Tag ArchiveMobile


Managing Bulk Loans with the Pocket-PC

(For an explanation of loan delivery using the Pocket-PC look here). This article concentrates on the bulk issue of devices. Suppose for example that: Theatres request 10 T34 Syringe Drivers

It would be time-consuming to have to enter 10 individual loan delivery list items. Instead, clicking the Add Batch button on the Items tab of the Loan Delivery List property page will simplify this.


This automatically creates the following delivery list items:


The devices may be “picked” using the Pocket-PC as with any other loan and delivered in the same way.

It can also be useful to use this technique when issuing multiple devices to a single patient – just leave the model field empty and update the list manually after the batch has been added.


This adds the following items:



Managing Loans with the Pocket-PC

After a recent meeting of the Pocket-PC SIG (Special Interest Group) the process of issuing and collecting devices has been streamlined in an effort to reduce (or eliminate) paperwork. This post will deal with issuing loans. Device collection has not changed but I will post an article explaining that process shortly. Also, to stop this article from being overly long I will publish an article describing batch deliveries very soon (probably today).

In retail environments there is a separation between what is known as “picking” and delivery. Picking is the act of choosing the items to be delivered. The Pocket-PC Loan Manager application now supports both picking and delivery. When you order your groceries on-line the person who picks the items to satisfy your order is not necessarily the same person who delivers them.

The Loan Delivery List is at the heart of the Pocket-PC mechanism for issuing loans. A small library might create a single delivery list per day while larger libraries may create 1 per site, or 1 for each member of staff. The example below assumes that a small, single-site library is using a single daily delivery list.

1. Create the delivery list

This can be done daily and the list can be kept open all day with requests being added as they are received.


2. A request from a ward is received

Janet Smith has requested a T34 Syringe Driver Driver and an Argus 708 Volumetric Pump for patient John Smith in Bay C in Holly Ward. The request is logged by Zara Page, who will be delivering the devices immediately.

Aside: Some libraries do nor record patient names, just Patient No’s. In e-Quip the Requested For field is used for both, so whether your enter John Smith or 1234567 is up to you. You also have the option of recording patients using an e-Quip patient records. This tends to be done by community libraries where patient addresses are required.

a). These requests are added to the Items tab


The fields completed are:

Request Date (Ctrl+H will enter the current date & time)
Requested By
Model (mandatory)
Location (mandatory)
Requested For
Delivered By

b). The librarian then clicks the Synch to Pocket-PC button


The delivery list is saved and the following screen is displayed. This allows the user to specify a) the location of the mobile database file which will be copied to the Pocket-PC and b) the loan requests which will be copied. Note that the default is to copy only requests linked to the currently logged-in user (i.e. Zara Page)


3. The librarian then takes the Pocket-PC to the library to select (i.e. Pick) the devices

When the Loan Manager application is first run the user must select his or her name from the first screen:


All outstanding loan requests are then displayed.


The librarian must then pick individual devices for each request. To do this he simply:

a. Taps on the request

b. Scans (or types) the Equipment No (Note that a GS1 bar code can be scanned)

c. Taps Save & Close


This is repeated for each device.

4. The librarian then takes the devices to Holly Ward

Suppose that Zara hands the devices to Sarah Brown, the Ward Clerk. To deliver both devices all that is necessary is to tap any one of the open requests.

Note: tapping a loan request which has no Equipment No opens the “picking” screen while tapping a loan request with an Equipment No opens the delivery screen. The 1st tab shows the location & patient details.

a. To deliver the device(s), tap on the Delivery tab


b. Enter Sarah Brown in the Accepted By field

c. Click Sign


d. Click Accept. This closes the signature screen and sets the delivery date & time field

e. Click Deliver All – this will deliver all requests for this Location, Bed & Patient

5. The librarian returns to the library

(After possibly continuing to other locations to deliver more devices). Before returning to the library the librarian may collect devices which are no longer required. The collection process will be described in a future article.

On returning to the library the Pocket-PC can be cradled and the loan information updated. This is done using the Sync Loans from Pocket-PC application. The loan below shows one of the 2 loans delivered by Zara Page using the Pocket-PC.


The synchronisation process also updates the delivery list to show that loans have been created.



