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Florida Prosecutor Uses RFID to Track Files in Real Time

The Florida State Attorney's 15th Judicial Circuit is using a real-time location system to quickly identify the floor and office where particular files can be found, thereby preventing legal snafus and reducing labor costs.
By Beth Bacheldor
Eventually, the state attorney's office expects to add more interrogators to improve the granularity of location information. Tag read ranges seem to be about 20 feet, Zinn notes, though no detailed analysis has been conducted. The antennas are positioned at all access points in the felony division, and in areas with a lot of traffic. "We are getting a 95 percent read accuracy in these areas," he says. "The only problem that we found was when files are grouped together in a box and not close to an antenna, some files are missed. This was known in the beginning, and as we increase the number of antennas and the antenna positions, this will go away. Staff is aware of these short-term read issues, and are taking measures to fan or space out the files."

On the first day the RTLS was used, Zinn says, the office successfully located a specific file it had previously thought lost. "The attorney couldn't find the file—supposedly in one division, but it wasn't there. The file number was input into STAC, and it was discovered that the file was sitting in the mailroom, waiting to be transferred between divisions. It was critical that the file be located, because they needed that case to go into a courtroom."

This story illustrates why the RTLS is vital to the state attorney's office, Zinn says. While searching for and locating files can be time-consuming and pull employees way from more important work, if files aren't found, case outcomes can be jeopardized. "We have a serious risk here if files can't be located," he explains. "There are timelines for filing; there are judges' schedules. And when we have to react to an unplanned event—for instance, a judge has accelerated a case—we have to find the file quickly. If we can't find the file, the case can literally be thrown out. For every case, there is a victim, and if we don't do our job, then the victims get hurt. You can't put a value on that."

Zinn says the RTLS is expected to pay for itself within a year. By calculating the cost of five workers each spending a half hour searching for 150 to 200 cases a year, he adds, "that gave us a general idea that we'd be getting our money back." The passive RFID-based RTLS has proven such a success that the state attorney's office is now planning to use EPC Gen 2 tags embedded in all employee badges. That way, the RTLS will not only be able to track file locations, but also which person last handled a particular file. Zinn says the office expects to begin implementing the technology in January.

Using RFID to keep tabs on files is gaining traction with a range of organizations, but many such implementations rely on passive 13.56 MHz tags. Austrian bank Hypo Landesbank Vorarlberg (HLV), for instance, has been utilizing Thax Software's Findentity RFID-enabled tracking system for more than four years (see Austrian Bank Finds RFID Yields Big Returns When Tracking Loan Files). The 7th Judicial Circuit Court for Prince George's County in Maryland, meanwhile, is using an EPC Gen 2 UHF-based RFID solution from FileTrail to track files for 30,000 to 40,000 cases annually (see Maryland Court Tries UHF RFID File-Tracking System). Neither HLV nor the 7th Judicial Circuit Court employs an RTLS, however. Rather, workers at both organizations use the respective systems to record when they take possession of a file, similar to how a library patron utilizes RFID to check a book in or out.

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