City of Philadelphia Department of Elections.


CDW and Zebra


Transform the painstaking pen-and- paper method of tracking voting equipment, accessories and ballots (materials) to minimize inefficiencies in election logistics and gain real-time insight of materials returns.


Zebra MC3330 Mobile RFID Scanners, Zebra FX9600 Fixed RFID Readers, InThing’s Voting Equipment Tracking Software (VETS)


Provide city staff and public safety partners with real-time location updates for each item, which is highly valuable during the hectic returns process. Items such as media sticks or poll books that are incorrectly placed are flagged, something the old method couldn’t catch until much later.

The 'old way' of tracking voting equipment

The way voters cast their votes has changed over time due to factors like technology, complexity and the recent pandemic. But one constant in the election process is the importance of accuracy and security. According to the Office of the Philadelphia City Commissioners, more than one million people are registered to vote in the city of Philadelphia alone. This creates the potential for a hectic election night for officials as they gather ballots and other materials after the polls have closed.

Existing Challenges

♦ Before the November 2019 general election, the Philadelphia Department of Elections relied primarily on pen and paper to track the deployment and return of high priority voting equipment and materials, including ballots.

♦ Police officers and other poll officials were expected to file time-consuming paperwork as bags of ballots and other sensitive materials were passed along, and eventually returned to the proper officials, creating concerns for chain of custody.

♦ Bottlenecks in kitting, auditing, distributing, tracking and gathering voting materials and maintaining the chain of custody of voting equipment were challenges that were slowing down the electoral system.

Intervention of VETS

♦ InThing Voting Equipment Tracking Solution (VETS) was introduced as a way to solve existing challenges which were no more working.

♦ With the purpose of having the best of the best for its highly contested elections, Philadelphia city needed a secure, intuitive, off-the-shelf solution, robust enough to support their mission-critical operations with minimal user training.

♦ Running on the Government Cloud which provided the necessary security layer that the City needed, VETS has the Chain of Custody Control, Precinct-based Kitting, Voting Kit Audit, Delivery Validation, Automated Receiving, Real-Time Reporting and Exception Handling built into the system for rapid deployment within days.

Transformation of election logistics

♦ Philadelphia first used the Zebra-InThing solution in November 2020 for managing 3,500 voting machines across 720 polling locations. The City had tagged about 1,700 items and managed its chain of custody from the initial audit at the warehouse to the final reconciliation post- elections using the system.

♦ During the most recent election cycle in November 2021, the City scaled up its solution to include about 17,000 items, more locations and tighter control on the movement of materials.

♦ InThing’s VETS provides real-time inventory data and audits the contents of the voting machines. Police officers and City officials use InThing’s software loaded on the MC3300R RFID handheld scanner to confirm what they have in their possession without tampering with the seal, making it easier, error-proof and much faster than their former manual approach.

How InThing VETS + RFID readers work

➤ Preparations begin months before the election day. Voting machines, poll books and other materials are tagged and inventoried at the warehouse before they are delivered to the polling centers.

➤ Once the polls close,the bags containing results media are sealed and the police officers pick up the bags and the supporting election accessories to drop them off at pre-designated locations. They perform a spot-inventory of the materials inside sealed bags, without tampering with the seal, both at the pick-up and drop-off points using the Zebra handheld RFID scanners running Visium Mobile software. This enables the Department of Elections to create a tamper-proof digital chain of custody and protect election integrity.

➤ At the warehouse, InThing’s Trapeze software monitors the movement of the voting equipment and supporting accessories as they pass through portals created with Zebra’s fixed RFID readers. Each portal inventories the inbound material, audits for left-behind items and updates the location of the materials which is then reviewed before they leave the warehouse.

➤ By using VETS along with the Zebra RFID infrastructure, the City has real-time and automated information of what and when materials were returned, and if there are any missing items. They also know when and where the item went missing. This reduces the chaos in locating the missing items significantly.

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