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Technology Innovation: Can RFID Support Weapons Safety?

Technology Innovation: Can RFID Support Weapons Safety?

RFID technology excels at safety and security applications. First responders around the country use RFID-based personnel and equipment tracking systems. Secure facilities as varied as life-sciences research buildings and movie editing rooms use RFID-controlled locks to manage access. For public safety and military armories, firearms security is a top priority, with RFID badges controlling access to storage rooms and weapons lockers.

Now firearms manufacturers are bringing another RFID application to market. After years of research and testing, several U.S. and European gunmakers have incorporated RFID chips into handguns to reduce unauthorized usage.

One survey found that fewer than 2% of guns used in crimes were purchased from retail sources; some were given to criminals by “straw buyers,” but most were obtained illegally. The new RFID-enabled handguns require the user to unlock the gun with a matching RFID device – a wristband or a fob – before firing the gun. Some manufacturers go so far as to include a fingerprint match as well as an RFID match before the gun will unlock. Users can leave the weapon unlocked as long as they keep the RFID matching device within the chip’s short range.

This innovation presents an opportunity for law enforcement and military facilities to maintain even better control of their weapons inventory. Many of these facilities already have RFID inventory systems in place to issue guns to personnel. These systems do an excellent job of quickly and accurately recording the check-out and check-in of weaponry.

However, hundreds of handguns are stolen each year from police vehicles and from military armories, and a number of them wind up in the wrong hands. With the new RFID chip-matching system, those stolen guns are unusable without the RFID unlocking device.

Of course, the safety system is not fool-proof. It breaks down if a criminal possesses both the gun and the RFID unlocking device. To prevent this, RFID unlocking devices must be stored separately in weapons storage facilities, with controlled access to prevent them from being pilfered along with the matching weapons. Police officers are unlikely to leave RFID wearables or key fobs in their vehicles, but public safety departments must institute policies to ensure this.

RFID is a powerful tool in private sector operations, from manufacturing and supply chain to retail and professional practice management. With this gun-locking innovation, it provides an additional layer of security to police and military operations, and an additional layer of safety to the public.

 

Photo © moodboard / AdobeStock

Three Ways to Shape a Safe Office Without Expanding Your Space

Three Ways to Shape a Safe Office Without Expanding Your Space

The ways we were accustomed to work were blown up by Covid-19 and the ensuing economic disruption. The 9-to-5 forty-hour work week now is the self-scheduled WFH get-the-job-done week. Surprisingly, productivity and employee satisfaction have risen dramatically in response.

However, corporate culture may be suffering. Businesses in which mentorship and hands-on training are particularly affected. From construction trades to consulting and sales organization, corporate culture relies on in-person interactions. Executives are announcing return to the office policies effective in the near future.

Still, concerns about surging Covid variants are making staffers reluctant to spend much, if any, time in the office. Facilities managers are asking if there’s a way to protect employees in the office setting without adding costly space to accommodate health protocols.

Here are three ways to help keep in-office teams safe without expanding the office footprint:

  1. Convert paper documents to digital documents via imaging, and reduce your document storage area. Imaged documents are productivity boosters, whether staffers are in the office or working remotely. And many of the imaged documents do not need to be retained as paper, freeing up room for social distancing and proximity barriers.
  2. Exchange traditional filing cabinets for a high-density filing system, and save as much as 50% of your storage floor area. While imaging will reduce the need for much document storage, some paper docs need to be retained. Keep them in a high-density filing system and save even more space.
  3. Add touchless smart lockers that guide in-office traffic while enhancing design aesthetics. Employees need secure storage for personal items in the office, and smart lockers provide touchless operation. Their customizable finishes make them a design feature, and they can be set up in work areas to provide separation and guide traffic without requiring additional space.

Security experts Kastle Systems report fewer than 28% of employees in the office in the first week of January 2022, in 10 major U.S. markets. Morning Consult’s survey shows 55% of employees being unwilling to return to the office if they felt unsafe. With the above ways to provide worker safety, your business can encourage a return to work without the added overhead of increased real estate costs.

 

Photo © Seventyfour / AdobeStock

How RFID Helps First Responders Manage Disasters

How RFID Helps First Responders Manage Disasters

Weather disasters are becoming more frequent and more severe. Front-line workers are challenged to manage the multitude of elements needed for rescue and recovery.

