insult to our intelligence can we take as a society before we start actively protesting? Our freedom, our privacy, our health and our dignity is being taken from us and all we can do is complain on the Internet? Where are the protesting groups? Where are the outraged people desperate to change the situation? Where are the angry mobs? What else are we going to let them take away from us before we stop talking and start acting?

      Let's take

    • yhbt lol
      Are you serious? Nobody caught this? The poster's name is MENSA BABE ffs!! His signature uses BRITISH SPELLING!! His writing style comes straight out of Hillary Clinton's campaign!

      This man may be the biggest troll in the world.

      • by whoever57 (658626)

        His signature uses BRITISH SPELLING!!
        I hate to break it to you, but his (?) sig does not contain British spelling (or even "BRITISH SPELLING!!"). It contains a spelling error, viewed from either side of the Atlantic ocean.
    • Our freedom, our privacy, our health and our dignity is being taken from us and all we can do is complain on the Internet?
      Says the one complaining on the internet... do something about it if you have a problem with inaction.
    • Between your username and sig, I'm reminded of why I never paid my Mensa dues past the first year, way back in middle school. Seriously, get over yourself.
    • by billcopc (196330)

      WTF is it about the parent that warrants flamebait ?

      Every day sees new ways to usurp our rights as citizens and as human beings. We are assumed guilty until proven innocent, if we even have a chance to defend ourselves. RFID tagging, while having its benefits, is far too easy to abuse, and abuse is the only constant in today's society.

      If hospital staff can't be bothered to track their own equipment, how is RFID going to help ? There's is still a human somewhere that's going to screw it up out of sheer la

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Where are the outraged people desperate to change the situation? Where are the angry mobs? What else are we going to let them take away from us before we stop talking and start acting?

      Where are the trolls? Oh, right here.

      RFID is immensely useful and the privacy considerations, while real, are mostly overblown.

      You are either a troll or a fool. Either way, go crap up digg.

    • by houghi (78078)

      I hope you are not working in an office or have a job where you need to visit any office.

      Just to bring you up to speed. They give you a card, so you can swipe open doors, like server rooms. Instead of people getting a key, they are given cards, so they can track where you are ALL THE TIME.

      And when you visit a company, you need to enter your name at the reception and you get a badge, so everybody can identify you are a visitor. Next to that in many offices, a person from the office needs to be with you at al

  • by neapolitan (1100101) * on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @06:19PM (#23925409)

    Interesting -- Slashdot has talked about this kind of thing before and I remember responding:

    http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=234315&cid=19078365 [slashdot.org]

    Every time I read something like this I get a bit frustrated. I can't paste the whole article for copyright reasons, but I am hoping a kind AC will. Either way, the gist of the article is that when very close (some have interference "distances" of 0.1 cm) RFID active readers / transmitters may interfere with some medical equipment.

    The interobserver variability in the study was high, and they defined an event very broadly, essentially as any change in the operation of a device. It is a bit aggressive -- and I fear that good technology may inadvertently be stifled for "interference" concerns...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Gewalt (1200451)

      can't paste the whole article for copyright reasons, but I am hoping a kind AC will.

      Believe it or not, but you too can actually post as AC! It's amazing, I know! Just check that box you see right after the subject of your post.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Electromagnetic Interference From Radio Frequency Identification Inducing Potentially Hazardous Incidents in Critical Care Medical Equipment
      Remko van der Togt, MSc; Erik Jan van Lieshout, MD; Reinout Hensbroek, MSc; E. Beinat, PhD; J. M. Binnekade, PhD; P. J. M. Bakker, MD, PhD

      JAMA. 2008;299(24):2884-2890.
      ABSTRACT

      Context Health care applications of autoidentification technologies, such as radio frequency identification (RFID), have been proposed to improve patient safety and also the tracking and tracing o

    • the gist of the article is that when very close (some have interference "distances" of 0.1 cm) RFID active readers / transmitters may interfere with some medical equipment.

      And the paranoids are after us all. TFA doesn't paint this as A Big Deal. It's just another thing to watch for. That's why hospitals typically don't allow cell phones in patient critical areas (and then wildly overestimate the danger potential and try to ban them everywhere which of course doesn't work). The ONLY time the problems

      • by Tony Hoyle (11698)

        And the paranoids are after us all. TFA doesn't paint this as A Big Deal. It's just another thing to watch for. That's why hospitals typically don't allow cell phones in patient critical areas (and then wildly overestimate the danger potential and try to ban them everywhere which of course doesn't work).

        In the UK at least the reason for the blanket ban is so they can push their expensive 'Patientline' phones. It's rigidly enforced.. they'll physically throw you out if they see a mobile phone near a ward...

