Cook County switches to imaging system
With the implementation of the world’s largest recorder’s office imaging system, officials in Cook County, Ill., will reduce the time required to access more than 30 million inventoried documents and increase efficiency in entering the 4,000 new documents the department receives daily.
Cook County, which includes Chicago, is moving away from character-based technology to imaging technology, allowing whole images to be digitized and stored on computers. Computer-based imaging technology holds the promise of increasing organizational efficiency by speeding the rate at which records may be retrieved, reducing paperwork and storage requirements and generally maintaining the long-term integrity of data.
Cook County Recorder of Deeds Jesse White is implementing imaging as part of an integrated data communications upgrade that will feature in-house document indexing and a cash management system. The recorder’s office, which serves more than 5 million residents, will reduce the two-week time that it takes to process land records and other recorded documents with the current manual system to 48 hours. In addition, the new technology will allow the recorder’s office to perform in-house document indexing — a task that is currently outsourced — saving an estimated $2 million in taxes annually.
“Our imaging system will provide greater access to our recorded documents,” White says. “It will allow our office to manage an ever-increasing amount of current and backlogged documents and serve as an example for other counties who have the same needs.”
The introduction of the imaging system will also give White’s five satellite offices improved access to documents. Based on the planned integration with document indexing, imaging will mean documents may be retrieved quickly and easily, particularly in remote locations.
With increased access to information, county residents and businesses such as title companies and law firms will be able to conveniently call up documents from their offices with a slight link-up cost, thus producing additional revenues for the recorder’s office.
The Cook County Sheriff’s Office also is using imaging to facilitate fingerprinting, traditionally a messy process where mistakes sometimes render fingerprints unclassifiable. The sheriff’s office plans to implement live-scan fingerprinting that allows identification by rolling a person’s fingers on a glass platen for optical scanning. Fingerprints are displayed on a screen so operators can determine their acceptability, and through special programming, the computer also ensures that prints are acceptable.
The sheriff’s office also plans to use imaging technology for digitally-photographed mugshots. Fingerprints and mugshots will then be stored in a central computer system for easy recall.
Upgrading to this technology is challenging given the multiple locations and unique application requirements of the various departments and facilities. Before deciding to upgrade, the county conducted site surveys and gathered information about facilities and end-user requirements. The information indicated that the existing cable infrastructure and computer networks were strained and needed to be upgraded to accommodate the high-speed imaging technology.
The first phase of the project involves upgrading the cable infrastructure at the Cook County building and the Richard J. Daley Center. Cables, known as vertical risers, are at capacity and are unable to support high-speed data networking. To address this problem, new vertical risers will be installed in each building. Electrical wiring in the buildings will be specially designed to meet the unique needs of the tenants and departments.
The upgrade also involves wide area networks (WANs) and local area networks (LANs) designed to address specific problems that existed with numerous discrete and parallel networks being used.
The WAN upgrade began with an assessment, then specification and purchasing of equipment to make the network faster, more robust and more fault-tolerant. The plan also calls for development of network management principles and procurement of tools to help manage the network. County employees will be trained to handle the network.
The network will be comprised of several different software products, each serving different needs. Separate programs will allow communication between buildings, tracking of infrastructure hardware such as cable, telephone and network circuits, directory management to accommodate E-mail and work-order management.
This article was written by Matt Pollack, senior technical staff member, Unisource Systems, Chicago, Ill.