Check-in a Box

Finally!  It has been so awesome to see one of our BIG ideas come to reality.  It was a lot of work, but well worth it.  I am very pleased to introduce you to Check-in a Box.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, Check-in a Box is our mobile solution for checking kids into Sunday school.  We just opened a new campus at our church that has to be completely set up and torn down each Sunday.  We wanted a solution for our Fellowship One (Our CHMS (Church Management Software) that has a native application used for keeping attendance and managing volunteers) check-in stations that would be easy to set up and tear down while at the same time have a minimal amount of points of failure.  We initially looked at all-in-one desktops with touch screens, but it just didnt’ flow well with the building we were in.  Using iPads had intrigued us for some time, but the truth is, as much as I love the iPad, the back side of the set up was too complicated and came with too many points of failure.  Then we read about the Dell Inspiron Duo.  Instead of me writing about it, watch this:

So here’s the breakdown of what’s in the box:

4 Dell Inspiron Duo’s (we stripped a ton of pre-installed apps off of these guys, so they are running very smooth)

  • Intel N550 Dual Core, 1.5GHz, 2 x 512K L2 Cache
  • 2GB,DDR3,1333MHz, Runs at 800MHz
  • 10.1 in W 16:9 RGBW HD, Multi-touch, 1.3M Webcam (1366×768)
  • 320G, 2.5inch, 7200RPM SATA Hard Drive
  • Windows 7 Home Premium
  • 29WHr Lithium-Ion Battery (4-cell)

4 Zebra TLP 2884-Z Label Printers

Zebra PS4000 Wireless Print Server

Belkin Wireless Router

The PS4000 was easy to come by, but the management port cable (Serial to RJ45, apparently a very specific type BL17502-2) wasn’t easy to find.  We ended up finding the cable at Barcodediscount.com (Item: Zebra AK18350-1
Cable Kit for PS4000, DNLD Shield, DB-9 ).  Once the correct cable was obtained the server was very easy to set up.

Each of the Duo’s is mapped to all 4 printers, with each tablet having a different default.  The printers have the same IP address, but with different ports (all of which are tweakable via the console port software for the server).

Update: We’ve added a new feature to Check-in a Box.

Please comment with any questions you have and I will update the post with more info if requested.

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45 Responses to Check-in a Box

  1. Justin Moore says:

    If you have the ability to map out the pins of the cable, it’s pretty easy to make a custom RJ-45 to DB9 cable. However, I really wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a standard Cisco-style “rollover” cable.

  2. Marvin says:

    Just saying way to go! It was fun to help you with this project. I am very impressed how you stepped up to the plate to make it happen! Great job!

  3. Christiaan says:

    Love the set up. Only question: where does the children’s team “park” the crate? And how do they distribute the printed tags?

    • seaofgeek says:

      Well you can park it where ever you want, as long as you have it plugged into a hot network jack. Once powered up it creates its own wireless network, so as long as the Duo’s are in range you can run it. Right now, the traffic isn’t very high yet at our new campus so the person running that check-in station grabs the tag themselves. My vision is that you would have a tag runner, or point the parent at the appropriate printer to grab their tag. The auto cutting printers would be awesome for that, but we didn’t have any of those on hand when we designed the box.

  4. Very cool! I am impressed.

    Can you get away with only using one printer per box if you were to have the self cutter option? That could significantly reduce the cost for the church. For each check-in print job it would print from a shared printer and cut the tags off for the entire family check-in.
    Thanks for the video!
    Matt McMaster

    • seaofgeek says:

      Yeah, that shouldn’t be a problem. I tested setting 2 duo’s to one printer and it seemed to work well, but didn’t test it that much since our plan from the get go was to have a dedicated printer for each duo. Ether way, not having the cutter would probably save you some money, and you can get by without it…. We are at least.

  5. Debbie says:

    This is amazing! Can you give us a rough cost estimate?

    • seaofgeek says:

      So I contacted everyone involved and got what we paid. The total cost was about $5064, but here’s the break down:

      Dell Duos – $550 x 4 = $2200
      Zebra Print Server = $600
      Server Console Cable = $40
      Zebra Printers – $450 x 4 = $1800
      Wireless Router ~ $60
      Case (including power strip, sockets, plugs, etc.) = $400

      • seaofgeek says:

        I should also add that we purchased a 5th Duo as a spare. When comparing the cost of having a spare on hand to paying for extended support for all 4 of the other Duo’s it made more sense to just get the spare.

  6. Mark DeMoss says:

    This is awesome! Great solution for mobile church. Thanks for sharing your expertise so other churches can benefit. The video is great. Keep up the great work for His Kingdom.

  7. Ryan says:

    Lookin’ good there! 😉 Just need to get some vinyl decals or something for the road case 😉

  8. Rick Smith says:

    Very nice! I shot you a message on twitter..I’d like to connect with you about this.

    I’m in the process of setting up something like this at my church, and I think this may exactly the route I take.

    Look forward to connecting!

  9. Steve Stanley says:

    Wow. Good work guys, very nicely thought through. So, the system provides efficient name tag production for check in. What about secure sign out? Is that part of this system?

    • seaofgeek says:

      Sign out is not recorded in the system, but a parent receipt is printed with the name tag. In order for a parent to pick up their child after the service they need to have the parent receipt that matches the 3 digit code on the child’s name tag.

