Palm-top devices speed food service at Fort Hood

U.S. Army leaders were still using clipboards and an old AT&T 3B2 Unix-based minicomputer to feed their troops at Fort Hood, Texas — home to two armored divisions as well as 44,000 military personnel and their families.

Aug 1st, 1999
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U.S. Army leaders were still using clipboards and an old AT&T 3B2 Unix-based minicomputer to feed their troops at Fort Hood, Texas — home to two armored divisions as well as 44,000 military personnel and their families.

The traditional approach at the Fort Hood mess halls was for soldiers to sign in with their social security numbers, ranks, services, and entitlements. This was a tedious process that not only kept hungry soldiers waiting in line, but also was a burden on cashiers, who had to enter the transactions manually into a structured query language (SQL) database.

Following preliminary studies begun in May 1997, food service personnel at Fort Hood implemented a new system last fall based on hand-held devices from Palm Computing Inc., a 3Com company in Santa Clara, Calif.

The system integrator is Impact Innovations Government Group in Columbia, Md., which developed a Windows NT-based client/server system, designated the FS2000. Now, cashiers using the Palm devices` with bar code scanners attached to the device`s serial ports only have to swipe the soldiers` ID cards.

The device then calculates how much each diner owes for a meal, displays it, and stores the information. At the end of the day, the Palm systems are synchronized with the NT server, which uploads the data into an SQL database.

Toby Ostrowski, food service systems analyst at the Army`s Center of Excellence, Subsistence (ACES) in Richmond, Va., which is overseeing the project, says he is enthusiastic about the results to date.

"Using the new Palm-driven process, Fort Hood is eliminating hours of data entry and report generation," he says. "The solution also allows managers to determine in real time how many soldiers have been served and whether to prepare more food, thus making it possible to improve meal planning and reduce food waste."

The Army has begun evaluating worldwide deployment of the system to some 350 dining facilities and field locations around the world, including an additional feature that would permit soldiers to use their ID cards as credit cards, thus eliminating the cash transaction process. — J.R.

For more information about the Palm devices contact the company by phone at 888-223-4817, by mail at Palm Computing Inc., 5400 Bayfront Plaza, Santa Clara, Calif. 95052, or on the World Wide Web at http://www. palm.com.

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Palm Computing hand-held devices help military food-service personnel keep accurate records.

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