How to Build a Tablet-Based Staff Time Clock
By: Adam Swimmer
5 Min Read
September 12, 2022
Long gone are the days of workers lining up in front of a punch card machine to clock in and out of their shifts. However, time clocks are still used by many businesses to record the number of hours their employees work. They’ve just gone digital. These days, you can easily set up a staff time clock for your company using an Android tablet and the proper apps.
This article will answer your questions about what you need to know when setting up an Android tablet as a staff time clock.
What size screen do you need?
Generally speaking, employees clock in or out of work one person at a time so you don’t need the screen to be that large. An Android tablet is a great choice for a staff time clock as its compact, offers interactivity through its touchscreen and provides plenty of options for software.
While you can go bigger, an eight-inch tablet would likely be sufficient for your needs. It’s big enough so the person clocking in can see what they’re doing, while also small enough to keep the installation from being obtrusive.
What staff time clock software do you use?
This is one of the most important questions as the software will be integral to the success of your staff time clock application. Obviously, you can create your own time clock app specifically for your business but if you don’t have Android developers on your team, there are other options.
Paylocity is an HR and payroll tech company that offers a variety of workforce management software, including a Time Collection app that allows for fingerprint scans, facial recognition and photo identification.
How do you plan to power the time clock application?
Even if the tablet has a great battery life, it will need to be charged eventually. This can be an issue if the staff time clock is a permanent installation.
You can plug the tablet directly into an electrical outlet but this likely won’t be desirable long term. When a lithium battery-powered device is left plugged in for an extended period of time, the battery degrades. The constant charging after the battery is full breaks down the lithium-ion battery’s chemistry.
In extreme cases, this can lead to battery swelling (or bloating, as it is also known). As the name suggests, with battery swelling, the battery literally expands and this can cause damage to the mobile device.
Some mobile devices, such as Lenovo tablets, have built-in apps to prevent overcharging and trickle charging from wearing down the battery.
A LAVA SimulCharge adapter provides compatible mobile devices simultaneous charging and access to data. This means the mobile device remains charged while it is in use. Its top-tier e Series line (eSynC for USB-C, eSTS for Micro USB) also features RBM technology, which is designed for use in 24/7 applications. This is desirable if your staff time clock application is in a warehouse, grocery store or any other business that has overnight workers.
RBM includes an overcharge protection feature called Battery Modulation, which ensures the mobile device never exceeds a 100% charge. By setting upper and lower charging boundaries in an accompanying app, Battery Modulation creates the optimal charging and discharging cycle of a lithium-ion battery, keeping it healthy. It will give you two to three years of additional years of use out of the mobile device for a better return on investment.
Choosing a LAVA adapter will have some bearing on your choice of tablet as SimulCharge is not compatible with all mobile devices.
How do you want to add the logged data to the network?
When an employee clocks in or out, that data needs not to just exist on the tablet but also in the company’s database. Most tablets have Wi-Fi chips that allow them to connect to the internet so if the database is on the web, you can update the database wirelessly.
However, Wi-Fi isn’t always reliable. Depending on the location of the time clock, the signal can be weak and if too many devices are attempting to access the same Wi-Fi hotspot at once, it can bog down the network. Ethernet provides a much more stable and reliable alternative. While most tablets don’t have Ethernet ports, there are a variety of mobile adapters that offer Ethernet.
LAVA, for example, offers multiple Ethernet adapters in its various SimulCharge lines, that provide a 10/100-capable wired network connection. They can connect a tablet to both the internet and a local network. With these adapters, you can easily update the system as each staff member clocks in or out.
LAVA’s Ethernet adapters also provide a more reliable web connection if online software updates are needed. If you are using an e Series adapter, you will get additional reliability through RBM’s Network Recovery feature.
Network Recovery can restart the Ethernet portion of the adapter if the wired network connection unexpectedly drops out. It happens automatically if the connection is gone for more than a few minutes. It’s the equivalent of unplugging the Ethernet cable and plugging it back in.
If you are a commercial building, the cost of installing Ethernet adapters could be lower as the building likely already has the infrastructure for Ethernet.
Where do you want to place the time clock application?
Usually, you will want to place the time clock near the entrance or somewhere employees would normally pass through before starting their shifts. Unfortunately, this area might not be near an electrical outlet. If that’s the case, you’ll either need to look for an alternative location or find another way to power the tablet.
One solution is Power over Ethernet (PoE). PoE combines power and data over the same Ethernet cable, simplifying cable management. This means you can install the tablet in areas where there aren’t any AC outlets.
PoE also provides a distance advantage. You can place a PoE adapter up to 328 ft (100 m) away from the PoE-capable network switch or injector.
Like Ethernet, many commercial buildings already have the infrastructure for PoE, lowering costs for installation. If they don’t, you can use a third-party injector that can turn a regular Ethernet signal into PoE.
LAVA offers a variety of PoE adapters across its Enterprise SimulCharge lines.
How do you want staff to clock in/out?
Will employees login through the tablet’s touchscreen? Will they scan an ID or fob? Or will the tablet’s webcam take a photo of the worker in order to match it with one of file and ensure the right person is logging in?
Your choice of staff time clock software will have some impact on this. However, if staff members need to scan a card or other device to clock in, the tablet may need peripherals attached, such as a card reader or scanner. Several OTG adapters offer options for adding USB-A peripherals. However, they force the mobile device to run off battery power when they’re in use.
LAVA offers SimulCharge adapters with USB-A ports that keep the mobile device charge as it accesses data from the peripherals.
Hopefully, this guide has shown you how a tablet can be used as a staff time clock and what questions you need to consider when setting it up. For more information on how a LAVA SimulCharge adapter can enhance your setup, check out LAVA’s website.