Nearly 140 million Americans voted in the 2016 election. While much of the attention regarding elections focuses on candidates and their platforms, the reality is that the election system itself is a robust and impressive methodology. In both function and form, the election security process starts and ends with election equipment and software.
Wireless Data Systems, Inc. (WDS) provides the unmatched, high-quality inventory management and software tracking system to some of the largest elections departments in the state of Florida. Trusting WDS with election supply chain and security means placing massive value in their ability to handle the election assets flawlessly in each stage of the process.
From election preparation to organizing field operations and securing pickup to securing media returns, relying on WDS systems and technology underlines how critical accuracy and security are in the election process. Knowing where election assets and ballots are at all times is imperative.
With this in mind, WDS has made some groundbreaking improvements and additions to our election supply chain and security, most notably:
- Allocation Module upgrades
- Quality Assurance Module
- GPS Assisted Proof of Delivery
Over the last 15 years, the modules within our system are continually updated and upgraded to meet the needs and demands of the changing elections cycles. Let’s take an in-depth look at some of our latest developments.
Allocation Module Upgrades
Built-in 2018, the WDS Allocation Module was developed to allow users to determine how many assets to allocate based upon the number of registered voters at each polling site. The original system put in place utilized mathematical formulas (managed by the user) to calculate how many of each item is needed per polling location based on the registered voter count.
Dynamic Technology Improvements
Beginning last December, the Allocation Module was given a critical upgrade to make the system dynamic – letting users add and remove assets freely. In doing so, it allows the system usability for any elections department, including addressing the early voting needs which happen separately from Election Day. Early voting is a much simpler process but still incorporates dynamic changes.
In addition, modifications to the Allocation Module include inventory validation based on the allocation and an enhanced label printing process to accommodate the ever-changing list of items.
As requirements change, new and more secure equipment becomes necessary. The objective of WDS is to provide users with the tools to grow and change without being reliant on us. Our feature-rich system allows for a seamless process before, during, and after Election Day.
Quality Assurance Module
Quality assurance is vital in virtually every industry, but when it comes to elections, this feature is indispensable. With this in mind, WDS has launched the Quality Assurance Module. Providing a list of items in need of quality assurance (QA) prior to being sent to the polling locations, these lists are created based upon the allocation needs mentioned above.
Within the process of QA, many validations occur to ensure that the right items are being scanned, packed, and prepared for the polling site. The checklist portion of the module is a dynamic feature that allows the client to add and remove checklist items as their equipment and requirements change. This feature gives our clients the necessary independence that keeps running efficiently and smoothly on their end.
In addition, the QA Module has a damaged item section, so if an item does not make it through QA, it is rejected and isolated to be addressed before being released. It is important to remember that the Quality Assurance Module works downstream from Allocation Module, meaning the Allocation Module is feeding the QA data to keep systems accurate and secure.
The main goal here is to take numbers from Allocation Module and put them in real-world format (the checklist), which allows users to scan and assign assets in the real world against the allocation. All of the WDS checklist features are customizable. With a dynamic checklist, all QA measures can be modified as the user sees fit.
The Quality Assurance Module has added a deeper and essential level of accuracy, safeguarding critical assets and ensuring a well-organized overall process.
GPS Assisted Proof of Delivery
WDS prides itself on placing a major emphasis on security, accountability, and efficiency. With this in mind, we have launched the landmark GPS Assisted Proof of Delivery. A mobile application that can be easily installed on a smartphone, the GPS Assisted Proof of Delivery serves to create unmatched tracking capabilities for all of your assets. The system comes equipped with two essential features:
- Geofence Technology
- Breadcrumb Tracking
GPS Assisted Proof of Delivery works to verify that the assets being scanned are assigned to the correct precinct.
The geofence technology is a Google Maps API where the user types the desired address into the system, saves it, and then that address is bounced against Google Maps to determine the longitude and latitude for the specific location. From there, the user can customize the specific location to an impressive degree of precision, i.e. the back of the building or a particular parking lot. Using the mobile app upon delivery, when the asset serial number scanned is outside of the geofence, an alert is sent out as an extra security measure.
The breadcrumb tracking functionality is essential to the accuracy and security of all assets. Opening the app and hitting start when a user leaves the warehouse with an asset, breadcrumb tracking is enabled. At this moment, it begins taking the GPS location of the phone every few seconds as the user drives through the city. With the intention of ensuring that the user is taking the assets to the polling site, breadcrumb tracking allows for an unmatched chain of custody where it would otherwise be unavailable.
Being able to confirm that the asset is being moved along the right route, without lengthy stops along the way, greatly reduces security concerns.
The Value of GPS Assisted Proof of Delivery
GPS Assisted Proof of Delivery sets geofences that determine the acceptable drop-off location. Once in route, breadcrumb tracking is enabled to pinpoint the exact location of critical assets (such as media, ballots, etc.) at all times. Once at the drop-off location, the application will validate that the user is within the geofence when scanning items. If outside of the geofence, a photo may be taken to compensate for GPS accuracy. In addition, there is always validation that the item was assigned to the location regardless of GPS location.
As such, geofence technology and breadcrumb tracking work in conjunction to create a uniform, fail-safe election security operation before, during, and after Election Day.
The Future of Election Security Solutions and Beyond
It is important to note that our systems do not directly interact with a voter, but they ensure that the polling sites have the right equipment. No voter data or ballot data is stored within our system, yet we are constantly aware of the physical asset security our systems are responsible for.
At WDS, we not only build adaptable applications for our clients, but we also maintain a high standard for adaptability within our company. The various systems mentioned above can easily be tweaked and modified for other industries. For example, the GPS Assisted Proof of Delivery can be utilized for any company that delivers items to their clients. They can ensure that the right item gets dropped off at the right location and we can send a notification when it is dropped off.
In addition, the Allocation Module could potentially be utilized in construction where various sized/types of jobs need varying amounts of inventory allocated to them. The Quality Assurance Module could be utilized in any manufacturing and packing operation. From technology to innovation, we continue to improve upon and develop our dynamic solutions.
Applying technology and innovation to system management means building application solutions that meet evolving needs. At WDS, we have mastered the ability to create solutions for one industry and then fine-tune those solutions to work across another industry. In doing so, we have proven time and time again that our clients benefit greatly from having our hands in developing and perfecting their hardware and software solutions.
2020 Election System Roadmap
Polling Site Reconciliation Module
Expected Completion Date: September 2020
This module is meant to further close the physical security gap within the Election Cycle. All steps occur at the polling site on Election Day, and they are done by the polling site staff. The module will allow additional validation of assets and ballots before polls open and once polls close. Both of these points in the cycle are critical security points to ensure ballots and equipment are all accounted for and have not been tampered with since being delivered.
GPS Assisted Critical Asset Retrieval on Election Night
Expected Completion Date: December 2020
Voted ballots and ballot media (thumb drives from ballot tabulators) are the most critical assets to an election operation. WDS can help ensure their security is by tracking their location while they are being driven back from the polling site. This new mobile application will have loading validation to ensure all expected ballots are loaded, and breadcrumb tracking functionality (like our GPS Assisted POD App) in order to track the user’s cell phone en route back to the collection center. Finally, it will work in conjunction with our Election Night Dashboard to provide a graphical look into where the critical assets are on Election Night.