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Florida Court Ups Its RFID System

The state attorney office for Florida's 15th judicial circuit is now using EPC Gen 2 tags to track the locations of almost 18,000 files, as well as hundreds of employees.
By Claire Swedberg
May 15, 2009The Office of the State Attorney for the 15th Judicial Circuit in West Palm Beach, Fla., is saving approximately $100,000 annually by installing an RFID-based tracking system for its felony case files within its four-story facility. The savings are the result of drastically reducing the time spent manually searching for the case files, according to Dan Zinn, CIO for the 15th Judicial Circuit office. Since the initial deployment in 2007, the office has upgraded the system to power the RFID interrogators via an Ethernet connection, as well as added dozens of readers and provided RFID-enabled badges for all of its employees.

The state attorney's office has about 21,000 active felony case files, Zinn says, which can travel at any given time from one room within the four-story building to another, and to the adjacent Palm Beach County Courthouse and back. Typically, one file or another would go missing approximately five times each day, and staff members would have to stop what they were doing each time, in order to find it. Felony files often need to be found immediately, in the event that, for example, they are unexpectedly needed in court. It was not unusual, Zinn says, for all 120 employees in the felony division to have to cease their work until a particular file was located. He had been considering RFID-based solutions to track the files' locations, he says, but when he initially investigated RFID technology, the files would have required active tags at a cost of about $5 per tag.

Zinn put the plan aside, he explains, until Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) passive tags came onto the market, and "the price went from dollars to pennies." He then began working with systems integrator SimplyRFID. Zinn's department began attaching a 1-by-4-inch paper label with an embedded Alien Technology EPC Gen 2 RFID tag to each folder used to hold a particular legal case's documents (see Florida Prosecutor Uses RFID to Track Files in Real Time). The integrator installed 18 readers throughout the office area, enabling it to track the movement of files

With the initial success of this limited deployment, says Carl Brown, SimplyRFID's president, the office then installed additional RFID readers flush against the ceiling, and also added sufficient antennas to cover the entire felony office area. Altogether, Zinn notes, this entailed installing 67 interrogators, resulting in a total of 117 read points. The interrogators installed for the expansion, ThingMagic's Astra, utilize a power-over-Ethernet connection. By avoiding the need to install an AC power line for each new, Brown says, the system ultimately made the deployment simpler and less expensive.

The 15th Judicial Circuit office has now also begun providing RFID-enabled badges to 350 individuals, including all employees in the felony and misdemeanor divisions, in addition to contractors. The badges are made from Zebra CR-80 size plastic cards with embedded Alien Technology EPC Gen 2 inlays, and the staff uses a Zebra P430i printer to create each card and encode a unique ID number to its RFID inlay. Each badge's unique ID number is linked to that employee in InnerWireless' PanGo software. In this way, Zinn says, employees can determine in real time where a specific employee is located in the building.

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