A 3-TIER ARCHITECTURE FOR THE ADOPTION OF RFID IN
Ashir Zeeshan Ahmed* Ly-Fie Sugianto**
Clayton School of Information Technology,
Monash University, Australia
PO Box 63B, Vic 3800, Australia
This paper describes the use of RFID in emergency management. It outlines the use of
RFID in all four phases of emergency management life cycle, such as mitigation,
preparedness, response and recovery. A three layer novel architecture is proposed in
this paper. This architecture serves as an implementation framework to assists
organisations in adopting RFID for disaster management. It encompasses three
aspects of RFID application, (a) types of RFIDs, (b) activities of emergency
management life cycle and (c) issues involved in the selection and mapping of RFID
in various phases of emergency management. A hypothetical emergency scenario is
also presented in this paper to illustrate the usefulness of RFID application in
Tracking humans and objects has always been a challenge for researchers and
scientists. Different Automatic Identification(Auto-ID) Technologies (as shown in
Figure 1) such as Sensors, Bar codes (Sakai 1980), Smart cards (Kowalski 2000),
Optical character recognition(OCR) (Fletcher 1969), Biometric procedures-BP (Jain
2000), Pattern analysis (Gardes 2004), Radio frequency identification (RFID) (Forster
2006) and Geographical information systems(GIS) have been used for tracking
Figure 1: Various types of Auto-ID Technologies
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Detailed study of these technologies shows that they are often more resource
demanding and their performance become questionable during the unfavourable
conditions such as in emergencies.
For instance, to implement GIS in disaster management, each site has to be identified,
added to the appropriate database, and located on the map. This takes more time and
manpower during the development phase, as well as for maintenance phase.
Depending on the size of the area covered and the population density, it could become
a full-time job (Gunes, A. E. and Kovel 2000)
The weakness of OCR systems is that they have failed to become globally popular
because of their high price and complicated readers they require, in comparison with
other ID procedures (Finkenzeller 2000). Table 1 summarises the application areas of
different technologies and compare them in terms of their strengths and weaknesses
(Adapted Ala-Risku 2001)
Table 1: Identification Technologies classified by application types
Technology Strengths Weaknesses
Bar code Tracking, automation, Authentication
RFID Authentication, Tracking, —
OCR Automation Authentication, Tracking,
Biometrics Authentication Tracking, Automation,
Vision Automation Authentication, Tracking,
Recognition Information Management
Magnetic link Authentication, Automation Tracking, Information
Smart cards Authentication, Information Tracking, Automation,
Contact Memory Automation, Information Authentication, Tracking
Blue Tooth Authentication, Tracking, —
Global Positioning Tracking Authentication, Automation,
System Information Management
GSM Cell Tracking Authentication, Automation,
Location Information Management
As shown in Table 1, RFID can work well for authentication, tracking, automation
and information management. It is a contact-less, cost-effective and a reliable
technology, therefore it can be used successfully where contact-less tracking and
identification is required. RFID constitutes of a tag made up of a microchip at one end
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and a reader on the other, whereas both are connected with antennas. A reader sends
out electromagnetic waves such that they are received by a tag antenna.(Tuttle 1997).
RFID tags are of two main types: (a) Active Tag (b) Passive Tag. An active tag has a
transmitter to send its information to the reader, this is normally battery operated
whereas passive tag simply reflects back the readers signal and it does not require a
battery. Basic communication mechanism in RFID Technology is shown in Figure 2
Figure 2: Data Communication using RFID
Currently, RFID technology is widely used in a large number of areas where contact-
less transmission is required. Such technology is economical as well as efficient for
data transmission. Therefore, the interest towards RFID is increasing day by day.
Literature review suggests that RFID is being used in many areas such as supply chain
management, animal identification, retail, procurement and transportation.
Nevertheless, particular attention has not been paid to the use of RFID in a highly
important and significant area such as emergency management.