PDA App for Loan Deliveries & Collections

Loan deliveries and collections were introduced to support very busy libraries as a way of issuing & returning loans in bulk. There is a blog article about deliveries & collections here. This was a significant step in reducing the amount of paperwork shuffled by libraries, but it was only a first step. As equipment is delivered to and collected from around the hospital, library staff commonly carry both paper delivery and collection lists to record delivery & collection times, who equipment was given to etc. On returning to the library these paper lists could then be transcribed to e-Quip delivery & collection lists to open or close loans in bulk. Although the process had been simplified it still required paper.

Our new PDA application for loan deliveries & collections means that you can get rid of those paper lists.

Just like our existing PDA application (read about e-Quip for PDA  here) this application  uses a synchronisation mechanism in which data is copied from the central database to the PDA while it is docked in its cradle. The device can then be used on the move with no need for network connectivity. On returning to the library the device can be docked and the central database is synchronised with the data on the PDA. This process is called check-out and check-in.


The purpose of the check-out is to extract data from your e-Quip database and to copy part of it to a mobile database that can be copied to your mobile device. The first step is to specify where the compact database file to be used is. It’s normally in your e-Quip Install folder called eQuip.sdf.

Once you’ve selected the database file the necessary data is copied. The data copied is:

1. Equipment: All library devices

2. Models, Brands & Categories: Only for undelivered devices which are currently open delivery lists

3. Locations: All locations with the “Synch with PDA” flag set.

4. Personnel: All personnel records with a type class of Library Staff

5. Loan Delivery List Items: All undelivered line items from all open delivery lists

As soon as the data has been copied the compact database file is copied to your PDA using Active Sync or the Windows Mobile Device Centre (depending on your version of Windows). 

Note that this will overwrite any existing database file on the PDA, so make sure that you check-in first if you have been using the device.

Using the PDA Application

The application main screen shows a tabbed dialogue box with two tabs: deliveries and collections. The deliveries list shows all items that were checked out and which are awaiting delivery. The collections list is empty. This list is created as you collect equipment.

Making a Delivery

The deliveries tab shows all outstanding deliveries for all In Progress loan delivery lists. To make a delivery, double-tap the item being delivered. The delivery detail property page will open. This screen has two tabs, one for general details and one for information about who the device was given to.

In order to edit the item click the Edit button. Once you have completed your changes click Save.

Completing a delivery on the PDA is no different to using the desktop client. Click on the Save button the General tab to save the record.

Collecting a Device

Note that at the top of the collection list you can select your name. This will then be used for all future collections.

To make a new collection, on the Collections tab tap the Collect Item button. This will open the collection property page.

Completing the collection is no different to completing a collection using the desktop client.


On returning to the library and docking the PDA in its cradle, checking your deliveries in will update the appropriate delivery lists and create loans as appropriate.

When checking in collections, a new collection list is created for all of the devices collected.

What’s Next

The next step is to add signature support to the application. We’ll get this added as soon as we can (assuming that people want it).

As always, any feedback will be welcome.


e-Quip for the Pocket PC

Starting with version 2.8.0, which will be released within the next couple of weeks, e-Quip will include a Pocket PC interface. This will run on any PDA running Windows Mobile 6 or 6.5 Classic.

You might ask why we chose this particular device. We had taken the decision to support mobile devices and we decided to start with PDA’s because a) the development is within a Microsoft environment and is straightforward and well understood, and b) users with the Harland Simon Discovery RFID  asset tracking system are already using PDA’s. If our first device was an Android tablet then these guys would have to carry both a PDA and an Android. Even if you don’t plan to  use PDA’s you might still be interested in this article, as we will be using the PDA interface as the specification for the Android tablet version.

OCA’s – Occasionally Connected Applications

The first decision to take with a mobile application is whether or not the mobile device will always have a data connection available to it, or if it will only be connected to a data source infrequently. We have actually decided to adopt both, but in slightly different ways.

1. The Pocket PC interface is only connected during two phases of use: to synchronise data FROM e-Quip TO the PDA and to synchronise data FROM the PDA back TO e-Quip. When the application is in-use there is no need for a connection to be available.

2. Our Mobile Web interface will initially rely on a permanent WiFi connection. It will work on any mobile device, such as a smart phone (including i-Phone, Android & Windows Phone), or a tablet (i-Pad, Android, Windows 8 etc).

Note that the Pocket PC version will be available in a couple of weeks while development of the Mobile Web version has only just started. Eventually there will be an OCA version which will cover unconnected Androids, i-Pads etc, so by then we should have all bases covered.