        • In the UK at least the reason for the blanket ban is so they can push their expensive 'Patientline' phones. It's rigidly enforced.. they'll physically throw you out if they see a mobile phone near a ward... critical area or not.

          Uh oh, I see an upcoming "payphone gap" - we'd better get right on this. I'll just go tell our CEO about this....

          Actually, with the current day bed charges in the US we should be giving the patient a phone, an iPod and a laptop every time they spend the night.

      • Well, I could see how some hospitals were already pondering adding RFID chips to their hospital gowns, for doctors and patients alike. It could make laundry a heck lot easier and more automated, you see. Or how about RFID tagged patient reports?

        So I can see how RFIDs interfering with medical equipment is a threat, even though the chips are only active while being read.

    • Thanks for adding some sensible information to the discussion. Slashdot editors seem not to be able to know the difference between science and foolish imaginings.

      Here is a quote, a comment [wsj.com] to the Wall Street Journal story:

      "interference changed breathing machines' ventilation rates and caused syringe pumps to stop."
      These things are FCC regulated. Should I feel safe knowing that not only are some of the systems in a hospital sensitive to EMF below FCC limits, but also that several life-critical device
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mrbluze (1034940)

      The interobserver variability in the study was high, and they defined an event very broadly

      It was the same with mobile phones - in almost all circumstances they made absolutely no difference, since practically all devices are properly shielded. But we kept the "Switch off your fuckin phone" signs up because it was just plain annoying when patients (especially teenage females) are forever texting and chatting when you're trying to explain a procedure to them.

      OTOH I think RFID tags and many other technological 'enhancements' are thrust upon the medical industry by IT reps and accepted by hospita

    • The interobserver variability in the study was high, and they defined an event very broadly, essentially as any change in the operation of a device. It is a bit aggressive -- and I fear that good technology may inadvertently be stifled for "interference" concerns...

      When dealing with life support and such medical devices. Death from a malfunction is a possibility and the liability issue is upon the Manufacturer. That's why most manufacturers do not sell such equipment but lease it to the hospital with a maintenance program. It's to protect themselves from a liability issue and should a hospital deploy an RFID system without input from the vendors, someone will be at an increased risk of death.

    • Pros and cons (Score:3, Insightful)

      First off, lets be pedantic. RFID tags are passive (well slightly active while transponding) and don't cause problems just sitting there. It is the readers that cause the problems.

      The field drops off at a square of distance, so a RFID reader at 10cm will have one hundredth the EM field of a reader at 1cm.

      A huge % of medical deaths are due to human error (wrong drugs/dosage etc)and the correct use of RFID can go a long way to mitigate that. Clearly that would be offset if the RFID equipment was to interfere

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        An RFID tags ar a low power Micro watt power level transmitter. in facts its a transponder

        EMC Electromagnetic incompatibly is a function of the tag and the medical device in its RF field while in operation.
        The RFID tags reader is much more powerful, it needs to transmit enough RF to power the tage transponder . Medical devices are robust and designed to have immunity to Commonly used radio frequencies, but low Power devices like these tags pose a potential danger as many med devices d are no

      • That RFIDs would change the mortality in insignificant ways is a given. But we're not talking about a new drug that cures thousands and kills a handful. It's not some operation where a minor mistake kills the patient while it can save his life if it runs ok. In either case I'd be right with you, saying to hell with the risk, it's worth it!

        But unless you can save at least a single life with RFID that would be lost without, I'd prefer to avoid the risk. The only gains I can see for RFID is to lower workload,

        • Medical errors are a huge killer. In USA they are responsible for 40k+ deaths per year. If RFID can save 10% of those then you get a saving of 4k+ lives per year.

          Interference related deaths need to be pretty bad to offset that.

          • Please elaborate how RFID can reduce medical error related death.

            If you think that with an RFID tag it should be impossible that someone gets the wrong meds, the wrong treatment or the wrong operation, this SHOULD already be impossible, due to nurses and doctors being able to read patient sheets. Errors like handing out the wrong meds to the wrong people are usually due to being heavily overworked, something an RFID tag won't change.

            • by KGIII (973947)
              Are you saying that a nurse not having to go from room to room to find a piece of equipment used during the prior shift in either a rush situation or during the course of their shift is safer or less work than them being able to find out the last place the equipment was and find it more easily? I dun get it?
      • but the flip side to that is that often the sensors need to be very sensitive to detect slight electrical signals in the body (pulse, brain activity etc).

        Especially to have an EEG which would work on Bush.