Emergency can be defined as (CWS 2006):
An extraordinary situation where there are serious and immediate threats to
human life as a result of disaster, imminent threat of a disaster, cumulative
process of neglect, civil conflict, environmental degradation and socio-
economic conditions. An emergency can encompass a situation in which
there is a clear and marked deterioration in the coping abilities of a group
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Complete life cycle of emergency management consists of four phases (as shown in
Figure 3: Emergency Management Life Cycle
Kesten (2004)described different phases of emergency management life cycle as
Preparedness: Means to ensure in times of disaster appropriate systems,
procedures and resources are in place to assist those affected by the
disaster and enable them help themselves. Examples: preparedness plans;
emergency exercises/training; warning systems.
Mitigation: “Means measures aimed at reducing the impact or effects of a
Examples: building codes and zoning; vulnerability analyses; public
Response: Measures taken during or immediately after a disaster in order
to bring relief to people and communities affected by disaster. Examples:
search and rescue; emergency relief.
Recovery: Refers to those actions after a disaster, which attempts to bring
order to the disaster site and aids in bringing the situation back to normal.
Examples: temporary housing; grants; medical care.
As emergency management is a critical domain, substantial investments have been
made both by the government and local authorities. This is a situation that must be
prevented; and if occurred, it should be handled properly. This paper aims to
introduce a contact-less, cost-effective and reliable technology like RFID in
emergency management. Furthermore, a three tier architecture is also proposed for the
implementation of RFID in emergency management that encompasses and highlights
all the issues involved in a successful implementation of RFID in emergency
management. This paper targets the following issues related to RFID implementation
in emergency management:
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• study the activities involved in emergency management life cycle
• identification of the activities based on the commonalities between different
types of emergencies
• development of a novel architecture for the adoption of RFID in the area of
• Illustration of a hypothetical disaster scenario to implement RFID in real
We organize this paper as follows: the next section describes our findings on the
literature survey of the use of RFID in various domains. Then, we discuss our
proposed model for adoption of RFID in emergency management. Next, we present a
hypothetical emergency scenario and an application of RFID in the given scenario.
The last section outlines our conclusion.
2. LITERATURE SURVEY
RFID is gaining popularity in many domains of life because of its contact-less,
efficient and inexpensive means of communication. Some examples of the use of
RFID in different areas are discussed below:
RFID is being used in some hospitals in order to track a patient’s location, and to
provide real-time tracking of location of doctors and nurses in the hospital. In
addition, RFID can be used in hospitals to track the expensive and critical equipments,
and even to control the access of drugs and other clinical instruments. According to
Wang and Chen (2006), healthcare is considered to be the next home for RFID after
manufacturing and retail. In Taiwan the application of RFID in hospitals has
accelerated since 2003 due to rapid spread of SARS.
The use of RFID in retail industry allows companies to monitor and control real time
inventory supplies. In 1997, Exxon Mobile introduced “SPEEDPASS,” an RFID
based system that allowed customers to make credit gasoline purchases by waving a
tiny transponder in front of the gas pump. The company estimates that about six
million drivers were using it in 2004 (Fuquay 2004). MASTERCARD introduced “a
contact-free RFID payment chip called “PAYPASS” that will be available in credit
cards and Nokia cell phones” (Garskof 2004). Some Dallas-area restaurants plan to
use RFID technology in “smart cards” to develop their customer loyalty programs
In Rheinburg, Germany, Metro opened the “Store of Future”, which has RFID
technology installed for checkout and for replenishment of store shelves (Collins
2004). Shoppers log into the system by scanning a customer id-card into the touch
screen, according to “metro Opens,” in 2003. The device lets them scan bar coded
goods as they place them in grocery cart, which then sends the price to checkout
through the wireless network. This eliminates scanning at checkouts. Smart shelves
also alert staff to expired products such as milk or yogurt. However the cost of the
technology is reported to be too high for implementation into the 2,600 Metro stores
the organization has world-wide (Jones, Wyld and Totten 2004).
