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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

How the Military is Helping Civilian Facilities Manage Return to the Office

How the Military is Helping Civilian Facilities Manage Return to the Office

The military has often been a testing ground for advanced technology which later makes its way into civilian life. Even civilian-developed products initially used on a small scale have been widely expanded by military usage: canned foods (Civil War), nylon and penicillin (WWII), and the annoying but popular camera drone (Iraq/Afghanistan). Today’s consumers are the beneficiaries of the military’s creation or adoption of these and many other products.

As reported in “Defense Systems,” now it’s RFID’s turn to have the armed forces amplify the use of RFID asset management capacity. And hybrid-office facilities managers are benefiting from the military’s example.

The covid pandemic forced military installations into a remote-work crisis, just as it did civilian offices. On-site personnel were re-assigned as WFH workers, and office technology assets (tablets, laptops, etc.) went with them. The military already used RFID extensively for personnel credentialling and inventory management. It was a simple matter to add RFID tags to e-tech assets. The existing RFID system updated equipment’s status as it was checked out for WFH.

And as personnel began to return to the workplace, RFID continued to track the e-tech assets in the military’s new hybrid-work format of flexible schedules and hot-desking.

It wasn’t enough to know that a particular laptop, for example, was in the building; it was important to know which room it was in, whether it was operational, and when its last service had taken place. Doorway readers captured assets’ movements in and out of a building. Within a building, handheld mobile readers quickly read an entire room of equipment to locate a specific unit.

Savvy civilian facilities managers have already been using RFID to track furnishings and large equipment within their buildings. The hybrid office has added a new dimension to asset tracking, as electronics and documents move back and forth between on-site and off-site offices. Lost electronic equipment adds up, and lost documents can cost even more if the data they contain cannot be replicated.

But the additional asset tracking doesn’t have to be a burden to facilities managers. Lose the paper-and-pencil check-out system, add RFID tags to your hybrid-office assets, and let an accurate, fast RFID system keep track of them.

Photo © Pixel-Shot / AdobeStock

 

Image a Document, Honor a Vet: The National Archives

Image a Document, Honor a Vet: The National Archives

It’s customary to thank vets and active military for their service. Now everyone has an opportunity to put those thanks into action via the National Archives’ Citizen Scanning project.

The Archives are enlisting citizens across the country to assist with the colossal task of scanning and tagging the military-related paper documents stored in the Archives. Volunteers in the D.C. area can review and scan documents in person in the National Archives Innovation Hub. Those outside the area can participate remotely as online taggers adding searchable metadata tags to newly-scanned documents.

Documents to be scanned in person come from four categories of military records:

  • Compiled Military Service Records, after the Revolutionary War to the Philippine Insurrection.
  • Military Pension Files, including affidavits, medical records, and marriage records, from 1783 to 1903.
  • Bounty Land Records, including applications, supporting documents, and land grants, from 1790 to 1855.
  • Medical Records, including hospital records and reports of medical treatment in military service or military hospitals, after the Revolutionary War through 1912.

Tagging and transcription projects, for remote volunteers anywhere across America, are divided into wide-ranging categories of military history, including:

  • Indian Scout pension files
  • Buffalo Soldiers pension files
  • 20th Maine Infantry Regiment Civil War military service records
  • Escape and Evasion Reports from escaped American POWs

Accessibility and security are two reasons the National Archives is undertaking this enormous document imaging project. Scholars, students, and the general public can now access this wealth of information online, remotely. Moreover, the fragile one-of-a-kind original documents are digitally preserved, safe from fire, floods, and pilferage.

These benefits are two of the great strengths of imaging. Imaged documents become instantly available to remote workers – your organization’s team members who are continuing to work from home, for example. Businesses operate with better speed and efficiency when information is readily available to the entire team.

And imaged documents are protected from disasters of every kind. While your business documents may not have the same antiquity as those in the Archives, they are every bit as important to the management of your organization.

Check out the National Archives’ Citizen Missions. You’ll get a better appreciation of the benefits of document imaging, and you’ll have an opportunity to show your thanks to the veterans who helped keep this country safe.