    • Unfortunately people want to go into panic mode when they here these thing. Now we know it is a problem we can normally work around it, and still maintain the advantages. Often with minor reengineering we can fix these problems. However society will go "TECHNOLOGY BAD DONT USE IT, IT IS MY LIFE ON THE LINE!" Not realizing that other things are out there that can create the same problems.

    • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @07:15PM (#23926101) Homepage Journal

      I can corroborate your basic point, and the sad part is that my data is 10 years old. Back then wireless ethernet (2Mbps pre-b stuff, even) was new and we were testing for interference. The very same kinds of machines had trouble as in TFS, and it was at sub-foot ranges.

      I suspect either this study tested old gear (I'm assuming our hospital used a popular vendor) or the same vendors are playing lazy. Back then, the biomedical engineering guys explained to me that the FCC granted exceptions to medical device manufacturers for emitted interference, and that an emitter is a receiver, but that most good medical products companies didn't need to bother with these exceptions, they did a fine job on principle.

    • by Dolohov (114209)

      It's useful to know in case someone thinks it's a good idea to tag pacemakers with RFID tags, or thinks it's a bright idea to build an active reader powerful enough to trigger every tag in a hallway, but you're right: this is being blown way out of proportion.

  • by katterjohn (726348) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @06:26PM (#23925511)
    ..that people with these devices don't receive any mail via snail.
  • Electromagnetic compatability is a huge undertaking in the hardware world.

    As an example, IEEE EMC society:
    http://www.ewh.ieee.org/soc/emcs/ [ieee.org]

    I would be very curious to know if any EMC work was done between all of theses devices? Nothing indicated of substance in the article.

    my 20 cents (adjusted for inflation and to account for the energy costs per post) :)
    jerry

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by EMCEngineer (1155139)

      If the devices carry a CE mark(which would be required to sell in the EU), they had EMC testing done on them.

      The basic EMC standard for medical devices is EN 60601-1-2. For radiated interference, it requires testing from 80 to 2500 MHz - 3 V/m for non-lifesupporting equipment and 10 V/m for lifesupporting equipment. This is a 1 kHz AM modulated signal.

      There are further requirements for implantable devices and some other life supporting equipment. EN 45502 has magnetic field requirements, and AAMI PC69 co

  • Hazardous (Score:5, Insightful)

    by electricbern (1222632) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @06:28PM (#23925531)
    I dub thee harzardous technology of the week. You can now join the cellphone, TV, radio, power grid, Internet, and so on in the list of hazardous technology. Welcome on board.
  • by steeljaw (65872) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @06:28PM (#23925533) Homepage Journal

    Interestingly enough, I've been approached 3 times now by people in the health care industry who have expressed a need for some time of asset tracking software and I've always given them my brother's card (his company specializes in RFID based asset tracking). Actually, one person specifically asked me if I was capable of integrating an RFID solution into their environment. I wonder how many companies are currently developing RFID based software geared towards the health care industry only to receive a backlash from the medical community when this type of information becomes common knowledge..

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Hi All
      I work as a Biomed Technologist, so this is in my direct field of work.

      Really, RFID tags will not be a problem in hospitals unless multiple failures are already present. Of more concern is hand held radio's security sometimes use (we've had a vent restart from those). ALL medical devices have EM shielding, and it's usually in things like lead wires (for an ECG for example) that will have cracked shielding that might be a problem. Most wireless technology now is either in the MHZ range (1 HZ might b

    • by Tony Hoyle (11698)

      What about the backlash to the makers of the affected medical equipment? That's where any blame should lie.

      Any piece of life saving equipment that can be screwed up by a low power radio transmission is not fit for purpose. These things are supposed to be built to high standards and have near zero failure rates.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        I seem to recall a news item about some heart monitors being set off by a digital television test, I seem to recall it being in Texas? Turns out they weren't required to be FCC licensed (this is the story as I remember it, I could be way off base) and they wound up on the same frequency as terrestrial digital television, which won.

        I feel the same way about medical equipment as I do about an airplane. If a cellular phone or an RFID scanner can cause it to malfunction, it's not safe enough to actually use. I

        • by Detritus (11846)
          Like many of the people who use wireless microphones, they were using "unused" TV channels to relay information. That works fine until someone is allocated that channel.

          The local police and fire departments operate their radios on an unused UHF TV channel. The difference is that the FCC gave them permission to use those frequencies.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @06:50PM (#23925807)

    Even if you ignore this article's lack of specifics or detail (which makes it more or less FUD in my view), the title /. gave it is *flatly incorrect*. It's not the tags that are causing the interference; it is the reader/interrogator. These inexpensive passive UHF tags are just that, passive; it's the active (4W) signal that might be able to interfere.