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In addition to RFID usage in different domains, various types of technologies have
been used in emergency management. (Gunes, A. E. and Kovel 2000.) proposed the
use of Global Information System (GIS) in emergency management. They built a
database in GIS frame that helps emergency managers in decision making, focusing
on Douglas County’s preparedness, mitigation, and response efforts for its most
common disaster like flooding. According to them, GIS can be a powerful tool in
emergency management because it has the ability to capture the data by Digitizing,
Scanning, Digital Imagery, or Aerial Photography, to store the data; to manipulate the
data; to form data queries; to analyse the data and to most importantly, to visualize the
data. Instead of claiming various advantages for the use of GIS in emergency
management this technology faces certain disadvantages in its implementation. For
instance, each site has to be identified, added to the appropriate database, and located
on the map. More time and manpower is required during the implementation and even
after that someone will have to maintain it. In the long term, each county will have to
do a cost-benefit analysis to determine the viability, if maintaining the system.
The use of information technology in emergency management provides an
opportunity to emergency management organizations for both inter and intra
organizational communication at several hierarchical levels. Since during the
emergency coordination requires current information, and such information must be
communicated upstream and downstream within and between organizations in real-
time, the need arises for an integrated communication and information system for
emergency management that provides efficient, reliable and secure exchange and
processing of relevant information. (Meissner 2002)
3. PROPOSED ARCHITECTURE
Importance and complexity of emergency management is obvious from literature
review. On the other hand, RFID has proven its significance and success in many
domains. RFID implementation in emergency management can minimize the
complexity of domain and help in dealing with various phases of emergency
Our contribution is the introduction of RFID in emergency management and proposes
3-Tier Architecture for Adoption of RFID in Emergency Management. (THEOREM-3)
The conceptual model of our proposed architecture is shown in Figure 4.
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3-Tier Architecture for the Adoption of RFID in Emergency Management
Hazard Cost RFID Type
Forecasting Estimation A
Hazard RFID Type
Preparedness RFID Type
Mitigation RFID Type
Recovery RFID Type
Planning Issues E
Planning Privacy Issues RFID Type
EMAT IST RFIDT
Figure 4: 3-Tier Architecture for Adoption of RFID in Emergency Management
The proposed architecture (see Figure 4) consists of three tiers:
1. Emergency Management Activities Tier (EMAT) consists of different
activities involved in the overall emergency management life cycle. The type
and characteristics of emergency situations are identified in this tier.
Consequently, common activities shared in those situations can be extracted
and grouped. Based on the commonalities in various activities, one type of
RFID solution can be proposed.
2. Issues Solver Tier (IST) is the backbone of the proposed architecture. It
consists of various modules factorising the concerns of RFID adoption.
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Cost is an important factor that influences the decision whether or not to adopt
the technology. This module identifies various cost-related issues and also
suggests the mechanism to deal with these issues.
Mapping of a particular RFID in any activity of emergency management is a
complex and non-trivial task. Before designing a mapping technique, a large
number of issues and functionalities need to be addressed like interaction,
mapping and coordination of RFID with other technology infrastructure used
in mine. This module facilitates such mapping issues for the adoption of RFID
in emergency management.
It deals with various types of implementation concerns like physical
installation of RFID devices, protection, security and overall maintenance of
Selection of appropriate RFID type for an emergency requires contribution
from other modules. This module provides an intelligent selection of an
appropriate RFID type. The working of this module is based on the parameters
provided by the other sub-modules.
Standardization is an important process in RFID adoption. It ensures the
seamless working of different RFIDs regardless of their types and frequency
bands. This module aims to investigate standardization issues of RFIDs.
In order to achieve maximum throughput from RFID adoption in Emergency
Management we could use the support of some other technologies such as
information technology, computer technology and bio-technology.
Privacy poses a huge barrier towards the adoption of RFID in all domains. It is
highly likely that this may effect the adoption of RFID in emergency
3. Radio Frequency Identification Tier (RFIDT) encompasses different types of
RFIDs. RFID can be classified on the Tag type (Active Tag or Passive Tag),
Frequency Band (Low, High, Very High, Ultra High) and the range of RFID
reader (Small, Medium, Large).
4. CASE EXAMPLE: A MINE DISASTER
In this section, we describe how our proposed framework can be applied in a
hypothetical emergency scenario of roof collapse in mine.