Using the Pocket PC interface is a three-stage process:

1. Connect the PDA to your PC with Active Sync (or WMDC, the Windows 7 equivalent) and choose which data you want to copy to the PDA.

2. Disconnect the PDA and use it to check & edit equipment and to add and edit jobs.

3.Connect the PDA to your PC with Active Sync and synchronise your changes.

The screen captures below show the synchronisation process. Note that when you copy data from e-Quip to the PDA:

1. You can either copy all assets or just those assets in up to 5 selected locations.

2. You can optionally copy jobs

3. Only active assets are copied

4. Only uncompleted jobs are copied

Synchronise TO the PDA

Synchronising to the PDA (sometimes called “check-out”) copies data from your main SQL-Server database into a small SQL-Server CE (Compact Edition) database. This is a single file called “e-Quip.sdf”. This file is then copied to the PDA. If you don’t have your PDA with you you can do a check-out and manually copy the SDF file to the PDA later (using Active Sync).

Synchronise FROM the PDA

Synchronising from the PDA involves copying the eQuip.sdf database file from the PDA to your Windows temorary directory. The process then analyses all records from the PDA which have been modified more recently than the data in e-Quip. If the PDA version is more recent then e-Quip is updated.

The Application

The Pocket PC application is very simple. There are two screens: equipment & jobs. Both of these are based on the desktop version summary screens and include the familiar “Look For” search mechanism.

The Equipment Screen

The Equipment List

As you would expect, double-tapping on an equipment or job will open the appropriate equipment or job record. The equipment record has four tabs:

1. General

2. Dates.

3. Notes

4. Job List

The General Tab

The Dates Tab

The Notes Tab

The Jobs Tab


Note that from the General Tab you can put the record into edit mode. This allows you to edit the:




You can also create new jobs from the Jobs tab. Note that whenever you add a new job the system will generate a temporary job number, e.g. “New Job 1”. The permanent Job No will be assigned when the data is synchronised.

The Job Screen

The Job List

The job detail screen has four tabs:

1. General

2. Equipment

3. Work

4. Dates

Unlike the equipment detail screen, every field on the job screen can be edited.

The General Tab

The Equipment Tab

The Dates Tab

The Work Done Tab



The operation of Pocket PC interface is extremely simple and very easy to use. It can be useful when doing audits, especially when fitted with a barcode reader. It allows jobs to be create jobs whilst out and about around the hospital and it also allows jobs to be picked up by engineers on the move.

I should point out that this is the initial design (even though the software is ready to release and will be available from 2.8.0), but if you have any suggestions as to how this can be improved then please let us know. We will be using this interface as the specification for the Android tablet interface, so you can suggest changes even if you don’t plan to use PDA’s.

Outstanding Concerns

The technical aspects of mobile development are well-established and are not complex. However, as the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) metaphor becomes more widespread there are some concerns which need to be addressed.

1. Phones or Tablets with Cameras: Unlike Pocket PC’s Android Devices are not well-served by external hardware add-ons. Devices like barcode readers and RFID scanners for this type of device are not common. They may exist but would most likely  connect via USB and are unlikely to be as well-integrated as similar devices for PDA’s. The most common way to capture barcodes with Android devices is to use the built-in camera. What are the legal implications of hospital staff photographing equipment in close proximity to children in a children’s ward? This becomes even more important if the tablet or phone belongs to the engineer and not to the hospital.

2. Personal or Trust Smartphones: I would guess that most engineers or technicians these days would carry a smartphone with them pretty much all the time. Assuming that a WiFi connection is not available in every location within the hospital it is likely that an OCA approach will be necessary (as in our Pocket PC interface). This means that data will be copied to the phone, which raises some additional concerns. If you give all engineering staff a hospital smartphone then your policies could prevent these phones from being taken off-site, although it’s difficult to see how this could be enforced. If you do adopt this approach this also means that staff have to carry an additional phone. If you allow staff to use their own phones, then what steps can you take to ensure that no NHS data is taken off-site on an engineer’s personal phone. It would extremely difficult to enforce a policy which required all engineers to remove all NHS data from their phones before they leave each evening. It is also by no means certain whether a way of securely deleting data from smartphones is actually supported by mobile phone operating systems.

There clearly are some interesting issues which need to be thought out, but mobile computing is certainly here to stay. What we need to do is to understand exactly what services are required when working away from the workshop, and then find the best ways of making those services available on a wide range of devices in a broad spectrum of environments.