Photo © tab62 / 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

3 Ways You Could Be Missing Out on RFID’s Benefits

3 Ways You Could Be Missing Out on RFID’s Benefits

The benefits of digital asset management (DAM), including RFID, are a hot topic these days. RFID applications are available for any sort of business. But owners and managers of organizations in the service sectors, from finance and law to healthcare and education, may think RFID is just an inventory tool for the retail and logistics sectors.

If you think your enterprise couldn’t benefit from RFID, think again.

  1. Asset Tracking – Ever notice how there are never enough chairs in the conference room? Furniture, laptops, and other work tools have a way of wandering from their assigned locations. RFID tags keep tabs on the location of these peripatetic items, as well as providing information on their age and condition. Office and facility managers can easily identify aging furnishings that need repairs or replacement, and pinpoint the location of every physical asset. Plus when inventory time comes, the RFID system can deliver a document listing the assigned value of each item currently in the facility, making financial reporting quicker and simpler. What is does it cost your business to update capital inventory records by hand?
  2. Personnel Tracking – In busy public settings like hospitals or schools, knowing the location of key personnel can save time, or even save a life. RFID-enabled personnel badges keep track of people’s movements and current whereabouts so no time is wasted when someone is urgently needed. RFID personnel badges work with an institution’s security system to manage access to restricted areas and maintain safety. And in emergency situations, an RFID system can tell first responders who is inside and where they are. What is the dollar value of RFID-managed security and safety?
  3. Document Tracking – We always advocate converting paper documents to digital documents via a well-planned imaging program; imaged documents are secure, shareable with teams, and save the real estate costs of large file rooms. But in many offices there are documents that need to be retained as paper even if they have been imaged. Paper files are easy to lose or misplace (one of the advantages of imaging), but with the addition of small, inconspicuous RFID tags, the location of a file can be tracked throughout an office. Doorway RFID readers monitor the movement of files from one room to another, and files can be located with a quick look at the tracking record. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates an average of 25 extra hours to recreate a lost document; how much would that cost your business?

Keep in mind that RFID, unlike bar codes, doesn’t require direct sight lines to record and track business assets carrying RFID tags. Once items or personnel are assigned their unique RFID tag, doorway readers track their movements automatically as they pass from one room to another. And inventory updates can be as simple as walking into a room and pressing a button on an RFID reader. You’ll instantly collect data on all the capital assets the room contains; no need to look through cabinets and underneath furniture to read bar code IDs. RFID is a timesaver, and like its other benefits, that translates into money.

RFID systems come in many shapes and sizes, and can be scaled up or down to suit your organization’s needs. When you start adding up the costs of lost documents, lost equipment, and lost time, it’s clear that you shouldn’t miss out on the benefits of RFID.

Photo © virojt / AdobeStock

Built For First Responders: The Station Design Awards

Built For First Responders: The Station Design Awards

The Oscars and the Emmys may be better known, but the Station Design Awards, honoring outstanding fire station design, have a much more direct effect on communities across America. When fire stations are designed to support first responders’ wellbeing, communities benefit from better firefighting and EMT service. And when stations are designed to encourage interaction with the community, everyone benefits from better fire prevention awareness and involvement.

Fire stations present some unique design challenges, including:

  • equipment contaminated by hazardous materials encountered in fires
  • engines’ carbon monoxide exhaust intruding into fire station living areas
  • common areas that allow for multiple activities without noise or space conflicts
  • secure storage for bulky “turnout” protective gear, uniforms, and personal items
  • sleeping areas that promote good sleep habits for high-functioning first responders

Last year’s award winners came from all parts of the U.S., from Washington State to Texas to Ohio to South Carolina. The judges looked particularly at zone designs (separating contaminated “hot” zones from the “cold” zone of living areas); sleeping areas that balanced isolation against privacy needs; and fire station building security. In stations where interactions with the public are common, and even encouraged, any access to administrative and living areas still has to be controlled. Equipment, turnout gear, and firefighters’ personal property must be stored safely in cages and lockers.

Writing in Firehouse.com, Janet Wilmoth reviewed station design trends reported by architects involved in station design. In addition to green design and LEED certification, these design professionals are seeing more indoor recreation spaces – which help reduce stress and build camaraderie – and the addition of community rooms and small walk-in clinics which improve outreach to the neighborhoods served by these fire stations.

This year’s Station Design Awards will be announced in November. Best of luck to all the entrants, along with thanks to first responders everywhere for their service.

 

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