Out With The Old In With The New
A client came to us looking for a solution for an aging barcode scanning system. This system was comprised of 16 scanners, all connected through a COM port interface. These devices were very old which made them difficult to replace when they broke down. Also, due to the use of COM technology, the cables used could not go through a network switch. This was a major issue as the network spans multiple buildings and some cable runs span hundreds of feet. Therefore when a cable went bad, it was an extensive undertaking to replace it.
After reviewing the requirements we decided to recommend using thin clients, USB wedge barcode scanners, and the SRP DirectConnect control. Let me explain each of these items more in depth and explain why we came to this conclusion.
Thin clients are often the computer of choice for many of our users who need to have a workstation in a location that does not have enough space for a full sized desktop. The thin client devices we used in this project are Linux OS based and are able to stream a Terminal Server session directly from the server. This provides all the advantages of a terminal server session, but in a cost effective and easy to manage package.
Barcode scanners can be expensive, but in this situation all we need is an inexpensive USB wedge barcode scanner. This replaced the keyboard and mouse since all the user needs to be able to do is scan barcodes and see the resulting data on the monitor.
The SRP DirectConnect control is the heart of this project. This control allows us to broadcast a payload of data out to the network to be received by other SRP DirectConnect controls. Since there are multiple workstations with the SRP DirectConnect control listening for these broadcasts, we created a basic wrapper around our data payload to ensure it goes to/from the correct machine. This is as simple as populating a “To” and “From” variable with the machine names. This allows the server to see which machine sent the scanned data and then respond back to that machine accordingly.
So now when a user scans a barcode at one of these workstations, the SRP DirectConnect control pushes this data through the network to the server. The server reads the management wrapper and processes the payload accordingly. It replies back to the workstation that sent the scan with the status of a job, inventory amount, or any other process the system is designed to handle. All of this happening in a blink of an eye.
One of the biggest advantages of this upgrade is that it allows for expandability and improvement where the previous devices had reached their end of life. We are no longer constrained by the limitations of COM port technology. As the company grows and additional workstations are needed, all they have to do is simply add another thin client to the network. This also proved to be a satisfying project as it demonstrated a use for the SRP DirectConnect control that was unforeseen when this rather simple, but very useful, communication utility was added to the SRP product catalog.