Our Company Name Change

Control Solutions, Inc., parent company of PowerTrack, announced today that it will be named POSDATA Group, Inc., effective immediately. The name change is part of a re-branding initiative and corporate restructuring.

“The rebranding will allow us to better leverage our marketing efforts and create a greater impact on the market” said Jeffrey Creighton, company President.  “All parts of the business will now go to market as POSDATA Group as we emphasize our leadership position in providing a full range of transaction processing technologies.”

The automatic identification, mobile computing and wireless networking part of the company, previously doing business as Compsee, will operate now as POSDATA Group – AIDC. The PowerTrack name and brand will remain the same.

Bill McCubbins, Executive Vice President, will be responsible for managing sales of all product lines.   In addition to AIDC products, POSDATA Group markets payment systems and devices, managed services such as logistics, deployment and key injection, and mobile software solutions for field data collection.

The name change will be phased in across all aspects of the business in the relatively near future.

About POSDATA Group

POSDATA Group is a leading payment systems distributor as well as a nationwide AIDC VAR and integrator.

POSDATA Group provides AIDC, mobile computing and RF systems, labeling systems and data collection solutions for a variety of markets, including manufacturing, distribution, transportation, retail, construction and healthcare.

POSDATA Group is also the most knowledgeable and trusted distributor of payment systems and devices in the United States, with full key injection and deployment capabilities.

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A downloadable version of this press release is available here.

For inquiries, contact Mike Kapp
POSDATA Group, Inc.
1-800-852-3282
mike.kapp@posdata.com

Why The Samsung Galaxy Tablet Can’t Read Barcodes

Recently, a customer attempted to use their Samsung Galaxy Tablet 4 to read barcodes via the integrated camera.  Regardless of what we tried, the device was not able to read a standard Code 39 barcode using the ZXing barcode application which is integrated within our PowerTrack mobile software.

We reached out to ZXing support and they gave some pointers on selecting an Android device to read barcodes via the camera.   First, they indicated that they’ve had very little success in reading barcodes with Samsung Galaxy tablets.  For some, it was an issue with the camera driver.  For others, it is the lack of autofocus with the camera.  Bottom line, they said to avoid Samsung tablets if reading barcodes via the camera is a requirement.

Although ZXing did not recommend a specific manufacturer or model, they did emphasize that one of the keys to successfully reading the barcodes is that the camera must have autofocus capabilities.  There are several tablets that do meet this criteria – whether consumer-grade tablets or commercial devices from companies like Motorola or Honeywell.

We can help you with this selection.  You can also test the device yourself by downloading the free ZXing app from the Google Play Store.   It is better to test up front, before purchasing dozens or hundreds of units lacking an important capability.


About the Author

Dan Wilkerson is responsible for PowerTrack software development on the Android and iOS platforms.  Dan also provides technical leadership, architectural direction and new technology assessments for the PowerTrack team.  Dan has over 20 years of software development experience in mobile products and industrial automation.

Introducing the PowerTrack Guy

We are introducing Axel, the PowerTrack guy, to the construction world this week at the TUG Conference – The Users Group for Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Mobile devices are taking the construction industry by storm, and our new backdrop gets that point across with a single image – a big, burly construction worker using a smartphone. Some have asked if he is taking a selfie, which is all in vogue today. Clearly not – as you can see that the camera is facing away from Axel.

As the surrounding text implies, we would like to imagine that Axel has just completed entering the time for his entire crew, in addition to his material and equipment usage and production information. Now he is about to take a picture of job progress, and submit that with his daily log information.   PowerTrack will make sure the image is cataloged with the correct job for future reference.

At the end of the day, Axel knows that all of his information has been safely transferred to headquarters for the office staff to review.  He can end his day without worrying about running paper reports into the office.

Of course Axel is a fictional character, but our PowerTrack software is working every day to make this same scenario a reality for construction companies across the country.

Construction Companies Barcoding Inventories – Where to Start?

Our company has deep roots in barcoding. In fact, we were helping retailers and manufacturers with their barcoding systems long before we introduced our first mobile solution for the construction market.

It is exciting for us to now be working with so many construction companies on their barcoding needs – whether for inventories, tools or equipment. We’re finding that barcoding is especially helpful in the electrical and HVAC contractor segments, where managing parts inventories is so important.

