Why Putting an AP in Your Parking Lot Won't Really Help you stop Vocera Badges from Walking

Posted by: Kenny Schiff on October 2, 2008

Finding Vocera® devices that leave your campus is an issue that many customers are grappling with…What’s an organization to do?

Best practice for mobile asset management is a strong unit level coordination with well defined, managed procedures and financial accountability. In many organizations, despite management’s best intentions, that turns out be difficult.

It’s not uncommon to put drop boxes by the employee exit. One of our customers experimented with badge sign-out that required users to give car keys (or something else essential) as collateral (I’m pretty sure this was abandoned). Other customers have even gone further to ensure control, including the use of Pyxis medication and supply management systems to secure Vocera badges.

Still if you ask your peers, they will likely share that no matter what they do, devices end up in lockers, people’s cars, on nightstands, or in jacket pockets.

Recently, one customer’s CTO wondered aloud whether they would be able to track device escape by putting APs in their parking lots. He knew that Vocera had ways of identifying users’ locations, maybe there was some way of utilizing this.

At least for now, his brainstorm will not buy him much… Let me explain.

Those of you who administrate Vocera are familiar with the “Badge Last Used” report (BLU). If you have a Vocera Report Server (VRS), you run the BLU report to help track down a device that has disappeared. We use this same information in DeviceKeeper.com to match up device records with other key information about a device (its label, when it was put into production, warranty info, etc…).

To answer our customers question properly, we needed to better understand BLU events. In this post I will share what we found out so that you can understand what Vocera’s reporting engine can and can’t do for you on this front.

  • Every 15 minutes a badge connected to the Vocera server sends an inventory record to the server, which is written to the report logs
  • The inventory record contains information like the logged user, access point connected, battery voltage etc…
  • The generation of this record is not based on calls or any user action
  • On a scheduled basis (once a day in Vocera 4.0), the VRS captures only the last AP accessed and the time of that last access for every logged in user

So if someone walks out of the building with a Vocera® badge in her pocket, even though the VRS would know the last user and last AP they were associated with, the inventory record may or may not be sent while the last user is connected to the AP in the parking lot.

Oh well, good idea 🙂

In the future Vocera will likely tie to some RFID framework, or perhaps more easily support perimeter type tags. For now, keeping your devices in the building will require creative solutions.

<shameless plug/>Make sure to check out our SaaS asset management application DeviceKeeper.com</end plug>

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