Bahrain Government Agency Tracks Files With RFID

By Rhea Wessel

The island nation's Survey and Land Registration Bureau has reduced the amount of time its staff spent searching for files, while also improving workflows, with a system from TrackIT Solutions.


Bahrain’s Survey and Land Registration Bureau (SLRB), the country’s government office that manages land records and deeds in the capital city of Manama, is employing radio frequency identification to track manila file folders containing land deeds, records and other official documents that circulate in the agency’s government office building. According to the Almoayed Group, the Bahrain-based systems integrator for the project, the application is the first file-tracking system implemented by a government in the Middle East.

SLRB attaches EPC Gen 2 RFID tags inside adhesive labels to manila folders that are newly created when Bahrain’s citizens submit paperwork to the bureau for processing. The number of files has been on the rise since the nation’s real-estate sector experienced a boom in the past decade.

TrackIT Solutions’ TrackFile document-tracking system

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“We were working in a completely manual way that was very bureaucratic, and we constantly faced the risk of losing or misplacing important files,” said Burzin P. Bharucha, a consultant and advisor to the Office of General Director Resources & Information Systems. Bharucha oversaw the implementation of the file-tracking system for the SLRB.

The Survey and Land Registration Bureau deployed the TrackFile document-tracking system from TrackIT Solutions. Husain Ragib, the Dubai-based firm’s applications manager, says the system prevents files from getting lost, and also improves processing efficiency by providing workers and managers with real-time information regarding the physical location and processing status of the 25,000 active files that circulate around the bureau’s seven-story building.

The data collected via RFID enables managers to track the files’ progress as they move through the processing steps, such as a file’s entrance into processing or a deed’s approval by managers who double-check the title and geographic boundaries of property, and then sign the deeds to give them legal status. If a manager looks up a file in the system, Ragib explains, its processing history is displayed in chronological order.

The processing times for each stage of a deed’s approval can be compared to average times stored in the system, so that managers can intervene in the event that a case gets stuck at a particular processing step for longer than expected. The average number of steps per file is five to six, Ragib says. Managers also receive an alert if a file misses a particular step in the process. “Before the system was implemented,” he states, “managers didn’t know which processing steps were taking too much time.”

The system’s implementation began with a feasibility test managed by Ragib and TrackIT in February 2009. SLRB decided to implement the system in June of last year, and the work was finished in February 2010. The system is based on Microsoft‘s BizTalk Enterprise Suite, and features 28 Motorola XR480 fixed RFID readers. The interrogators, which cover key areas of the seven-story building, are mounted at the site’s entrance and exit points, including those leading to the parking garage. Readers are attached to 34 office doorways and storage rooms, or are affixed near passageways or mounted on pedestals.

Additionally, SLRB utilizes 20 desktop readers, though Ragib declines to name the company and model of the readers and tags used for the project, due to an agreement with the bureau. An employee processing a file immediately interrogates its RFID tag upon taking that file to his or her desk. The system is then updated with the particular file’s location. Before moving the file to another desk, the worker once again interrogates the tag with the desktop reader. Tags are embedded in an adhesive label printed with SLRB’s logo, and are attached to each file on the front, in the center of the folder’s lower half.

Husain Ragib, TrackIT Solutions’ applications manager

According to Ragib, improved workflow management is the system’s main benefit. SLRB did consider a bar-code-scanning system, but chose RFID due to the reduced manual scanning it allowed, since workers must only remember to scan tags when taking files to their desks or moving them off their desks, thereby reducing the number of human errors. Little training was necessary for the staff to adapt to the new system, he says, though managers did require training on TrackIT’s workflow-management software.

“The benefits of the file-tracking solution include saving time for our customers and money for our department. We are able to create an electronic record of process steps and retrieve records quickly, things that are important during internal and external audits,” said Bharucha.

SLRB plans to link the system with Bahrain’s National ID program, in which every individual carries a smart identity card issued by the country’s Ministry of the Interior that holds personal data, such as an individual’s name and birth date. Once linked to the file-tracking system, the personal information of citizens who are deed-holders will be transferred to the file-tracking system automatically, in order to eliminate potential errors during data entry.

In addition, for a follow-on project, the bureau plans to tag approximately 200,000 archived files that it stores at its office building in Manama, as well as at a central archive facility. The timeframe for that project, however, has yet to be set, Ragib notes.

The Survey and Land Registration Bureau is not the only organization to use RFID to track files. The American University of Sharjah and dozens of other schools in the United Arab Emirates place tags on the academic certificates they issue, in order to ensure the documents’ validity, as well as speed up the registration process (see UAE Universities Adopt RFID to Thwart Diploma Forgery).