When we help a customer with their barcoding plans, we cover the following areas:

1.  Objectives

What will be barcoded and why?  If inventory is being barcoded, when will it be scanned and for what reasons – inventory transfers, inventory consumption, cycle counting?  In order to design an effective barcoding system, it is important to know up front the expected functions of the system.

2.  Applications

Are we adding barcoding to existing (key entry) applications or will we need to design new applications that integrate the barcode scanning functions. Who will be doing the barcode scanning and what degree of mobility will they need? Will the application need to work even if there is no connectivity to the host database?

3.  Symbology

There are several different barcode standards, called symbologies, which differ primarily by the type and amount of data that they can represent. These symbologies are either linear or 2 dimensional, with the 2D codes holding much more data. We will recommend an appropriate symbology as required by the data to be encoded.

4.  Scanning Hardware

If scanning will take place at a desktop computer, we will normally recommend a cordless hand held scanner, connected via Bluetooth wireless to the computer.

For workers that require a mobile device, there are several options. In scan-intensive environments, we will either recommend a rugged Android smartphone such as the Motorola TC55 with integrated scanner, or a separate hand held scanner connected via Bluetooth when a consumer-class smartphone is being used.

For scenarios that are not scan intensive (i.e., only occasional scanning) and where the customer has chosen a consumer-class smartphone, we will design a barcode and labeling solution that will optimize the scanning experience using the smartphone’s integrated camera.

5.  Label and Printing

One of the common questions that our label experts ask is “what does the label need to do?” This question encompasses many things, such as the length of time the label must survive, environmental conditions, dimension requirements, required barcode and human readable data, type of surface that the label needs to adhere to, etc. Based on the answers to these questions, we will recommend a label material, size and adhesive combination that is best for the circumstances.

We will also recommend the appropriate barcode printer based on the type of labels to be printing and the amount of printing to be done.

As can be seen, there are quite a few considerations in designing a barcode solution. It is important to make sure that your solution provider has the expertise to design a barcode solution that is right for your situation.

Grid-Style Time Entry

Not all customers are the same, and this is certainly true when it comes to mobile timekeeping.   As time entry using smartphones continue to grow in popularity, we have found that there are some cases where a different approach may be warranted.   I am referring to a grid-style timesheet entry, which necessarily requires a larger display area than is available on a smartphone or even a mini-tablet.

The typical use-case for grid-style entry is a construction company where field supervisors are currently using a spreadsheet for crew time entry, where crew sizes are large and/or involve work on many different phases or cost codes during a shift.   This will result in supervisors entering a large amount of information each day.   By laying out employees and equipment on one axis, and the phases/cost codes on the other, the grid style provides an efficient method for entering and viewing timesheet data.

The major advantage of the new PowerTrack grid-style daily timesheet is the rapid entry of time and daily journal information; and then with just a single post, instantly creating potentially dozens of records for subsequent review and importing into the customer’s accounting/ERP system.  The PowerTrack daily timesheet software is highly configurable, will run on customers’ existing Windows PC’s/laptops and has been designed to work in a disconnected environment – where a network connection is unavailable.

How do we determine what is the best mobile timekeeping solution for a particular customer?   We accomplish this through our discovery sessions with customers, where we explore both their timekeeping requirements and IT infrastructure plans.  In these sessions, we may ask questions such as:

What is the average crew size and the variety of work on a shift?

What is the technology that crew supervisors will have at their disposal – laptops, tablets, smartphones?

What are the shortcomings of the customer’s current paper-based time entry method, and what are they looking to achieve with the new system?

With a completed discovery engagement, we will have a good understanding of the customer’s environment and can recommend a suitable path for their time entry automation and mobility requirements.   Combined with our complete line of mobile time entry software, we are then well positioned to deliver a solution that will be right for the customer.

Biometrics Going Mobile

According to a recent market research report, the global biometric reader market is expected to grow over 17% per year through 2016. Biometric readers, which recognize fingerprint, palm, face or iris scans, provide a higher level of security than other authentication methods.

Enterprises are increasingly implementing biometrics into thier workforce management solutions for access control and to eliminate both intentional and error-driven time theft, which by industry estimates amount to 1.5% to 10% of gross payroll. Biometric readers offer the only effective means of dealing with buddy-punching, the practice of one worker clocking in or out for another.

