RFID Talk Blog

Document tracking sees strong growth; global regulations should drive deployments

RFID has been used for years to track vital documents like court papers and financial records. It is well documented that the Florida State Attorney General’s office tracks more than 18,000 case files with RFID.

This month document storage firm Recall processed its 100 millionth box at its warehouse facility in North Carolina. Fittingly, the box was tagged with RFID. Of the 100 million boxes stored by Recall, 20 percent are tracked by RFID, a number the company expects to grow significantly.

And while tracking individual pieces of paper is rare, item level document tracking is occurring on a limited scale. That use case will likely become more common as the technology becomes more affordable and auditing requirements more stringent. Presently, most of the action for document tracking is occurring at the file folder level.

Jon Poole, global manager for RFID and IT innovation at Recall, says that the banking, medical, insurance and legal industries are leading the document tracking charge. Most of these verticals are faced with increasingly challenging regulatory environments and the need for more efficient and foolproof records compliance.

“We believe the future for RFID within document tracking is very promising,” says Poole, “particularly as information needs to be more readily available. The speed of business is increasing and the demand to know where things are minute by minute is increasing. Where we see demand is at the file level, or a series of documents in a file folder. That’s the level that has a big potential for RFID.”

Poole says that document tracking is experiencing strong growth in Europe and Australia, regions where stringent government regulations exist. He refers to South America as a strong fast follower, while the North American market is driven by individual state mandates in the U.S., rather than a national requirement. Adoption is also being driven by increased customer vigilance when it comes to the security of their information.

The payoff is seen in a dramatic decrease in labor hours required to find a customer’s information. With RFID, Recall can scan and audit more than 300 cartons in less than 30 seconds, a task that would require well over 30 minutes using error-prone, manual processes. That is a 60-fold difference in time and cost.

Without RFID, Recall estimates it would take five years of manual labor to audit one million boxes. Recall began researching RFID in 2003, and rolled out its first system in 2007 at a storage facility in Boston.

Companies around the globe are turning to RFID to store, protect, manage and retrieve their most valuable information in on-demand fashion. With RFID tracking technology, customers receive an added layer of document management efficiency and accuracy, reducing the cost of critical inventorying procedures while providing the highest level of accuracy and enabling comprehensive audits to be performed at a fraction of the time with better than 99.9 percent accuracy.

Additionally, RFID helps Recall and its customers to support compliance regulations, including regional privacy laws and Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), by providing customers with audit reports that confirm and validate the location of every RFID carton stored.

“Having RFID tags on our cartons is very important to us at Perry Ellis,” Craig Johnson, C.P.M., A.P.P., director of procurement at Perry Ellis, said in a release. “This added layer of security and accuracy allows for seamless and timely inventory tracking when we need it.”

That was one reason why the Florida Attorney General’s office was drawn to RFID. Prior to implementing the technology, emails were sent to notify every employee about a document request. Often times, all 120 staff members had to stop what they were doing to focus on locating the missing file. The inefficient system wasted up to 20 minutes of employee time for each document request, surpassing $54,000 in labor costs annually.

Today the Florida AG office has tagged more than 18,000 files with passive RFID tags and 300 employees are outfitted with badges equipped with active RFID tags. Back end systems integrated with ThingMagic readers allow employees to access the document tracking system directly from their PC, allowing them real time visibility into files. Delays from missing files have been nearly eliminated.

For similar reasons, the Prosecutors Office for the city of Anchorage implemented an RFID solution from FileTrail to track and manage case files. The system virtually eliminates manual searching for case files by providing a searchable database of case files with current location at every desktop. In addition, FileTrail logs a chain of custody and automates labeling and reporting.

RFID SmartSensors above the ceiling, at exits, and other key locations automatically record the movement of case files. Integration with the case management system imports and synchronizes case data automatically in near real-time. In addition, the agency uses FileTrail’s portable RFID SmartMobile to hunt for missing items and conduct audits.

RFID is also becoming very popular with law firms that store files both on site and off premise. Law firm personnel can use a handheld scanner to locate a specific file in any storage room or office, speeding up the time it takes to locate critical files needed for litigation.

Imagine the value RFID could play when it comes to sending an alert that critical documents like earnings reports or confidential health records have been removed without authorization from a dedicated storage facility.

“At the individual document level, the cost of the tag generally outweighs the benefit you get from tracking a single piece of paper,” says Poole, “although we’re not ruling it out. There are a couple of isolated cases where we have tracked individual sheets of paper, but there is more of an appetite to track at the file level.

“We are continuing to investigate the use of RFID across our service offerings and we’ll continue to lead and innovate and leverage RFID to drive that innovation forward.”

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