Monday, February 28, 2011

Fellowship One Mobile Check-in

Our church uses the Fellowship One Church Management Software (ChMS) for many things, but for this article we will focus on its capability to check in children for safety and security, and check in students and adults to provide name tags and note attendance.

Fellowship One Check-In is currently an Internet-connected Windows application which operates at 800x600 resolution and works well with a touchscreen display. It can operate in both assisted and self check-in modes. Optionally, rapid identification can be obtained through assignment of a barcode or using biometrics.

While a traditional kiosk or wall-mounted PC works well in many cases, we've considered a mobile check-in solution which could help in some of the following scenarios:
  • Check-in at temporary or remote locations where a fixed solution would be difficult to transport, or where power or network jacks are not present.
  • Outdoor check-in, such as for people going to portable buildings or perhaps during golf cart rides in a large parking lot.
  • Augmenting self check-in kiosks for those requiring assistance without having to send people to a fixed location.
  • Enabling a check-in volunteer to seek out attendees, such as to find people who did not register for an event or do not have a name tag.
When we initially considered mobile check-in, tablet PCs were expensive and finicky. Then the iPad was introduced, which provides a good form factor and battery life at a reasonable price. However, because Fellowship One Check-In has neither a native iOS check-in app nor a published check-in API, iPad solutions currently require remote desktop software, terminal services infrastructure, and more technical volunteers to operate. If and when native iOS check-in is developed, I expect it to quickly become the touch-screen platform of choice for check-in due to its low price point and inherent mobility.

With the advent of the HP Slate 500 Tablet PC, we finally have a very mobile Windows tablet PC that works well within the software's constraints. Combined with a wireless Internet connection, a mobile Zebra printer, and optionally with a Bluetooth barcode scanner, we can now provide a relatively lightweight solution with no wires and full mobility. But be warned—you may win a geek award walking around with a printer strapped to your waist.



Solution as Tested
  1. HP Slate 500 Tablet PC - $799.00
  2. Zebra QL 320 Plus WiFi mobile printer (P/N Q3D-LUGA0000-00) - $922.30, Li-Ion running charger - $186.70, 3"x2" labels - $3.38, and optional desktop stand - $34.00
  3. Koamtac KDC200i Bluetooth barcode scanner - $399.00
Zebra QL 320 Plus, HP Slate 500 Tablet PC, KDC200i barcode reader
Notes
  • You'll need to download Zebra's Label Vista software to configure the QL 320 Plus for wireless operation and then the Zebra Designer driver to print. If you don't already have access to a USB Mini-B (5-pin) to USB Type A Male cable, you'll need to buy one for this initial configuration. I also had to call Zebra support to obtain instructions to configure the printer for Gap Print and ZPL mode.
  • The QL 320 Plus printer is offered with no wireless (USB/serial only), 802.11b/g WiFi, and Bluetooth versions. I chose the 802.11b/g model of the QL 320 Plus printer and can also confirm that it works fine connected by USB. Theoretically, I would expect the Bluetooth version to also work but have not tested it.
  • You can use a USB or Bluetooth keyboard and mouse with the HP Slate if that makes it easier to perform the initial configuration.
  • Since the HP Slate's screen resolution is 1024x600 and the check-in application's resolution is 800x600, the combination works best if you move the Windows 7 taskbar to the right side of the screen, as shown above. You can also use the extra screen real estate on the right for frequently accessed icons if necessary.
  • The HP Slate has auto screen rotation that switches from landscape to portrait mode as necessary. However, the check-in application needs landscape mode. Fortunately, the HP Slate's sliding power button also provides a rotation lock position, so you will want to lock the rotation after turning it on.
Issues
  • At first, the printer would print one label with several blank labels between. Zebra Support helped reconfigure the printer correctly; see my blog post to save yourself the phone call and trouble.
  • The QL 320 Plus has a printable width of 2.9 inches, which is wide enough to print the entire label. However, the Fellowship One Check-in application indents the left margin slightly, which causes the right margin to get cut off slightly, affecting the far right portion of the church logo. This issue is not severe for adult check-in, but it cuts off about 2/3 of the third digit on the security code, so we do need the Fellowship Tech team's help to eliminate the extra margin when printing to these printers.
Alternatives
  • See Matt's Sea of Geek blog post on a Check-in a Box for a solution using Dell Inspiron Duos and desktop Zebra label printers.
  • Other Windows tablet computers are starting to become available. 
  • There are also less expensive Bluetooth barcode scanners if small size is not as important.