    Yes, there are serious concerns with RFID, but there's no point spreading vague FUD. In medical applications, interference obviously a very serious matter. Several groups are working on this problem, so how about we wait until we have solid results before we make up our minds?

  • Well??? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @06:51PM (#23925821)

    Why are these medical devices having problems like that? I thought medical devices were SUPPOSED to be hardened against bad things and fail over nicely.

    I guess not.

    • Medical devices usually don't have "rugged" in their specs.

      It's also hard to build a device that is at one hand very, very sensitive and able to pick up minuscle electronic signals (like brainwaves or heartbeats) and at the same time completely impervious to strong electronic signals and immune to EM interference.

      • > Medical devices usually don't have "rugged" in their specs.

        Life safety devices have "fail-safe" in their specs. If "rugged" is what it takes to achieve that for a particular machine then it damn well better be "rugged".

        > It's also hard to build a device that is at one hand very, very sensitive and able to
        > pick up minuscle electronic signals (like brainwaves or heartbeats) and at the same time
        > completely impervious to strong electronic signals and immune to EM interference.

        Pumps and ventilat

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Did I say impervious?

        Nope.

        We, instead, could detect false signals and ring a bell on what the designer thinks is "very bad input". These device guys know how the biology works, and what signals are just impossible. Instead of catching every last remnant of EM, they could catch errors and loudly warn the nurse/physician like INTERFERENCE DETECTED signal.

        If there were bad EM detectors built into life-critical devices, FCC Part 18 solves that issue rather well.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @06:53PM (#23925839) Homepage

    The interference came from the readers not the tags. The tags are passive.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      if you read the link you will see that they tested both passive and active tags and the passive tags scored a higher problem score.

      the implication from the limited text is that they were using the same reader (although this is not confirmed) but the difference in tags did change the issue rate, so the tags do share part of the problem.
      • narf. forget it. i should read it better before i post. they took "two similar systems". you are right, it was interference from the readers at the frequencies they were using.

        it doesn't matter if it is passive, active or battery assisted passive tags, ctirical medical devices should be protected against this sort of thing.
      • > the implication from the limited text is that they were using the same reader (although
        > this is not confirmed) but the difference in tags did change the issue rate, so the tags
        > do share part of the problem.

        No they don't. The passive tags are powered by the rf they absorb from the reader so they require the reader to put out more rf. They would have gotten the same results if there had been no tags present at all and they had just done "dummy" readings. The tags themselves emit orders of magn

  • What is it with medical equipment? Does every piece down to a stethoscope have a radio-activated kill switch?

    Remember when they were hypersensitive about cell phones in hospitals for the same reason? They still have the signs up, but no one seems to notice any more.

    Sounds to me like the main issue here is how to get a grant to buy some cool stuff for your EM lab and maybe get your name in JAMA, but maybe I'm just a cynic.
    • Remember when they were hypersensitive about cell phones in hospitals for the same reason? They still have the signs up, but no one seems to notice any more.

      Unless they want to sell you their "comfort phones" or they have a deal with the local phone company, with a rate that makes you wonder if it includes tampons for your nose after you paid up. BOY, then they are all over you when you dare to bring your cell for your stay!

      For your own safety, of course.

  • There's no need to panic, politicians don't have a heart to have any side effects from this revelation.

    • But they're usually in the age range for a pacemaker. At least if they're in any position to influence such a law.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @07:01PM (#23925937) Homepage

    The machines that suffered dangerous faults should be recalled and repaired. Keeping them away from RFID readers and other sources of rf will not suffice. The fact that rf interference could cause dangerous faults means that they contain design defects such that component failures or other sorts of damage or interference could also cause dangerous faults.

    And yes, I have designed medical life support equipment, though not in this century.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CodeBuster (516420)
      Isn't this why the FCC here in the United States classifies different electronic devices according to whether or not they can emit or must accept radio frequency interference from outside sources? Perhaps the medical device manufacturers have a more critical classification where they have the "right" not to be interfered with (unlike say, your iPod which must accept any outside interference and generate none of its own) and designed their systems around this assumption of legal protection by device classifi
      • > Perhaps the medical device manufacturers have a more critical classification where they
        > have the "right" not to be interfered with (unlike say, your iPod which must accept any
        > outside interference and generate none of its own) and designed their systems around
        > this assumption of legal protection by device classifications?

        Even if there was such a classification relying on it to the detriment of patient safety would border on criminal negligence. Designers know that people often break such r

  • In the coming years most of the containers for drugs could have RFID tags. California is pushing through a new law (E-Pedigree Law http://www.pharmacy.ca.gov/about/e_pedigree_laws.shtml) that creates a chain of custody for any drug. RFID has been one of the recommended technologies to help manufactures and everyone else in the supply-chain to deal with this law.

