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An Inside Job for RFID

9:15 AM -- Call me a sucker for all things RFID -- related to Radio Frequency Identification, that is. In my quest for the most bizarre use of the technology, I may have hit a jackpot. (See RFID Rocks Back-End Storage, New CEO Riffs on RFID, and RFID Software Ramps Up.)

Not content with fitting pallets, school staff, and warship parts with the tagging technology, researchers at the Stanford University Medical Center are now looking to make surgery safer by RFID-enabling the humble surgical sponge. (See More Users Signal RFID Intentions.)

In a recent study, Alex Macario, the school's professor of anesthesia, used sponges rigged with a 20mm RFID chip, similar to those used in the retail industry, to test the technology.

In eight trial surgeries (with consenting patients, of course), a surgeon inserted one or two of the tagged sponges while the patients incision was still open. Another surgeon then used a 12-inch wand (presumably nothing like Harry Potter's) to detect the sponge while the other surgeon held the incision closed.

According to the Stanford Medical Center, in each case the surgeon accurately located the inserted sponge or sponges in less than three seconds, and the wand never failed to detect its target.

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