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4.1 Hypothetical Emergency Scenario
Mining is the extraction (removal) of minerals and metals from earth. Manganese,
tantalum, copper, tin, nickel, bauxite (aluminium ore), iron ore, gold, coal, silver, and
diamonds are just some examples of what is mined. Although, mining is money
making business, not only do mining companies prosper, but governments also make
money from revenues. Similarly, workers also receive income and benefits. But there
are several threats attached with this business, few of the dangers relating to this
business are as follows:
People who are exposed to the toxic waste from the tailings become sick.
They develop skin rashes, headaches, vomiting, diarrhoea, etc. In fact, the
symptoms of mercury poisoning are very similar to the symptoms of
malaria. Many people who can not afford to go to a doctor, or who live in
a village where a doctor is not accessible, are often not treated for their
If the water is contaminated, people can not use it for bathing, cooking, or
washing their clothes.
Cultural degradation also occurs in mining villages. For example, mining
often destroys sacred sites and cemeteries. According to (Wikipedia 2006)
In Guyana, a special fishing event called Haiari Fishing unfortunately can
not take place if the river has been dredged for gold. Remember, the
displacement of the gravel and mud obstructs the natural flow of the river.
As a result, fish and other organisms die.
On top of all these dangers, mining is highly probable to high level of disasters. Fire /
gas explosion and roof collapse are most common mine disasters and caused large
numbers of causalities each year in different parts of world. Figure 5 shows some
major mine disasters, where death toll is greater then 200 (adapted Wikipedia 2006)
1900 1907 1909 1913 1937 1946 1960 1963 1965 1975 2005
Figure 5. Death Toll Caused by Disasters in the period of 1900 to 2005.
Study of these disasters shows that the major reasons behind such a large number of
causalities during mining disasters are lack of communication during emergencies,
weak damage assessment, hurdles in rescue measures and poor evacuation. In Figure
6, we assume a hypothetical mine disaster scenario and find out how RFID can be
used in a mine disaster.
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RFID readers with active tags located
at distance of 250m from each other.
They receive signals from miners and
propagate to the adjacent reader
An application running on a computer outside the
mine that shows the status of all RFID Readers and Inside view of mine
presence of RFID tags (Miners’ hardhat inside the
Figure 6: Architecture of a Mine, Showing Location of RFID Tags & Readers
4.2 RFID Setting
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Suppose M1 (as shown in Figure 6) is a U type, 3 km long and 350 m deep, there are
32 miners working in M1 in four shifts. There are 12 appropriate types of RFID
readers and active RFID tags (according to the frequency band available) are installed
at a distance of 250 m in the entire mine. First RFID reader at the opening of mine is
connected with a computer in a control room outside the mine. One active RFID tag is
also installed on the hardhat of each miner (as shown in Figure 7(a)). When a miner
enters in the mine, the RFID tag installed in the hardhat will propagate its signal to the
nearest RFID reader. That reader will accept this signal and at the same time passes
the signal to the adjacent RFID Reader by using an RFID tag installed with it. All this
traffic of signals can be monitored by a smart software application running on the
computer. Miners are also provided with a small gadget wearing on their wrists (as
shown in Figure 7(b)), this gadget is equipped with RFID reader and it shows the
presence of any RFID tag in the range of that reader. Figure 7(c) shows another
Handheld Gadget (HG) that can be used for locating miners after disaster. The
conceptual view of these devices is as follows:
Figure 7(a)-(c). Miner’s hardhat with active RFID tag, Wrist Pointer to detect RFID
tags on miners’ hardhat, Handheld RFID gadget to detect other RFID tag in the range
4.3 The Role of the Tiers in THEOREM - 3
This section describes how different tiers of THEOREM-3 can be applicable for a
given emergency situation like roof collapse in mine. EMAT or Tier 1 based on
various activities of emergency management life cycle. We have decomposed these
activities into six sub activities such as hazard forecasting, hazard assessment,
preparedness measures, mitigation measures, recovery planning, and evacuation
planning. Table 2 explains these sub activities, their importance and impact of RFID
on them. This table also highlights the use of RFID technology during different
activities of emergency management life cycle.
As adoption of RFID in emergency management is itself a complex procedure and
there are certain issues which must be considered for overall adoption. These issues
have already been mentioned in IST of THEOREM-3. Furthermore, we describe short
explanation of these issues with the reference of RFID implementation in mines.
