Magazine Article | January 28, 2013

Rugged Tablets Enable Real-Time Reporting

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

By Field Technologies magazine

With paper-based processes, the task of submitting reports to the Wyoming Department of Health by EMS workers could run months behind. This was due to chasing down the reporters or taking time to decipher the handwriting in the reports. “The system was a nightmare because piles of paper were taking up most of the EMT workers’ time,” according to Jay Ostby, Financial Statistical Specialist with the Office of Emergency Medical Services, a division of the Wyoming Department of Health.

Tablets Replace Pen And Paper
The department decided to convert its pen and paper data to a real-time data capture model built on rugged computers that would be able to withstand the wear and tear of daily use and cleaning. Wyoming EMS chose to use the Smart Client EMS system, which is an internet-based software solution. The department then considered what type of computer to implement along with the chosen software. A specific list of criteria was determined: high durability, the ability to fully clean the unit after each use, and something that would function in an ambulance. A tablet computer was determined to be the best form factor. Ostby narrowed the department’s selection to two tablets, one of which was the Xplore iX104C3. “We did one test with the older Xplore iX104C2, and it was superior to any other device we had seen. We decided to move forward with using the units in five test sites.”

Ultimately, the successful testing prompted the department to use the Xplore rugged tablets department- wide. At this point, more than half of the vehicles in the Wyoming EMS fleet have been equipped with the rugged tablet computers.

The integrated system of filing reports electronically from the field has reduced the department’s reporting time significantly. Rather than wait months, reports are now sent immediately as they are processed onsite. Further, issues of cross contamination that the department had faced have been reduced with the use of the Xplore rugged tablets.

Mobile Data Collection Transforms Ferry Operation

Paper tickets created inefficiencies for FRS, a ferry operator based in Northern Germany, which operates two vessels — a high-speed catamaran with 579 seats and a traditional ferry with a 1,000 passenger capacity. Martin Borus, an IT expert at FRS, was unhappy with ticket operations, because they did not provide timely information to the company, and reselling unredeemed tickets was costly. Under the paper ticket system, tickets were torn and collected as passengers boarded the vessel. The collected stubs were then taken to an office for scanning, often days later.

Borus wanted a new system that would speed up the boarding process, allow seamless online ticketing, and improve the quality of data collection. Borus started looking for a handheld computer rugged enough for use on the vessels.

During FRS’ winter off-season, Borus and his IT team wrote the software to enable their initiative. They then developed a list of features their computer of choice would need to operate under outdoor conditions. After seeing a video of Trimble’s Nomad operate after being submerged in water, the IT team agreed that the Nomad was its computer of choice.

FRS now loads pre-approved passenger lists onto the computer for each departure. The lists, generated from ticket sales, are transferred to the Nomad via a mobile phone card that contains barcodes and cancelled ticket numbers. During ticket scanning, the crew uses the Nomad to determine if a scanned ticket is valid. The operator can then either accept the ticket or query the online system for status of the ticket.

With the Nomad, FRS is confident the computer and barcode scanner will work in any condition — including rain or direct sunlight. The Nomad’s integrated 3G EDGE WWAN is synced with the latest ticket information upon arrival at port, and has worked even where reception was spotty. The new software solution and the Trimble Nomad have saved FRS both time and money. The ticket validation process is faster, and employees are more productive.