    15 comments:

    1. What labels are you using for your ql320?

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      Replies
      1. Hi Brad,

        I initially purchased P/N 10001962 from Zebra Printer Supplies: http://www.zpsstore.com/10001962-Zebra-3x2-Z-Select-4000D-p/10001962.htm. But since then, I found that I can also get these labels from Dan Bailey at POS Computer Corp, which is where we get labels for our desktop printers: http://www.poscomputercorp.com/fellowshiptech.htm.

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    2. Have you seen a fix for the cutting off of the label. Our church loves this solution but just curious if you have gotten a fix for that?

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    3. Jonathan, I found your blog while searching for a mobile option for my church's check-in system. Curious if you think the Zebra QL 420 Plus (with wireless) would be a better printer option? I believe it has a print width of 3.9". Thoughts on this printer combined with an HP Slate?

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      Replies
      1. The Zebra QL 420 Plus is a bigger printer, and the QL 320 Plus is already pretty big to wear around your waist or with a strap. So I would only look at the QL 420 Plus if the label size required the larger printer.

        I would also now consider Windows 8 tablets like the HP ElitePad 900, the Dell Latitude 10, or the Microsoft Surface Pro in my evaluation.

        Our church decided to just place wall-mounted check-in kiosks strategically around the campus instead of pursuing mobile check-in. But I realize there is still a use case where mobile check-in is worth pursuing! Best wishes to you.

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      2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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      3. Hi Jonathan, why is it that you went to the wall mounted ones, instead of the mobile ones. We are in the process of wanting to go more mobile. Also, were they able to correct that width problem with the printers so that the security number doesn't get cut off?

        Thanks,
        Carrie
        carrie.swift@cornerstonechandler.com

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    4. One more question. Do you still happen to have the two files you reference in your other blog post regarding configuring the Zebra printers for the gap printing and the ZPL language? That's all I'm missing to make this happen! Thanks.

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    5. I can't seem to find any support for Windows 8 and the F1 Checkin software. Have you tried it on Windows 8 yet? We are looking at getting tablets as well but they all come with Windows 8 (or RT). I've seen the HP Slate for sale on some website but would rather go to one of the newer tablets at the same price or even cheaper.

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    6. Trevor, we're actually just getting ready to roll this out and our F1 rep tells us that they're going to be announcing compatibility with Windows 8 soon. They're not ready to call Windows 8 RT compatible yet though, so use that at your own risk I guess. We're going with a Lenovo Windows 8 Pro tablet and the QL-420 printer. I asked him to "approve" the tablet, and he said it would work.

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    7. Thanks Jon. We are planning on sharing our Zebra printers, the only problem for us is we use the M2SYS M2-S Finger print scanners and there is no support for Windows 8 at this time. So the tablets may just be assisted check-in stations for now while our windows XP/7 machines go full time with finger print self check-in.

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    8. Hey Jon,

      Sorry to bug you about this but I am ready to purchase mobile printers and tablets for using F1 for our children's check in. What is best to buy now in 2014 for a tablet and mobile printer?
      any advice would be appreciated as it seems like F1 doesn't update it's blogs very much.
      Thanks in advance,
      Shawna Lester
      Connexus Community Church
      Barrie, Ontario Canada

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    9. Are you aware of anyone using any other printers such as brother or dymo for the labels

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      Replies
      1. Hi Annabel,

        I'm sorry--I have not been in this space for a while, so I don't know if anyone else has good mobile label printers. I would most trust Zebra. If you are talking about non-mobile label printers, there is another good option from Godex; talk to Dan Bailey: http://www.poscomputercorp.com/fellowshiptech.htm.

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    10. It was really a nice experience to be on your blog. Thanks for sharing about the adhesive label printers which are very useful product. Click on adhesive label printers Australia to know more about.

      ReplyDelete