Table 3 explains these issues, and describes how each process contributes in the
overall adoption of RFID in a given emergency type such as roof collapse in mine.
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Table 2: RFID Applications in the Emergency Management Activities Tier
Activity Application of RFID
Ability to forecast the arrival time, location and potential magnitude
of hazardous events is crucial to avoid disasters and implement
emergency plans. Similarly, timely and accurate forecasting of roof
Hazard collapse in mine can save many life and financial damages. RFID in
forecasting mines can be very helpful for hazard forecasting, because any miner
change/crack or bend in the roof can be monitored on the computer
screen outside the mine. This, in turn, forecasts any possible collapse
of roof and hence takes the precautionary measures according to the
If a collapse has already occurred, RFID can help assessing the
Hazard severity of damage, such as portion of the mine construction that is
assessment affected and the exact location of the collapse. Moreover, HG can be
used inside the mine for detailed assessment, which will help in
finding the miners and assess the damage.
Preparedness is a state of being ready to react promptly and
effectively in an event of an emergency. Being prepared implies an
Preparedness existence of an action plan in anticipation of an emergency. In
measures detecting any hazard in the mine, such as collapse of a certain part of
mine, an RFID alert signal can be send to all miners, indicating for an
immediate evacuation or for other mitigation strategy.
To minimize the damage in a mine collapse, RFID can be used in the
Mitigation pre and post emergency situations by maintaining communication
measures among the miners and constantly monitoring the condition of mine
and location of miners on a computer screen outside the mine.
Unfavourable conditions of the affected mine can cause a long delay
in starting rescue measures. For instance, in Sago Mine Disaster on
January 2006 in West Virginia, USA, rescuers had to wait twelve
hours after the explosion to begin to reach the miners due to high
Recovery concentrations of carbon monoxide (CO) and methane gas in the
planning mine atmosphere. (Mine; 2006) RFID could be very useful in such
situation because it can give an indication on the disaster intensity to
the rescuers for them to implement the rescue plan accordingly. A
common problem mine collapse disasters is to find out and locate the
miners buried under rocks. HG is useful to locate the buried miners.
RFID plays a vital role in safe evacuation procedure in case of
collapsed mine. In case of roof collapse in mine, miners often lost
Evacuation their escape route and they are unaware of any other miner near them.
planning RFID installed in WP will serve two roles in such a situation. Firstly,
it can detect any other WP in its range and secondly, it will give the
right direction for evacuation.
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Table 3: Modules in Issues Solver Tier
This module concerns with the implementation cost of RFID
Cost in mines setting. It is also responsible for performing cost
Estimation benefit analysis for the implementation.
The purpose of this module is to ensure successful
Mapping implementation of RFID in mines by streamlining the
Techniques processes involved in this tier. This module will help in
mapping RFID technology to any existing technology
infrastructure used to deal with emergency situation in mine.
RFID implementation strategies should be according to
Implementation specifically identified needs and requirements. For instance,
Strategies RFID tags and readers installed in hard-hats, wrist pointers
and roof of the mine should be encapsulated in unbreakable
and fire proof glass covering.
Selection of an appropriate type of RFID should be based on
Selection its cost-effectiveness, frequency-band used and range/strength
Criteria of its signals, and its performance in the pre and post
Standardization assures the seamless working of all the RFID
Standardization types (gadgets) working in mines. RFID tags and readers
chosen for installation in different parts of mine, at miners’
hardhats, WP and HG should be compatible and must agreed
on same communication standard.
Support of other technology could be very affective for the
Supporting overall performance of RFIDs in mines. Information
Technologies technology will work as a supporting technology for
implementing RFID in mines.
Privacy Use of RFID in mines must not contradict with the privacy
Issues issues of miners.
5. CONCLUDING REMARKS
RFID technology has raised great expectation as a potential mean of contact-less
tracking and identification of objects. Implementation of this technology has brought
benefits in various domains such as manufacturing, retail, marketing, defence,
aerospace and healthcare. This paper presents the use of RFID in emergency
management. It proposes a three tier framework for selecting the most suitable RFID
device to be deployed based on the activated events in a given scenario, and adoption
factors, such as cost and standardization issues.
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