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Capture Serial Data in Lotus Notes Database

Posted on 2014-04-29
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Last Modified: 2014-10-15
I'm looking for a way that my lotus notes form can capture data from some serial scales directly into a field.

I have some weighing scales connected via a standard serial cable to the client PC. I need my lotus notes Database to capture this data.

So far I've only been able to get close by using third party software which reads the serial device and outputs the value as a keyboard input into my field.

This isn't a great setup as there's a lot of room for error and isn't stable enough for our production environment.

Does anybody know of some code in Notes that will directly interrogate a specific COM port for the data?
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Question by:Unifrax
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8 Comments
 
LVL 46

Expert Comment

by:Sjef Bosman
ID: 40030985
First some questions, then a suggestion:
- is there no special protocol on the comms connection?
- why directly in Notes?

Suggestion(s):
- use Linux, for easier access to comms
- develop a simple, external application that receives the comms data and sends it to your database, using mail, i.e. make the database a mail-in database.
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Author Comment

by:Unifrax
ID: 40031398
If the weight is wrong they will have to remove some of the product and weigh again.
I don't want the user to have as little input as possible. Ideally it would automatically capture the data (and refresh every time the value change or alternatively they press a button each time they wish to capture.

We only use Windows PCs within the business (Company Policy).
If I just wished the capture all data the scales receives I think the mail-in database would work I think it would be a bit too slow sending the data via mail and then pulling it into the form. It needs to be instant for the production environment.

We are hoping to make this database web-based if it makes any difference.

I'm open to third party applications, but as all the ones I have seen so far convert the reading to Keyboard strokes, which can be a bit unreliable
- Correct field must be selected.
- User has to delete previously entered text to then capture data again
- Hotkey (F1 for example) has to be used to capture the data unless set to continuous or using a physical button on the scale.
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LVL 46

Expert Comment

by:Sjef Bosman
ID: 40031607
What amazes me is that the scales supplier doesn't have the appropriate DLL or other library. I'd expect a higher level interface, and not just COM... I'd also expect some comms protocol, to get data reliably over the line.

The Notes environment is far from ideal for this purpose. A web-based interface to the database seems better already, but... browsers are not allowed to do anything locally. Which means that access to COM-ports is not going to work... unless the scales supplier has an ActiveX module that can be integrated into the application, and you don't object to use only Internet Explorer as a browser (because the others don't support ActiveX modules). Or ask for an applet.

As for Company Policies, read my EE profiles (the monkey story).
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Author Comment

by:Unifrax
ID: 40039249
I think the only way I'm going to achieve what I want is by using software like wwinwedge which will capture the serial data and input it into my web form as a keyboard entry

This though, presents another dilemma. The software has to be setup using a hot key. For example you hit F1 it then outputs the keyboard entry. As the PCs are in entirely sealed units because of the production environment conditions they can't use a keyboard or mouse (just a barcode scanner and weighing scales).

Is it possible to emulate hitting keyboard button by pressing a button in a notes web based form?
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LVL 46

Expert Comment

by:Sjef Bosman
ID: 40039684
I suppose it can be done, using  an ActiveX control that runs inside your web page in IE. I have no clue how to do that though, so maybe you have to ask a new EE-question.
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LVL 46

Expert Comment

by:Sjef Bosman
ID: 40041545
If you want to send a trigger to another application, a solution might be to create your own URI Scheme, i.e. your own URL protocol, like in this URI:
myapp://do_this/do_that

More info here:
- http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ie/aa767914%28v=vs.85%29.aspx
- https://www.iana.org/assignments/uri-schemes/uri-schemes.xhtml 
- http://java.sun.com/j2se/1.5.0/docs/api/java/net/URI.html
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LVL 1

Accepted Solution

by:
Francois Koutchouk earned 500 total points
ID: 40163665
1- In the Notes form create a button
2- That button calls an agent or script library that fetches the data from the scale
3- The stores it in the appropriate field in the form

2 can be written in Java (supported in Notes) using COM libraries.   Or in LotusScript calling the Windows API.  Either way not trivial, but not so hard.

Lower tech would be an embedded OLE object that displays the scale value in real time within the Notes form.  User then types the value in the form.
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LVL 46

Expert Comment

by:Sjef Bosman
ID: 40383306
How did you solve your problem? Just my curiosity...
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