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Innovations in Mobile Data Capture Drives Efficiencies for Field Personnel

County Assessors Office and Judicial Circuit Court Using Digital Pen and Paper
 
By Drew Barrow,
Contributing Editor
 
The Lake County (IL) 19th Judicial Circuit Court and the Hillsborough County (FL) Property Appraisers office have a lot in common. They’re each utilizing an innovative digital data collection procedure that’s driving greater efficiencies for their field personnel by eliminating piles of paper and ensuring a higher level of error-free input. 
 
Rover Technology Fusions (RTF), a full service technology solutions provider headquartered in Tampa, FL, is the driving force behind the solutions for both entities. It provides digital pen and paper technology from Anoto, a Swedish company, that’s been heartily embraced by users not only because of its simplicity, but also for its elimination of paper overloads, the potential for error and the ability to deliver information in real or near time.
 
Anoto pioneered digital pen and paper technology and provides licenses to a global network of more than 250 companies, including RTF, which integrates the technology into business critical solutions across a wide spectrum of industries. 
 
The Rover INK solution being utilized by Lake and Hillsborough Counties consists of a digital pen, with the same look and feel as a normal pen except that onboard is a tiny camera which records pen strokes and stores content which can be conveyed back to a central location via a USB cable connected to a PC or lap top, or wirelessly, via a Bluetooth device. The pen strokes that are captured are those written on forms comprised of customized and specially coded paper.   Users fill out their paperwork, like they would normally do. The pen records movement in relation to its position on the page. And a faint dot pattern stores the information as a series of map coordinates. When the completed form has been delivered to a main location, it becomes available either as raw data or as an identical image of the original document.  
 
 According to Simon Morgan, RTF general manager, “….mobile data capture un-tethers people from their desks and gives them the opportunity to deliver information back to the front office immediately, often cutting information reporting times from weeks to hours.”
 
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Pre-Trial Interviews Made Simple
 
At the LakeCounty 19th Judicial Circuit Court, five pre-trial officers and two administrative staff members prepare information for judges who determine whether or not persons may be released from jail on bail. The officers interview inmates in small 3 foot by 3 foot booths with no desks. Prior to using the Rover Ink technology, Officers had to interview and handwrite information on a four page pre-trial bond report, return to their work areas, quickly verify as much information as possible, and assemble handwritten notes into a report which would be delivered to the judge. 
 
Today Pretrial Officers take the digital pen and custom-designed form into the interview and select options from boxes or simply check an entry vs. handwriting each one. Returning to the workplaces, the pens are docked and information collected is automatically populated into typed templates that are verified by the Officers, printed and sent to the appropriate judge. 
 
Meeting the challenges it set out to overcome, Lake County pre-trial officers now have access to any report based on the case number as a result of the interview information stored in a computer database, set up to interface with any future court IT systems. Rather than being hand-delivered, the reports are now sent to judges electronically in a consistent format. 
 
According to Morgan, “the Circuit Court was looking for a centralized model to streamline their workflow and they looked to us for a solution that’s working even better than expected.”
 
Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Gains Efficiencies
 
The Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s (HCPA) office has a reputation for tackling challenges with technology. As the largest county on the west coast of Florida, HCPA, was challenged by a real estate boom which began in 2006. The County experienced considerable growth with the number of parcels rising from about 400,000 to 550,000 in just a couple of years. The boom, combined with the need for a reappraisal every three years and a thorough reappraisal every seven years, caused the County to look for ways to cut time, paperwork and cost for their field personnel.
 
To enhance the collection of field data and meet tax roll requirements, the department implemented Rover INK. “Since the launch, the processing time for site review inspection has been greatly enhanced by eliminating a full step of data input back at the home office,” says Morgan.
 
The HCPA estimates the markets for individual parcels, including residential, agricultural and multifamily, commercial, industrial, as well as thousand of personal property accounts. Field staff previously completed appraisals using paper forms, which were fairly complex, including information comment fields that had to be hand-written. Those paper forms were hand delivered to the office where data was keyed into the Software Techniques Inc. (STI) Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal (CAMA) system. Questions on inaccurate data or missing fields were put aside for later verification.
 
Using Rover INK technology, appraisers now use the digital pen and a specially designed form. When the appraisal has been completed, the information is sent to the home office, where information is verified using strict business rules, freeing up the data entry staff from manual keying of information. Once the information is verified, it’s sent to the CAMA system for processing to the tax roles.
 
“HCPA has literally reduced the amount it took for entry into the system from days to minutes,” says Morgan. “Staff that had been burdened by the job of manual entry have been able to be reallocated to other areas of the organization where they can make a more significant contribution.”
 
Like Lake County, Hillsborough County has been able to meet and/or exceed its expectations utilizing the digital pen and paper technology. One of the key aspects of the success of the implementations on a personal level is that unlike some technological innovations that are resisted by staff, the digital pen and paper provides familiar usage. Field staff are still using pen and paper like they used to so there’s very little learning curve and the results take a tremendous burden off both the field and the home office.
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