We have been implementing biometric timeclock solutions for the past ten years, working with construction companies, shipyards, and other enterprises. Of course, if you have a fixed job site, permanently mounted time clocks make very good sense. But for highly mobile workforces, a different solution was needed.

Responding to customer requests, we recently released a completely mobile biometric solution, consisting of a Windows based laptop with USB connected fingerprint reader. Now a supervisor can set up his PC anytime or anywhere, connect the reader and start clocking in his crew. No need to swipe a badge or enter an employee ID number – just have the worker touch a finger and he or she is instantly identified. The system is connected wirelessly to the PowerTrack server, where the data is consolidated and reviewed.

I think it is safe to predict that we will see more biometric solutions going mobile, as computing continues to migrate to mobile devices. It has been rumored for some time that an iPhone will be released with an integrated fingerprint reader, but it has yet to happen. As well-integrated biometric hardware solutions begin to appear for smartphones and tablets, I expect a very solid demand will appear for these types of offerings as we are already seeing with laptop based solutions.

Automating Daily Reports From The Field

Construction companies take advantage of a fast-changing technology landscape as they emerge from recession

It is no secret that the construction industry has borne the brunt of the Great Recession. After three years of dramatic declines, construction companies are working to achieve better results. Even the most myopic construction executives cannot help but notice the fast changing technology landscape. Fueled by investments in infrastructure, cellular carriers have extended their coverage areas for high-speed data services, with improvements in cost and reliability. The confluence of faster, more ubiquitous wireless networks and an increasing variety of sophisticated devices (notebooks, netbooks, pen tablets, rugged handhelds, and smartphones) has opened new opportunities for construction companies to improve operations through mobile technologies.

Many progressive construction companies have leveraged mobile technology to collect reporting data from the field. These companies seek an advantage in today’s competitive environment, using mobility to reduce costs and streamline operations. Timely information from the field allows for quicker decisions and resolution of issues.

Identify ROI Drivers

How do construction companies get started with mobility?  A starting point is to identify important ROI drivers for the business.  Most construction companies begin with a focus on time cards and other daily reports.  This includes labor, equipment usage, and production reports.   In addition to addressing the headaches of late and error-prone labor time reports, the benefits include reduced data entry staff, more accurate time and job costing, more effective equipment utilization, and a reduction of phantom payroll.  Other common targets for automation include material or inventory tracking, job progress review, tool tracking and safety reports.

Review and Compare Mobile Solutions

The next step is to review the available solutions.   Some important considerations while evaluating mobility solutions are as follows:

  • Flexibility.   If you are concerned only with time card automation, a software solution addressing just mobile time accounting may suffice.  If your ROI depends on converting many paper reports, then consider a solution that can accommodate a range of reporting, including future requirements.  Will it involve custom programming or is the software configurable to handle a variety of reports? Can changes to the software be distributed to over-the-air, or do devices need to be returned to the office for updates?

  • Disconnected Operation.  If field personnel will be operating mobile devices outside of network coverage areas, a solution that provides for local data storage and operation while devices are disconnected from the network server is needed.  This means that a syncing method to ensure that the data in the mobile device that is used for selection lists (for example, jobs and employees) is always up to date with the server will be required.

  • Quick and Easy Operation.   The mobility solution must be easy to use.  This might be accomplished through a simple “point and click” interface.  There should be filtering methods and user-manageable “crew” lists to keep selection lists short.   Network connections should be automatic involving little to no interaction from the user.Automating-Reports-Thumb

  • Support of Data Capture Features.  Make sure the mobile device and application support features such as GPS stamping, signature capture, bar coding and any specific time tracking methods that are required to meet your automation objectives.

  • Back End Functionality.  Verify that the system supports all required back end functionality, such as supervisor time record approvals, application of overtime rules, or other rules-base automation and interfacing to your accounting/ERP system for seamless data transfers.

Implementing Your Mobile Solution

The proposed solution should be documented up front so that both you and your solution provider have a common expectation.  Initial implementations should have a manageable scope in terms of the number of daily reports to be converted.   Over time, the solution can be expanded to address other field reports.  Leverage wireless technology for a competitive advantage and to position for a win in a slow growth economy.


This article first appeared in Field Technologies Online, March 2011. View Original Article.