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Municipal Housing Management using RFID and barcodes

SageData is based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada



Want a challenge? Consider how you would manage a Municipal Housing Program. Several thousand units, each with a variety white goods (stoves, refrigerators, washing machines) and HVAC equipment. Think about maintenance and repairs. Think about people moving in and moving out. Think about inspections. Think about the value of the property and equipment being managed. Think about the problem of gaining access to someone's home. Not a job for faint hearts.

SageData was approached by the management team of one such Municipality, and asked what we could to help improve operational efficiency. There were several serious challenges:
 -  From the data point of view, how to collect and maintain a massive amount of data.
 -  How to ensure data integrity.
 -  How to avoid errors at the point of collection.
 -  How to train the inspectors.
 -  How to know which data was accurate, and how old it was.
 -  How to ensure timely collection of data when required.

The Solution

Easy. We developed a system that used mobile data collectors. Each housing unit was identified with an ID tag bearing a unique barcode. Each of the white goods identified the same way. The standard BassetPro software was modified to give guidance to the inspectors, and to perform first level validation of the data collected. The camera function was set to capture images and link them to the items being inspected or to the residence. The GPS function was used to confirm the location of each unit.

The unit identification tag used was a pre-printed tag bearing only a unique identifier in barcode format. It contained no useful information until it was scanned and relevant information was added. The tags are robust, resistant to damage, and designed to be affixed to the door jamb where they are protected when the door is closed.

Barcode label

The identifiers for the white goods were smaller labels, also available in 2D format, also containing no information. They can be provided as tamper resistant, to ensure that they cannot be moved from one appliance to another. The system allows for multiple tags, so that even if one is moved, another will identify the item correctly. And items can be tracked by serial number should the Municipality ID be missing.

Maintenance and repairs can be tracked where appropriate using the Scan and Snap feature. The Scan of the ID tag ensures that the housing unit or appliance is identified correctly, the Snap allows one or more images to be captured. This can be used to capture response to a request for maintenance, as well as for providing information from routine inspections.

The system provides an accurate record of equipment in place when new tenants move in, and confirms the presence and condition of appliances and equipment when tenants move out.
Collection was simplified as the system provided guidance to those visiting the housing units. If an item was missed, the system prompted. If incorrect information was entered, the system was in most cases able to prompt for a correction.

Data was quickly and accurately captured. The systems operated autonomously when out of range of mobile coverage, and was able to transfer information quickly when communication was restored. This ensured that information was available in a timely fashion, and that it was secure from loss.


The project was interesting in that SageData was able to meet the original requirements defined by the client, but also able to add some new features which had not previously been considered. We are all about managing stuff. So we can do that. Whether that is safety equipment at a Nuclear Plant, an ingredient for a hundred gallon batches of chicken curry, or every brick and tile from a major reconstruction - the process is the same. This person confirmed that this thing was in this place at this time.
And sometimes we are able to take the good ideas from one project and project them to another apparently different application. So yes, we can track the contents and condition of several thousand housing units. But the same techniques can be used in many other applications.

Call if you think we can be of service to you and your organization. Especially if you have a difficult technical challenge.

If you found this useful, you might also want to review:

an introduction to barcode technology

an introduction to RFID

mobile data collectors

municipal housing management solution - a brief video