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Real Estate Files Found With RFID

Madison Abstract is using an EPC Gen 2 RFID system it helped design to track hundreds of client files throughout its offices.
By Claire Swedberg
Antennas deployed around the office read the folder's tag and transmit that data back to the SQL server via a cabled connection. Concept2 software then allows the user to locate where the folder has been. The user can surmise the file's location by viewing which antenna it most recently passed and noting the direction by the order of the previously passed antennas.

In addition, the 25 office employees wear ID badges that link to their names on the server. In that way, users not only know where a particular file is located, but also who put it there. If the file still can not be found, an employee sweeps through an office utilizing a Motorola handheld reader with a 3-foot read range. Like a Geiger counter, the MC9090-G RFID reader emits a visual and audible alert whenever it comes within range of the folder.

There have been, and continue to be, some tweaks since the system was installed in January of this year, Cryan says, as well as several obstacles to overcome. In one case, Franz notes, an antenna in the office building's common hallway, directly in front of the Madison Abstract entrance, failed to function. It took several remediation efforts, including swapping out the cables and reader port before installers discovered that foil lining the ceiling tiles was interfering with RF transmissions.

To resolve this issue, they installed a smaller Motorola antenna, the AN480, which was able to operate normally in that environment. Because the amount of data the system has generated is so vast, Cryan says his company has now instructed the system to save information about the files' locations for only the previous 20 days.

The return on investment is hard to measure, Cryan says. "We deal almost exclusively with commercial real estate," he notes, and the value of property closing through Madison Abstract on a typical day is $150 million. "If I can't find a key document that is part of a file, and the attorneys are sitting in the closing room, maybe four of them, charging $250 to $450 an hour, I can't tell you how valuable this system can be."

In the past, when an attorney's office called requesting a specific file or document, they typically had to wait for Madison Abstract to locate that record. With an older, archived document, that could often take hours or days—a delay to which attorneys are typically accustomed. However, Cryan says, with the RFID system, Madison Abstract's staff can locate a folder within seconds, while that lawyer's office is still on the line. "It's hard to put a value on that," he states. "It's a matter of instant gratification, and we are able to project the appearance that we are on top of things."

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