In disaster situations, routine procedures are disrupted. Decision data is often scanty and uncertain, leading to errors and waste of materials and time.  RFID technology can make a difference, providing the answers to what and where questions:

  • Equipment – Medical equipment like gurneys and oxygen tanks; transport vehicles like ambulances and firetrucks; heavy equipment like bulldozers; communication devices like radios and tablets – in an emergency, decision makers need to know the whereabouts of all their equipment assets. RFID doorway readers keep tabs on them all.
  • Supplies and Medications – EMT’s and ER personnel must maintain a supply of bandages, dressings, scissors, clamps, and multiple types of medications. Using a hand-held RFID reader, a quick scan of an ambulance or a treatment room confirms that RFID-tagged supplies are topped up.
  • Tools and Weapons – The aftermath of a weather disaster calls for tools for search and rescue, and firearms to assist law enforcementin opportunistic-crime prevention. From chainsaws and shovels to pistols and tazers, RFID helps first responders maintain their inventory in readiness for emergencies, safely and securely.
  • Personnel – RFID’s locational function lets disaster managers know where each of their team members is in the field, even when visibility is minimal. For victims, first responders can issue RFID tags or bracelets with identification, health, and injury information. Those tags can be scanned by ER workers to speed triage and avoid medical errors; in some cases, patients’ electronic medical records can be automatically updated.

At its core, RFID technology integrates object information (“what”) and location information (“where”).  Each one of these RFID applications speeds up the collection and distribution of what and where information. And fast access to information is essential to good decision making in high-pressure situations like floods, wildfires, or tornadoes.

RFID will interface with other public-safety communication systems, improving vital interoperability and information flow. But its speedy and accurate delivery of information isn’t just for disaster situations. RFID is a mature, proven data technology with benefits for everyday business operations in the private sector. But if RFID can assist public safety and healthcare providers in weather disasters, you can count on it to help your organization in disaster recovery as well. Weather happens. Be ready for it!

 

Photo © Lukassek / AdobeStock

The Just-Right Redesign: Hybrid Office Adaptations

The Just-Right Redesign: Hybrid Office Adaptations

Yes, the hybrid office is here to stay, and with it comes an opportunity to do a beneficial redesign of the workplace. The soulless twentieth century “cube farms” were dehumanizing, but so were the noisy, crowded open-plan offices that replaced the cubicles. Now designers have a chance to create the perfect balance between too claustrophobic and too unstructured. With some thoughtful innovations, the hybrid office can be the happy medium, like Baby Bear’s oatmeal.

Successful hybrid offices counteract the oversharing open office by providing defined work areas for individual heads-down tasks, and for collaborative team projects. But defined, enclosed areas don’t have to make a space feel crowded. Architectural glass walls and partitions retain an open feel while mitigating the noise interference of open office plans. Additionally, they maintain separation to reduce the potential for infections.

Lockers, too, provide attractive space-defining structures that complement other design choices. Like work spaces, lockers can be reserved for use when teams are in the office, and released for others to use later. Touchless locking mechanisms enhance health protocols, too.

A hybrid redesign is about more than the physical space, of course. Emotional welfare is a significant component of the new workplace. People crave sociability, and working in an office is fundamentally a social activity. When staffers are not in the office, they become anxious about their place in the social order. Providing support for the WFH component of a hybrid office demonstrates management’s trust in employees who aren’t routinely present.

And that support is often in the form of technology. Businesses are providing electronic devices – computers, wifi, cell phones – to employees for their WFH days. Just as important are the digital data resources. Paper-intensive work is now being converted to digital formats. Document conversion, or imaging, gives staff access to information no matter where they are physically located. An additional benefit: With fewer documents to store, storage space can be converted to work spaces, without expanding the office footprint.

The Great Resignation of 2021 has spurred much soul-searching at the C-level. The conclusion of many managers: Make the office a place where people want to spend time, make WFH a valued part of the hybrid workplace, and show support by providing productivity tools. A redesign to achieve these goals is a win for workers and financial stakeholders alike.

Photo © Dariusz Jarzabek / AdobeStock

Vanishing Firearms: Not a Magic Trick.  And Not Good

Vanishing Firearms: Not a Magic Trick. And Not Good

The four branches of the military, combined, have an estimated 4.5 million firearms, according to the nonprofit independent Small Arms Survey. Of that number, approximately 1,900 vanished from military inventories between 2010 and 2019. That figure compiled in a recent Associated Press study of military inventory records and internal memos. It’s a small percentage of the total number, but as Albany County, NY, district attorney David Soares states, “One gun creates a ton of devastation,” when a missing military weapon turns up on the streets.

