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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
Court workers often find themselves searching for case files. "There are several reasons why a case jacket may be needed [by court staff]," Meyer explains. These include accommodating requests from a judge's chambers, other offices or the public, as well as processing incoming paperwork (pleadings, lines of appearance, court orders, and so forth). If someone needs a file not found on a shelf, that person must do a physical search, send e-mail messages or make phone calls in an attempt to locate it. The FileTrail system, Meyer says, will alleviate the need for manual tracking of case jackets, while providing up-to-date location status.

With the FileTrail system, a court employee creates an RFID label printed with the case name on the appropriate color-coded label, then attaches it to the case jacket. Each time the folder's RFID tag gets within read range of one of those RFID interrogators, its tag's unique RFID number is transmitted via a Windows 2000 server to the SQL 2000 database, updating data about the file.

Several other government offices across the country are using RFID to track legal files, but those systems typically use 13.56 MHz tags, which have a much shorter read range than the system being deployed by the Circuit Court for Prince George's County. In Marin County, Calif., the district attorney's office is using a 13.56 MHz system from 3M's Security Systems division. With that system, users must hold the interrogators within about 3 inches of the files to read their RFID tags, according to Marin County District Attorney Ed Berberian Jr. (see Marin County DA Saves With RFID).

The FileTrail's longer read range, however, makes it easier for staff to adopt and use, Pemberton says. "In a lot of environments, management has trouble getting people to change and getting full compliance." In this case, employees don't have to think about the system because DeskTrackers and ZoneTrackers read each file's unique RFID number every time they move a file onto a desk or through a doorway with the readers installed.

The handheld interrogators are Windows-based mobile devices that can be used for tracking and audit purposes, allowing staff members to search for all case jackets to ensure they are not misfiled. The devices can scan all files in a room if an employee is seeking a specific file, saving time otherwise spent thumbing through a stack of files on someone's desk.

The court eventually plans to expand the RFID tracking system to other locations and divisions, though no specific dates have yet been announced.

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