Here’s yet another important reason for converting your paper documents to digital imaged documents: the global pandemic. Whether you have switched to a hybrid office, or your business is classified as essential, your staff is touching paper documents every day. Those documents can be a transmission point, not just for the coronavirus, but for a host of other infectious agents as well.
The National Institutes of Health, UCLA, and Princeton University tested the longevity of covid-19 on various surfaces. They found that, in general, the smoother the surface, the longer the virus could live. Cardboard, rough and uncoated, was less likely to transmit the virus. Other forms of paper – smooth, coated printer paper of the type used in many business operations – provide a somewhat friendlier surface for the virus. The science is far from conclusive, and research is ongoing, but any reduction in risk is beneficial to everyone.
Paper is a high-touch element in any business. A few examples:
- Order forms– touched by the sales rep, the customer, the sales manager, the order filler, the file clerk
- Patient forms– touched by the desk personnel, the patient, the nurse, the physician, the lab, the accounting clerk, the file clerk
- Sales brochures– touched by the marketing coordinator, the sales rep, the customer, and (in the case of displayed brochures) the general public
It’s easy to see how viruses and bacteria can get passed around on paper, despite having all the recommended contagion measures in place. But when a document is imaged, it’s removed from the touch chain, and from the chain of potential contagion.
And in addition to breaking the contagion chain, you get all the other benefits of imaging, too. Imaged documents are readily accessible via electronic devices, speeding the flow of information. They are secure from loss, accidental damage, and unauthorized access. And they take up a fraction of the space of paper documents, reducing your storage footprint and your real estate costs.
We have advocated touchless technology for quite a while, not just for health reasons but for cost efficiency and for connectedness to the IoT. Imaging your paper documents is part of the wave of touchless tech that does more than just improve your business operations. It’s a risk management tool, keeping your staff and your community safer during and after the pandemic.
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The value of the Internet of Things (IoT) is communication – communicating about operations, assets, resources, and clients. As of 2019, there were an estimated 14.2 million “smart” electronic devices connected to the IoT, adding speed, accuracy, and security to business operations.
But what about all the other operational elements that aren’t quite so smart? Even when facilities and systems are IoT-connected, there are many elements, from paper to personnel, that don’t talk to the IoT. In the words of Cool Hand Luke,“What we have here is a failure to communicate.” Businesses lose much of the potential advantage of connectivity and shared data.
RFID creates connectivity between the IoT
and “dumb devices.”
RFID is all about communication. Once information is added to an RFID tag, it starts communicating that information to other RFID-enabled devices, including IoT devices. For example, the University of Michigan is developing an RFID system for geriatric health monitoring. It will track the movements of pill dispensers, water glasses, canes, and other health-related items, reporting to the IoT when items are moved, used, or consumed. With this RFID-supplied data, the IoT monitors seniors’ activities and medications, updating caretakers while allowing seniors to retain their independent lifestyle.
It’s easy to see how RFID-IoT connectivity could have big benefits in other sectors. A few examples:
Facilities Management: Tracking workers’ movements via RFID personnel tags, IoT building systems can manage energy usage and boost sustainability.
Law Enforcement: RFID-tagged evidence is tracked through the forensic-investigation system, reporting status to the enforcement and judicial IoT databases.
Logistics: Oil filters, tires, and other maintenance items receive RFID tags prior to installation, then send usage data to vehicle key fobs which in turn relay the data via an app to the company’s fleet IoT.
Large-scale IoT is proving its value, but smart devices are expensive and it’s not practical to add intelligence to every aspect of business operations. RFID – already in use in many businesses – is an inexpensive communication bridge to reach the benefits of the IoT.
One million dollars. Now that we have your attention, here’s how you get that kind of money: Section 179 of the IRS tax code. Sec. 179 allows you to deduct the cost of business equipment – up to $1 million – that you purchased or leased in 2020, and put into service in the same year. Rather than depreciating that equipment over several years, you can deduct the full value of the equipment in Year 1.
The COVID pandemic has changed how many of us do business. Have you had additional equipment expenditures to accommodate those changes? If you bought equipment to support WFH workers, or purchased touchless lockers, or RFID social-distancing equipment, or social-distancing office furnishings, those COVID-related expenditures qualify for the Sec. 179 deduction. It’s one bright spot in this year’s economic upheaval.
Almost any tangible business-related product qualifies for the deduction:
- Data hardware (essential for imaged-document storage and access)
- Equipment purchased for business use
- Office furnishings and fixtures, including high density mobile storage and lockers
- Office equipment
- Computers and off-the-shelf software
- Certain business vehicles, including fork lifts and 9-passenger vans
- Property attached to your building that is not part of the building structure (casework and industrial shelving, for example)
- Tangible personal property used in the business, or equipment with a partial business use
- Some improvements to existing business-only buildings, including security systems, HVAC, and roofing
Keep in mind that leases as well as purchases qualify under Sec. 179. Even though you may be spreading payments out over several years, you can deduct the full value in the first year.
There’s only one hitch: You only have until Dec. 31, 2020, to put into service any equipment you want to deduct in tax year 2020. If you’re considering any equipment purchases, check with your vendors to see if they have a quick-ship program that will let you meet this deadline. And of course, make sure to check with your accountant to confirm that your purchases will qualify for Sec. 179.
We could all use a little financial relief this year. Sec. 179 may be just what your business needs.
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Whether your management style is hands-on or hands-off, touchless technology brings some definite advantages to your enterprise. U.S. businesses are undergoing major changes, looking for ways to operate safely while preserving profitability. Workplace size and design are shifting rapidly as part of the “new normal” of doing business, making this an ideal time to incorporate some touchless tech into the new work setting.
How does touchless tech benefit your operations?
Safety: Everything we touch is a potential petri dish. Many office buildings have automated doors and lighting in common areas, but it’s up to tenants to add touchless tech to leased spaces. Internal doors, lockers, thermostats, blinds, conferencing equipment, and many other elements can now be controlled with wireless devices or voice technology. In a touchless workplace, contagious bacteria and viruses never get a chance to infect your staff and slow down your operations. Healthy employees are productive employees.
Security: Hoteling offices and distributed hub-and-spokes offices don’t offer much security for items like backpacks, personal electronics, or uniforms. Touchless lockers bring a new level of security to the workplace. A smartphone app or an RFID badge gives the user touchless access to stored items. Systems managers can remotely change the electronic access codes for touchless lockers, eliminating the need to track down duplicate keys or cut new copies. Shared touchless lockers maintain access records so it’s simple to identify users. With touchless lockers, businesses save the cost of replacing pilfered personal items and stored company equipment.
Design: Social distancing requirements are reshaping the new-normal workplace. Distancing structures and touchless systems controls are now important design features. Structural components like touchless lockers maintain social distancing and traffic patterns while adding a pleasing aesthetic element. Tenant-installed touchless WiFi IoT systems control everything from blinds to environmental temperature, personalized for each staffer’s preference. In combination with building automation systems (BAS), these control systems reduce energy usage and energy costs.
The pandemic has imposed changes on the way we do business today. Hands-off touchless technology – some of it well-established, some of it cutting edge – helps organizations adapt to the new normal and reduces costs at the same time. That’s a benefit anyone would want to get their hands on.
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