Some of the missing weapons have been linked to violent crimes across the U.S., from California to New York, Kentucky to the Carolinas. It’s an uncomfortable irony that missing military firearms ever become a problem for local law enforcement. And it doesn’t have to be this way. There are technology solutions: secure weapons lockers, and RFID.

Smart weapons lockers help prevent surreptitious thefts by outsiders. The AP report detailed how an unlocked door allowed intruders to steal six automatic weapons from a National Guard armory. In another case, surveillance cameras failed to record firearms thieves at a Marine base. Weapons lockers’ biometric and electronic locks limit access to the stored firearms. Only authorized personnel have access, and smart technology automatically records who accessed what, and when.

The secure chain of custody begins with weapons lockers, but it doesn’t stop there. RFID technology expands the chain of custody from the initial delivery of a firearm, into the military weapons inventory, and out into the field.

RFID excels as an asset management tool. For example, an RFID-managed armory can operate like this:

  • The manufacturer tags each weapon per the military branch’s data specifications.
  • When a shipment of RFID-tagged guns arrives at the armory, a single scan with an RFID reader captures the identifying data of every item in the entire shipment. The shipment is checked in a matter of seconds, with no manual errors.
  • Each gun is placed in a smart locker; its assigned locker number is recorded on the RFID inventory.
  • Using a hand-held RFID reader, a single scan of the weapons locker room reads every weapon in the room and updates the inventory each day.
  • When a gun is checked out or returned, the armory records the soldier’s RFID card and the gun’s RFID tag; the soldier’s ID and the weapon’s ID are automatically linked – no manual errors.

The RFID asset management system can be configured to generate alerts if inventories are not completed, or if weapons are not returned as expected, need routine maintenance, or are due for replacement.

Weapons lockers and RFID asset management remove the human-error factor from armory management. They improve security, accountability, and efficiency. Most important, they reduce the chances that military firearms will find their way the hands of bad actors.

Photo © Getmilitaryphotos / AdobeStock

Return to Work: It’s All About Options

Return to Work: It’s All About Options

“Return to work.” Many organizations are struggling to define what that will mean for physical space, for productivity, and for corporate culture in the post-pandemic world.

When office-based operations were forced to pivot to work-from-home (WFH) at the beginning of 2020, the hybrid workplace was in its infancy. It quickly became the preferred workstyle, balancing WFH and in-person office time. Offices were safer because there were fewer occupants at any given time, and social distancing was easy to maintain. WFH proved its value with increased productivity and employee satisfaction.

The hybrid office gives workers a welcome degree of flexibility they didn’t have in a traditional office setting. And yet it is an imperfect solution. Employees without assigned workspaces report feeling disconnected from the team and the organization. WFH requires technology and furnishings that may not be readily available in some workers’ homes. Less in-person time may have a negative effect on performance evaluations.

What are some of the options for space utilization and technology that will make the office workspace and the home workspace function smoothly together?

Technology options:

  • High speed internet: Many employers are paying directly for their WFH workers’ high speed internet service. It goes without saying that productivity, whether in the office or at home, relies on fast internet speeds.
  • Information accessibility: Especially in document-heavy industries, information in paper documents is less accessible than the data in digital documents. A database of searchable imaged documents provides WFH accessibility without the security risk of removing documents from the office. When workers are scheduled to be in the office, that same information is available without any time wasted searching through paper files.
  • Productivity apps: From screen-break reminders, to instant-join shortcuts for virtual meetings, a host of new apps deliver productivity support for WFH and hybrid workplaces. There’s even an app that converts WFH “virtual commute time” into an opportunity for exercise or meditation, promoting employee wellness.

Physical space options:

  • Smart lockers: Hybrid office workers arrive in the office with a lot of stuff, from laptops to lunches. Without assigned workspaces, they need secure personal storage. A smart locker gives them the storage they need, and it can be reserved remotely. An extra bonus: The customizable exteriors of lockers makes them an attractive design option.
  • Mobile furnishings: Hybrid workers often need to collaborate with different groups on different days. With no fixed “address” in the office, collaboration or heads-down work becomes simple with modular mobile workstations which the user can wheel to the appropriate location. Some of these mobile workstations fit into home-office settings, too, for use by remote workers.

Flexible work spaces and flexible schedules are intrinsic to the hybrid workplace and a successful return to work. With such an array of technology options and office space options, hybrid offices can become the perfect solution for the post-pandemic world. 

Photo © deagreez / AdobeStock