handheld development

Posted on 2000-03-22
Last Modified: 2010-04-29
We build, install, and setup restaurant touchscreen systems.  The market is begging for a handheld unit that wait staff can enter orders from the table.  Any ideas about soon coming handheld PC's that can run WinNT and a true windows app.  Currently our stations run a min. of 300mhz with 64 ram. The idea is after order you plug the handheld into station to download order or you have wireless network which send order realtime.  Any input or if you can point me to developers, I would appreciate.  I know this is far fetched based on the handheld that are on the market now, but the market is screaming for this product.
Question by:bmcbrett

Expert Comment

ID: 2646370
Kind of a reach for a forum which is for hardware "help".  That's more of a hardware engineering / design / research and development question.

What about using Palm Pilots?  Supposedly the PalmOS is pretty versatile.  You could run a primitive database / order selection application on it, and then have each waitperson check in at a PC with a cradle programmed to receive and queue up orders.  

I guess contact and ask them?!

Expert Comment

ID: 2646595
I think that is a little futuristic for now and would be too expensive for most restaurants.  
LVL 10

Expert Comment

ID: 2646656
A wild suggestion:
How about these handheld scanners, they use on warehouses and stocks. They are capable of scanning in barcodes and manual typing af a number (item in stock). You could put barcodes on the menu. Also there are docking-stations for these and when you put it in, it transferres all data to main computer. This would be a fairly cheap solution since most of the developing is already done.
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Expert Comment

ID: 2646922

For 500 points YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING!  But all jokes aside, the technology is available tho you might have to make some sacrifices.  Take a look at your nearest police department with their laptops and handhelds.  This is not a joke but pointing you in the right direction.  We get electronic traffic tickets here now.  He keys in the data and downloads after his shift is done and it goes to the courts with fines, etc.  Email me and will look up some references for you, do know it runs about 3 grand a pop..  Good Luck...

Expert Comment

ID: 2647071
I'm sure a WIN CE app developer could develop an application like your requesting.  Palm pilots have IR data transfer capabilities.  Find someone that can program in VB for Windows CE.  You may have cornered the market.

Author Comment

ID: 2649046
Thanks for all the comments.  There are some apps that can be run on DOS or Win CE right now but they are so cumbersome they defeat the purpose for which they were intended,  We really need to replicate the current windows version of the software or something close to it.  Im sure Im shooting in the dark but its always worth a try. Any other comments welcome

Expert Comment

ID: 2656227
IMHO will be much cheaper/easier to make a LAN and put a fancy screen/panel/keyboard/just buttons to every table and hide all cables carefully... with good design you will get a nice solution: customer makes all choices on that panel and kitchen immediately gets all orders by network and service person will only bring that food ;-)
by the way, you can continuosly run some ads on that screen and make good money on this also ;-))

Accepted Solution

lgrover earned 500 total points
ID: 2667736
What you are looking for are not handheld PCs (HPCs/Palm) but, instead, tablet computers.  Tablet computers are somewhat larger and heavier than palmtops but they have standard expansion slots and can run a regular OS.  They are approximately the size of standard letter paper and can run a standard OS.  Unfortunately, the slot 1 architecture is not appropriate for these machines and fastest machines available are Pentium MMX.  The screens are generally 800 x 600 active matrix and support at least 256 colors--they also accept handwriting input and are touch-sensitive.  If you go to or and search for "tablet computer" or "pen computer" you will see that capable secondhand units sell for about $2500 while new units generally sell for twice as much.  Most major notebook companies produce these pen computers (Toshiba, Fujitsu, IBM, etc).  Unfortunately, there is no NT version that supports pen input, so you will be stuck with Windows 95 (for most apps, this is sufficient).  Since they contain standard PCMCIA slots, you can use wireless networking cards such as Aironet, RadioLAN, or WaveRider.  They are somewhat expensive and require a RF->Ethernet bridge to connect them to a wired network.  Since these run a standard OS, you can use regular Windows development tools to write the app.  I have heard of test marketing this software to restaurants, but it is not available off-the-shelf and unless you are a MAJOR supplier, you will not have access to it.  You are probably better off designing custom software as a value-added service that would carve yourself an interesting niche in your market.  Good luck!


Author Comment

ID: 2669179
Lgrover, thanks for the input I will give you the grade and see what I can do.

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