    Having boxes with hundreds of RFID tags rolling down the hallways of a hospital doesn't seem so safe now!

    • > Having boxes with hundreds of RFID tags rolling down the hallways of a hospital doesn't
      > seem so safe now!

      Please read the original article, not the erroneous Slashdot headline. The tags are passive. The interference comes from the "readers" which actually transceivers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by IHC Navistar (967161)

      It also makes it much more easier for "Highway Pirates" to target specific types of merchandise. Here in Claifornia, many truck drivers are targets of well-planned hijackings where criminals steal whatever the trucker is hauling for sale on the black market. A good RFID reader would allow gangs to easily discriminate profitable targets from unprofitable targets (i.e. iPhones and plasma TVs from spinach and brussels sprouts.).

      Personally, I don't like the idea of tracking every single thing, including people,

      • by hcdejong (561314)

        That only works for fabric-covered trailers. Shipping containers (which would be more common for bulk shipment of manufactured goods) are opaque to RFID.

      • A good RFID reader would allow gangs to easily discriminate profitable targets from unprofitable targets (i.e. iPhones and plasma TVs from spinach and brussels sprouts.).

        That depends entirely on what the tags are encoded with. If they're simply refering to a shipping number or a barcode, how do you know if "5709246111130" or "5709404111897" is what you want to steal? Both are barcodes from items I have lying around. One is a US$2 item, the other is a US$20item.

        There is absolutely no reason the tags should h

        • > All you need to have is a simple identifier, which you compare to a database.

          Which will be readily available on the Net.

          • As I said, the two barcodes I mentioned are from things that are readily available for sale in retail outlets. If things are that easy, why don't you tell us all what they are.

            They have been bought in two different retail chains, and they're made by two different companies, so you can't even link a possible failure to find one with the possible failure to find the other.

  • I'm still trying to find the way to determine just how much power to use in a given microwave oven to fry the RFID in a new US passport, without damaging the rest of the passport (like a burn mark, or discolored ink).

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      AFAIK in every single microwave oven there is a single magnetron which is either on or off. The "power" level on the microwave actually corresponds to a duty cycle, and the cycles are pretty long because turning that thing on and off is ostensibly hard on the supporting hardware. I mean, you can feel it. And I'm not talking about a leaky microwave.

      The point here is that if you want a lower power level you need a weaker microwave. The more relevant issue is the duration of exposure. However the US passport

      • > Or you could just keep your passport in a ziploc antistatic bag (silver not pink) and
        > not worry about it...

        That won't work at all. The conductivity of the pink plastic is very low: just barely adequate to drain off static charges. It will have no measureable effct on rf.

        Just make yourself a duct-tape wallet and line it with aluminum foil.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Or you could just keep your passport in a ziploc antistatic bag (silver not pink) and not worry about it...
          That won't work at all. The conductivity of the pink plastic is very low: just barely adequate to drain off static charges. It will have no measureable effct on rf.

          What a prophetic fucking name. Is it your real one? Hint: time to work on your reading comprehension. I specifically said not pink. Please try again.

          • > Don't feed the trolls - when an AC says something stupid, let it slide.

            I'll take that advice (The "A" in "AC" can stand for several things. The "C", however, is constant).

  • A new study suggests RFID systems can cause 'potentially hazardous incidents in medical devices.

    Seriously--who the f*ck designs this 'medical' equipment. I have RFID tags and readers that are near tons of computer equipment every day. Switches, routers, servers, workstations...none of them have 'potentially hazardous' incidents.

    When you buy medical grade equipment, you are paying *TONS* more money, simply to make sure the electronics aren't going to fail and cause a loss of human life. How the hell
    • by Detritus (11846)
      I can crash many PCs just by transmitting near them on my 5 Watt VHF hand-held transceiver. That wouldn't happen if they were properly designed.
    • > How the hell does my ordinary desktop PC survive the hellish fury of the RFID scanner
      > sitting next to it?

      Devices for use in the home are subject to more stringent FCC EMI restricitions (Class B) than are devices intended for use in business (Class A). While the intent is to keep rf in, the shielding will work to keep it out as well. Medical devices, not being for use in the home (usually) will be designed to meet Class A but not Class B.

  • by Yvanhoe (564877)
    Just reinforce medical equipment against EM radiation. PRevent them from receiving and emitting unwanted radio waves. If an equipment can be disrupted by the faint field of an RFID, then it is probably very vulnerable to cellphones as well.

Neckties strangle clear thinking. -- Lin Yutang

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