Scounting for scanners

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This article appeared in the February, 2007 issue of CRN magazine.

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Scounting for scanners
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each Scout and matched with sets of health records completed and provided by parents, as well as a more comprehensive, and private, medical database.

Such a system not only lets jamboree staff keep track of the boys and girls throughout the event, but also allows them to easily confirm identification details in the field and personal medical information such as asthma medication.

For privacy reasons, the first aid teams – which aren’t fully trained medical personnel – can’t be permitted full access to medical records, so any system the organisers adopted needed to fulfil that legal requirement without detracting from first aiders’ ability to do their jobs.

First aid records could be tagged to tell first aiders that they must inform the medical team at Bendigo Hospital of a situation before proceeding with first aid.

First aid staff would then be directly instructed by the medical team, according to the more private information held by the medical team on any particular Scout. This meant the actual medical records would not have to be seen by the first aid team, yet the Scouts would still get the most appropriate care.

The first aid team was equipped with 25 Grabba International T-3200b linear imaging bar code scanners attached to HP iPAQ hx2100 personal digital assistants (PDAs). The units could also harness the PDAs’ Wi-Fi capability to link to a central database used by the jamboree organisers.

Rothwell says the IT network had several wireless sectors running off a separate wireless backbone and a few separate networks for certain areas also.

“Hardware was provided by HP for the desktops, laptops, handhelds and a large proportion of the printing. Further support was provided by AMD with the desktops and laptops sporting their CPUs,” Rothwell says.

The technology

Microsoft donated operating system and Office licensing for the duration of the event, and security vendor Trend Micro loaned security software for the setup. Additionally, Best Practice Software provided its medical records application, which would synchronise with bar code scanning via USB attachments to medical team laptops.

According to Rothwell, about 65 desktops, 45 laptops, 25 iPAQs and numerous printers ran concurrently at Elmore for three weeks during the jamboree. IP telephony was used too as part of the overall communications setup.

The iPAQ-scanner devices were shared among 34 staff spread across the four main sites, and with teams being deployed to patrol the peripheral areas – such as ‘Bushwhacked’, a centre focused on teaching Scouts about the history associated with the Kelly gang.

Paul Ziegeler, first aid coordinator during the jamboree, describes the deployment of the new bar code identification system as very successful. “It certainly made the work of organisers and staff much easier. When I was in the first aid posts, it came in handy for checking out local Scouts’ details and making sure you had the name right and things,” he says. “And we also had a couple [of Scouts in incidents] who came up as an alert – alerts which weren’t previously known to their leaders.”

Ziegeler says some Scouts’ medical conditions had not been known to the leaders before the Scouts’ identification bar codes were scanned. That helped to treat them properly at first aid and also afterwards, for the remainder of
the jamboree.

Although none of the issues that came up proved life-threatening, it’s not hard to imagine a situation where getting such information in time could be critically important – like if a Scout turned out to have a serious allergy to penicillin.

The right direction

Ziegeler says the new technology is “a step in the right direction”.
“When we’re able to have it so that, with this technology, you can bring up a second page and bring up an injury report and it’s got the person’s name and details stored in it, that will be great.”

That next step is getting closer, and Ziegeler says those more technical have assured him it is definitely possible in the near future, by tweaking the software programming and so forth. By the next jamboree, Ziegeler hopes the system will be further developed and even more helpful.

One actual problem was with the tags themselves, which were essentially just a plastic, harder-wearing version of the wristbands you can see at any big rock festival. Scouts had to wear the same tags for the entire duration of the jamboree.

“The wristbands did tend to get screwed up a bit on Scouts’ wrists. Things were better with the name tag around their necks,” Ziegeler says.

Semi-destroyed wristbands proved tricky for the scanners to read properly. And that is despite a previous pilot of the wristbands where senior Rovers or Venturers wore the tags for weeks or months to assess their robustness over time, according to Rothwell.

The results

Yet Rothwell is very happy with the results of the deployment overall. No real glitches or hassles with the technology were experienced, although the team was rather glad it had decided to use neck tags as well as wristbands to carry the bar codes.

Linear bar code scanning of details also facilitated the use of more up-to-date, comprehensive databasing of the ‘human’ facts and figures that could be gleaned from the jamboree, he says.

Serious number-crunching was still under way at the time of going to press, but Rothwell believes the result could include all sorts of statistics that may prove invaluable by the time the next Australian jamboree rolls around.
Would he consider using the same or a similar system again?

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