Tuesday 10 October 2023

Kiosk – The Nuts and Bolts and Woodscrews

The challenge – how do you make an app on a tablet computer available to several hundred people daily without them breaking it, stealing it, powering it off, switching it to another app?

The solution – inexpensive hardware and software, and woodscrews.

The venue for Chichester Harbour Race Week with its near 400 competitors is Hayling Island Sailing Club. HISC, like many a club, has a traditional outdoor wooden notice board. Originally the official notice board, but now largely superseded by online equivalents, it is remains the home of paper signing sheets.

That was clearly the place for two tablets – one for each race group.

We used Lenovo Tab M10s – 10 inch tablets running Android 11: good quality, reasonably priced and, importantly, with plenty of battery power. We installed Kiosk Browser, a mobile device manager, to run the eTally Kiosk app in Chrome.  Kiosk Browser hides most (though not quite all) Chrome and Android functions from inquisitive tappers. We applied screen protectors – thin sheets of glass – to both devices.

Connectivity came via a MiFi device in a box in an adjacent indoor area which just happened to be the snack bar.

We screwed a pair of security wall mounts to the notice board adjacent to where the paper signing sheets go.

A tablet powered on, clamped in position and ready for customers.


We’d previously briefed all competitors by email. We sat back and waited.

They took to it like the proverbial ducks to water!

I don’t know who these two gentlemen are but thank you, you look the part.

Was it perfection all the way? Not quite!

The card taped to the top of each tablet not only tells people which to use but also prevents them pulling down the Android settings and causing havoc.

The tablets on/off button needed a couple of millimetres headroom under the security clamps. One enthusiastic tapper managed to slide a tablet up enough to power it off.

A more strict implementation of Kiosk Browser will fix both of those issues.

Finally, the call went out that neither tablet was working. On investigation this was because they weren’t connected to the internet. You remember that the connectivity came via the snack bar? It turned out that someone had, entirely innocently, placed a tray of Coke cans on top of the box of tricks. Problem soon resolved!

So overall, a great success. Lessons were learned, the main one being that eTally Kiosk is a valuable addition to the SailEvent safety portfolio.

Wednesday 4 October 2023

Kiosk - in at the deep end!

With an entry list of nearly 400 in a wide variety of boats, an equally wide variety of abilities and in tidal waters, Chichester Harbour Race Week has to work hard on competitor safety.

Sailing Club Software provides IT support for the event and a big part of that is keeping track of who is on, and safely off, the water. Way back that meant manually comparing multiple paper signing sheets - slow and error-prone.

More recently we’ve used eTally by phone – a great improvement that enables the Safety Officer to wrap up so much more quickly. Nevertheless paper signing sheets were retained for the small minority who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, take the technology route.

This year we introduced eTally Kiosk in the expectation it would prove an acceptable alternative for that minority. The paper sheets were still there and right next to them was Kiosk. (We’ll talk about the mechanics of that in the next post.)

When introducing new technology you can never tell whether it’s going to sink or swim. It’s was gratifying to discover that for Kiosk it was very much the latter! 

Competitors of all ages got the hang of it straight away and thought it was a great idea. 

The number of paper signers went from a diehard handful on day 1 to zero on the final day.

Post-event analysis showed that overall competitors were 60/40 in favour of eTally by phone. That was 70/30 at eTally afloat time shifting to almost exactly 50/50 for eTally ashore. You can see how that makes sense.

So a highly successful first outing for Kiosk and, most importantly, all competitors were accounted for, and the safety team stood down, in record time. Mission accomplished.