US: Phone: 703-953-2791
UK: Phone: 01344 292 292
Xerox, Google, and...
Because of the complexity involved with this project, Macomb
County officials agreed to an 18-month proof-of-concept, in
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A GSA Case Study: Xerox and Macomb County


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Xerox, Google, and Search Technologies helped transform the vision into reality through providing superb real estate record search capabilities and effectively combatting mortgage fraud. To read the full case study, visit

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A GSA Case Study: Xerox and Macomb County

  1. 1. US: Phone: 703-953-2791 UK: Phone: 01344 292 292 Xerox, Google, and Search Technologies helped transform the vision into reality through providing superb real estate record search capabilities and effectively combatting mortgage fraud. THE CHALLENGE Macomb County, Michigan, is one of the three counties comprising the Detroit metropolitan area. While the area is known for manufacturing, county officials are known for using technology to make their citizens’ lives easier. Back in 1996, the county partnered with Xerox to capture and index land records dating back to 1818, making Macomb the first county in Michigan with computerized land records. The system now holds roughly seven million records. Although the system worked well, an increase in mortgage fraud, nationwide, in combination with a growing local housing market, left county officials wanting more. At the time, fraudulent mortgage warehouses were on the upswing. Falsified documents, notarized by a fictitious “Linda Green” made national headlines. Yet, even the most sophisticated land record databases weren’t searchable by notary. In fact, most weren’t even searchable by anything more than the very basics. This made it more difficult for property owners and home seekers to search, yet easier for criminals to hide deceptive mortgage practices. Macomb County Clerk and Register of Deeds, Carmella Sabaugh, believed it was time for a new change. “The American Dream of homeownership was threatened by loose regulations and a lack of accountability,” Sabaugh said. “In Macomb County, Michigan we have the audacity to believe in the American Dream. So, we were willing to take bold action to make it harder to hide fraudulent mortgage practices.” Her vision, a “Super Index,” enabling constituents, corporate users, and law enforcement personnel to conduct freeform land record searches, was to make it as simple as “Googling a topic on the Intranet.” THE SOLUTION Macomb County chose Xerox, a long-time trusted partner with expertise in document processing and land records to lead the project. Xerox brought in Google, with their strong enterprise search, offering the Google Search Appliance™ and Search Technologies with their deep expertise in search solution design and integration. Together, these three companies brought this vision to life. Although the county already had images of its land records, these needed to be converted to text files via OCR, so that they could be indexed and searched by the Google Search Appliance. Each of the seven million files was converted into PDFs with embedded OCR text. These files were then processed through Search Technologies’ Aspire content processing framework to analyze, normalize, clean, and load them into a Google Search Appliance, to create the Super Index of almost 200 years of land use documents. Xerox, Google and Search Technologies researched what metadata information was needed within the index, necessary to provide the optimum search relevance. This includes, for example, a capability to identify every property for which Bob Smith is a grantee, or Mary Jones is the notary. At the time, all of the records didn’t include spouse information, so a variety of new index categories, data sources, and metadata extraction techniques were applied using Aspire, to fill these categories, both for residential research, and fraud prevention use. CASE STUDY: Macomb County wanted to make public records search and fraud detection as easy as possible
  2. 2. Because of the complexity involved with this project, Macomb County officials agreed to an 18-month proof-of-concept, in which:  Eight years’ worth of images were OCR’d and converted to PDF  An interface was designed around the standard GSA search, with the sophistication required for the “Super Index” vision  The main “search user types” were identified, and their specific needs assessed  A prototype was created for testing by various stakeholders One of the key challenges of the “Super Index” was that it had to satisfy a multitude of user types – from residents, to title companies, and from law enforcement personnel to commercial enterprises. To ensure that the resulting system fulfilled everyone’s needs, the prototype was field tested by a hand-selected group chosen by Sabaugh herself. As a result, the team gained great insight from key users, and confirmation that the project was headed down the right path. From here, the project moved to production mode, working through the nuances of emailing receipts, extracting data, and adding features such as intuitive search for practical identification of numbers, and other conveniences – all while continuing to convert the remaining electronic files to OCR PDFs. THE RESULTS The “Super Index” had a soft rollout in early 2013, with a more expansive “go live” phase during the spring. The index has already been recognized with awards and honors, and has produced the following results – even in its early stages of use:  It provides residents with much easier, online access to Macomb County land records  It provides law enforcement personnel with a tremendous tool to research and combat fraudulent activities  It gives land record professionals, title companies, and other commercial users, a versatile tool to make their jobs more efficient  It enables users to perform searches using a multitude of variables, and not just the standard fields from the original data  It improves search-time from minutes to seconds  It provides images of land records in the universal PDF format  It provides search navigation options to narrow down search results. This popular technique, used by Amazon, Ebay, and many other leading online brands, is familiar to users and highly effective The solution also uses Google Analytics™ to track system usage. By mining this data, the team can continue to optimize the system, and deliver an increasingly efficient user experience over time. Macomb County is also positioned to expand the use of the Google Search Appliance and Aspire in the future, incorporating voice searches, mobile search capabilities and Google Maps™. But, back to today, Macomb County officials are receiving accolades from users, the press, and other government entities for following a vision, and accomplishing something no similar agency had done before. “Property owners now have a tool to protect their property rights,” Sabaugh said. “With help from Xerox, Google, and Search Technologies, Macomb County is making the search for the American Dream a little easier.” About Search Technologies Leadership The largest IT service company dedicated to enterprise search implementation, consulting, and managed services Independence Working with all of the leading search software vendors and open source alternatives Experience 400+ customers and more than 50,000 consultant days of expert services delivered in the last four years alone