The Home Design Center is a permanent home show center where vendors showcase their products and services. Customers visit the Center for home improvement ideas and to obtain more details about the vendors. The Center sells nothing and rents space to vendors. Consumers can then contact the vendors directly. The Center needed a way for customer to easily request vendor literature and track customer requests.
Home Design Center
A wireless, bar coded, data collection managed the customer requests. The system managed the following data:
- Customer list including contact details, literature requested, etc.
- Vendor list with contact information
- Item list with product details, vendor ID, etc.
- Literature list that tracked all literature requested by all customers
Upon entered the store new customers were added to the database. The customer was then given a bar code scanner. The customer would browse through the exhibits and scan a bar code on items of interest. The scanned data was sent in real-time via wireless to the server and stored in the database. An employee in the literature room would pull literature for each customer and place it in a carryout bag. When the customer returned the bar code scanner the literature package would be ready for pickup.
This was a prototype, proof-of-concept system. The bar code scanners were sold to the customer without the proper technical evaluation (that is, before I was contracted to write the software). The software and servers performed well but the bar code scanner hardware was not a consumer-friendly device and was unreliable in this environment. The planned production version of this system would use reliable bar code scanners. The production system was not finished due to the price differential between the old and new bar code scanners (roughly 4 times the cost).
The prototype system maintained customer, vendor, item, literature lists, sent customer information to the vendors for follow-up, provided basic reports, etc. Customers could easily request literature and had a very short check-out time when leaving the Center (due to real-time data link).
The bar code scanners required using an older version of the operating system and development tools.
- Microsoft Windows Server
- C# programming language
- MS SQL database
- Symbol CA50 terminals