RFID for Document Management

Posted by Ken Lynch on Fri, Aug 13, 2010 @ 09:00 AM

Giving Valuable Documents a Digital Identity

In many industries, the value of a printed document can be substantially higher than an equivalent weight of currency.  Losing or misplacing important documents such as health records and legal documents can have undesired security, confidentiality, and financial consequences. 

To avoid the loss of critical media, some organizations are embedding RFID tags into valuable documents so they can be located and tracked in real time.  With RFID, these documents inherit a digital identity, giving staff the ability to search for and locate them as easy as clicking the search button on an Internet search page. 

While we’ve touched on the following RFID document management implementation in a previous blog post, we think it is worth expanding on as another example of users naturally interacting with RFID and where the technology is so integrated and transparent that it disappears into its environment.

An Industry Breakthrough for Florida AG’s Office

In a four storey Attorney General’s office in Florida, tracking down one of 21,000 available case files can be a nightmare. The file in question could be in any department, on any employee’s desk or misplaced somewhere no one would think to look.   

At the Florida State Attorney’s 15th Judicial Circuit Office, the file could also have made it over to the adjacent Palm Beach County Courthouse next door.  In order to locate this file for an approaching court date or deadline, mass emails would have to be sent to notify every employee.   In the Felony Department it was not unusual for all 120 staff members to stop what they are doing to focus all energy on the missing file.  This system is completely inefficient and on average could waste twenty minutes of employees’ time, adding up to $54,000 annually.

Florida AG Document TrackingWhen RFID was first suggested as the answer, cost per tag was around $5 which was far too expensive for the extensive case file collection.  Once UHF came on the market, the price dropped from dollars to pennies per tag, making RFID a much more realistic goal.  For their solution, the office turned to InnerWireless for their Wi-Fi tracking expertise.  InnerWireless specializes in accommodating wireless into existing buildings effectively, especially in the healthcare and government sectors. The proposed system used Alien Squiggle tags printed from a Zebra label printer and ThingMagic Mercury5 Readers which were chosen for their 100% read rates and market-leading performance.  Extensive testing of the Zebra printed labels such as moving tagged files in groups was done to ensure 100% accuracy.  After the successful field trial, CIO Dan Zinn organized a group of ten colleagues to make sure the project would fulfill everyone in the building’s needs.  In the end, 18,000 files were tagged with passive RFID tags and 300 employee badges were equipped with active RFID tags. Back end systems integrated into the readers allow employees to access the document tracking system right from their PC.  At any moment they can log on and see where the file in question is and who it is with. Delays from missing files are cut down to almost zero. Mass “missing file” emails asking employees to check which files they have are a thing of the past.

The Attorney’s Office went on to expand their system after a few years and turned to ThingMagic partner SimplyRFID. ThingMagic Astra Readers were chosen for their power-over-Ethernet capabilities and their easy integration into the building.  The office estimates that their $100,000 system paid for itself in less than 18 months.

“We think that this project was an industry breakthrough.  We addressed a mission-critical business problem with an RFID solution that has exceeded the goals identified at the onset of the project,” said Zinn.

Wouldn’t it be nice if confidential earnings releases, merger and acquisition memos, health records and legal documents could message their owners if they left the building?

Tags: RFID, Asset Tracking, Document Management

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