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article image John Munro, warehouse operations manager.
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AS gaming is one of Australia’s most common past times, it is more than likely you have touched a TABCORP gaming machine sometime in your recent history.

When one of Australia’s largest gaming suppliers needed to upgrade its tracking solution, it was inevitable they would turn to a wireless solution.

The requirement was always for TABCORP to control the location and configuration of gaming machines for internal purposes, as well as meeting compliance requirements relating to legislative issues regarding type and placement of machines.

TABCORP needs to track the receipt, issue and location of machines as well as handling those returned for repair, configuration changes, general maintenance and their eventual destruction.

Essentially, the database is a birth-to-death record of every movement and every configuration and alteration related to each machine.

Wireless at TABCORP

When a batch tracking solution no longer gave TABCORP the "up to date" information required, it was time to evaluate how their current business model could be automated into real-time.

Gamma Solutions provided this as a fully functional solution, delivering all software, hardware and integration services. John Munro, warehouse operations manager, explains how the TABCORP operation functions.

"TABCORP carry out all changes through a gaming logistics centre based on preplanned activity. TABCORP had been tracking these activities using a batch system with barcode scanning, recording the activities and later matching these with database records.

“However, it was only after the event that reconciliation between scheduled and actual events could occur. When an overhaul was completed the game installed sometimes differed from that originally scheduled.

“The batch system generated an investigation of any variations to planned activities. However, the update to the database occurred some time after the event, thus significantly delaying the reporting of issues.

“To speed up the process a new system utilising Intermec wireless equipment was proposed. Record activity is now instantly communicated to the central Oracle database with all activities being verified at the time the event takes place.

“Any variation is instantly investigated and authorised, including machine destruction and the allocation of a replacement.

“In the warehouse, all shipments are scanned to check that the number of units, and their configuration, is correct. This includes units shipped for destruction".

In this first stage of the implementation, the system utilised Intermec Janus 2020, character-based computers. Communicating back to an Intermec proprietary Open Air wireless access point. That was four years ago.

Recently this has been migrated to incorporate the new IEEE 802.11b standard. This was easily achieved using the patented Intermec 2100 Dual Radio Access Point, which allows for both radios (Open Air & 802.11b) to reside in the one box, saving costs in cabling, installation and upgrade time.

Why the change? It was seen as advantageous that TABCORP could make significant use of their WEB server residing on the TABCORP intranet. This meant that a Pocket PC operating system on a hand held was the likely answer.

With its rugged design and full Pocket PC compliance, the Intermec 700 terminal was a complete fit. With the large touch screen on the Intermec 700, all fields related to a gaming machine can be displayed on a single screen.

The long lasting battery life can handle a full days work without a re-charge and the keyboard and built in scanner allow for easy data entry. A fully integrated IEEE 802.11b radio completes the unit for total wireless connection.

Currently both systems function side-by-side in the same environment.

Over time the Janus 2020 units will be replaced completely with the newer 700 Pocket PC devices. This was also a significant part of the Gamma solution, the ability to integrate both text and Pocket PC based products back to the one Oracle database. No reason to throw out old technology, just migrate it.

Michelle Atallah, software development manager for Gamma Solutions explains, "On completion of a task the operator must select one option from a range of options displayed on a "pop-up menu".

“The large Intermec 700 screen displays all options on a single page and in large fonts. This makes the process simpler, faster and, most importantly, less subject to error.”

Mr Munro finished by saying, "The solution disciplines were not difficult to implement and their compliance with legislative and internal requirements gave management confidence in a highly sensitive area of the operation".

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