  10. Pingback: How To Provide Reliable Mobile Check-in Kiosks | StevePerky.com

  11. I would be even cheaper if you got label printers that supported Ethernet connections (no need for the print server).

    • seaofgeek says:

      Definitely true. We went with the wireless print server because we originaly thought we would be taking out the router and placing it next to the network drop location, but wanted the printers to stay in the box.

  12. John kelly says:

    we did something similar to this but we used to tabletop touch screens for self checkin and barcode keychain scanning… and we are also adding the tablet for the workers to use for conference checkin’s and checking in people out in the line to shorten it…i think the best option is to have both tabletop and tablet…. are you guys not using keyfobs for checkin?

    • seaofgeek says:

      We use table top (all in one and seperate) computers at our other campuses, but this particular location needed something different. We use barcodes and scanners at our other campuses, but haven’t found a cheap bluetooth scanner that we like yet for this solution.

  13. stevebice says:

    Hey Guys,

    What screen resolution do you use for this?

    Steve

    • seaofgeek says:

      800×600. If working with the duo, after setting the resolution, make sure to go under “Make text and other items larger or smaller” and select Smaller – 100%. Its the sneaky little step you need to make it display properly.

  14. Your idea inspired us and we’re now taking a Duo with us to conferences where we have a booth to exhibit! You’ve made the Fellowship One team proud!

  15. Jonathan Ott says:

    If you are interested in a “wear-able” fully mobile solution, I’ve posted my experience creating a Fellowship One mobile check-in solution using an HP Slate and mobile Zebra printer. Let me know if you find it helpful!

    • seaofgeek says:

      Yeah, we’ve been thinking about the hip printer, but it’s hard to swallow the cost. We bought one of those scanners to test a couple weeks back. It’s pretty cool, we’ll be using it for a roveing check-in station mapped to one of those networked zebras.

      • Scott Goodger says:

        We tested the Zebra QL320 Plus printers this weekend (the “hip” printers). The were great! There were a few moments when the response time was a little slow – meaning that we had to wait for the labels to print.

        Overall, Matt, you’ve inspired us and we will have 10 of these working on Easter to supplement our regular 16 checkin stations. We will be taking most of those out of service after Easter though.

        We are also using Bluetooth Barcode scanners with them. Jonathan Ott had great success with the Serialio KDC200. When I call Serialio they recommended saving some cash and directed me to the Serialio Scanfob2002.

        I did find that the Scanfob2002 doesn’t work with the Fellowship One Self-Checkin mode. I have a feeling that it is inserting an extra character into the barcode read. We are getting an error from the Fellowship One Checkin Apps stating that “there are no activities associated with this barcode” (or something like that). It works fine with Assisted Checkin mode though. We also tested the KDC200 (mentioned above) and it DOES work fine with the Fellowship One Checkin App in Self-Checkin mode.

  16. T-Rock says:

    How many kids attend this campus? Do you find 4 Dell Duos keep traffic down?

    • seaofgeek says:

      We launched this campus at the beginning of January and have recently been averaging about 70 kids per service, so the number hasn’t been to high. One of the nice things about the duo’s is that they eliminates the need for a line. Families come in and the volunteers just walk up to them. The families don’t have to figure out where to go.

  17. Eric Dye says:

    Do you have a website dedicated for this? I want to highlight this on a post for ChurchMag. Is there more info outside this post? Shoot me an email or DM me. Thanks!

  18. Sid Emory says:

    Hi Everyone,

    I am the Infrastructure Specialist at Fellowship Tech. I help church with their technology needs when they are implementing Fellowship One.

    I wanted to let everyone know that we are about to release the Official F1 Wireless Check-in in a box instructions and videos in the next few weeks.

    We’re building on the shoulders of giants and have created a 2 printer wireless option in a self contained box.

    Matt you have done an awesome job and inspired us.

    Thanks for all that you do in the Church IT world!!

    • seaofgeek says:

      Thanks Sid. We’ve always been in this to not only make everything work better for our church, but for the church body as a whole.

    • Shane Norcross says:

      Sid,

      I can’t wait to see the official F1 wireless check-in in a box solution. We are looking at check-in options right now for our mobile church.

      Shane

  19. swcdave says:

    +seaofgeek thank you for sharing this awesome idea. You RAWK! (Love your attitude of compassion and completion for the Body of Christ; and not a competition to get bodies into your church! Two thumbs up bro!)

    In your original post you mention having an issue with the serial to RJ45 adapter and said you’d post more detail about said adapter…any chance you have the manufacturer/model and place to nab one handy still?

    Looking for you on Google+ after this…thanks again!
    Dave Petrie – IT & Helpdesk Mgr
    Southwest Community Church
    Indian Wells, CA
    dave.petrie@gmail.com

  20. We are getting ready to use some of your ideas for Checkin here at our church and I was wondering what your thoughts were in using LP2844 instead of the TLP 2884-Z

  21. Shaun Sass says:

    I need help configuring the Zebra ps4000 print server. Would love it if you could contact me.

    • Matt Pugh says:

      If I remember correctly, the ps4000 wouldn’t remember the configuration right out of the box. Once we obtained the correct cable I had to push a firmware update to it before it would remember the configuration and not shut off on it’s own. I believe there may have been a setting, something as simple as switching a 1 to 0 in the firmware.

  22. Hello do you have any recommendations on the type of foam that used for the project and how much of it and where you purchased it from.

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