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Maryland Court Tries UHF RFID File-Tracking System

The 7th Judicial Circuit Court for Prince George's County plans to use EPC Gen 2 tags to track legal documents for 30,000 to 40,000 cases a year.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 15, 2006The 7th Judicial Circuit Court for Prince George's County, Md., is in the process of installing an RFID file-tracking system provided by FileTrail. The court plans to use the system to track files for 30,000 to 40,000 cases annually. Initially, the RFID system will be used in the criminal and juvenile divisions of the main courthouse.

With the new RFID system in place, the court will automate the tracking and management of case files (also known as case jackets) used to hold legal documents. This will spare employees from having to search manually for the files. FileTrail's vice president of product strategy, Tom Pemberton, says his company's system uses EPC Gen 2 UHF (902 and 928 MHz) passive tags, unlike competing systems utilizing HF (13.56 MHz) tags. The UHF tags' greater read range, he says, makes it easier to track case jackets.

Tom Pemberton
The FileTrail RFID tracking system includes devices called DeskTrackers and ZoneTrackers. DeskTrackers are small RFID interrogators that attach to desktop computers. The system is based on the EPC Gen 2 UHF standard, Pemberton says, which enables the DeskTrackers (which have a read range of 4 feet or more) to capture tag data automatically as files are placed on an employee's desk. ZoneTrackers, which act as RFID portals, are installed one on each side of a doorway. They capture data about the file as it enters a room, thereby making it possible to track files judges' chambers and other offices where they are not necessarily stacked near a DeskTracker.

The court is installing 58 DeskTrackers throughout the courthouse, as well as four handheld interrogators and ZoneTrackers for 70 portals to enable court staff to locate files as they move from one office to another, from an office to a court room, or into a judge's chambers. The court will pay between $200,000 and $250,000 for the entire system, including 100,000 tags at 32 cents apiece. The system should be fully deployed by Nov. 1.

Currently, each new case at the Circuit Court is assigned a file. Eventually, numerous files might be assigned to the same case. Each file receives a color-coded label, depending on the kind of case, and is printed with the name of the party involved in the case. Details about the file are hand-keyed into the court's database, and new details are input by hand throughout the life of the case, such as the file's current user and the case's status.

"This is both labor-intensive and relies on staff to make entries into the system," says Joretta Meyer, the IT director at Prince George's County Circuit Court. "Searching for cases when needed is frustrating, as the data in the case-management system may be incomplete."

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