Everyone and everything at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Royal Wedding was simply top drawer. So you wouldn’t think anything would go missing from this venerable event.
But it’s not uncommon for things to get lost in the shuffle at such large and complex gatherings. So it’s useful for companies that provide equipment for these celebrations to have a firm accounting of what they bring in and what they gather up at the end.
Organizations that supply pricey communications gear, like broadcast TV and two-way communications radios, are particularly keen on doing that. So while Dallas Mcintosh – who designed, installed, and optimized a trunk digital radio system to enable one-on-one communications for press and Royal Wedding organizers, and an analog duplex radio system used by outside broadcast trucks to support live TV – hadn’t expected to provide equipment tracking assistance to the client that called on him to help out with the Royal Wedding, he wasn’t entirely surprised either.
Dallas knew from experience that people who provide communications for big shindigs anticipate losing about 10 percent of their gear like walkie-talkies – in large part because the individuals who use them simply misplace or forget to return them. And, at around $600 per device, that’s a significant loss.
The good news is that Dallas already had a solution to help his client prevent this kind of problem. It came in the form of an application powered by AppSheet.
This app uses smartphone cameras to capture the tiny barcodes on handheld radios provided by companies like Dallas’ client. That way radio owners know which devices they have issued to users at events, and when and which of those radios are returned.
“I didn’t even know that I would be using anything to do with AppSheet [for the Royal Wedding] until just before the event where my client said ‘So, how are we going to look after what goes out the door and how we’ll get it back?’” said Dallas.
So he showed his client the existing AppSheet app he had.
“They loved it.” Dallas said. “So that’s what we used.”
Dallas made a few tweaks to his existing app, such as rebranding it under his client’s name and connecting it to a different workflow. But then it was ready to go.
“That was a real eye opener on how quickly you could do that,” said Dallas.
He added that normally he would have a spreadsheet within AppSheet populated with the barcodes from all the devices and accessories to be used at the event. But everything came together so quickly for the Royal Wedding that the app used for this particular event didn’t include any raw data. So the crew had to book the radios into the app as they were issuing them to users.
“I thought [it] was actually amazing from AppSheet’s point of view that they were able to do that with so many different transactions,” said Dallas. “And it worked!”
Reading barcodes will become even more efficient with AppSheet’s new Near Field Communication capabilities, he added. NFC enables two devices to communicate only when one is in short proximity of the other. “I’m already talking to somebody about the prospect of self-service in managing these things,” said Dallas, noting that NFC opens up a treasure trove of new possibilities for AppSheet users.
More importantly, the AppSheet-powered app enabled Dallas’s client to recover 100 percent of his equipment following the Royal Wedding.
Radio users take returns more seriously when they know you’re keeping track of them, says Dallas. The AppSheet app delivers instant alerts to end users when they receive their devices. Once a customer returns all the devices it used for an event, the AppSheet app sends them a single email letting them know that too. That’s far more effective than sending multiple emails, which may cause end users to ignore those communications, he adds.
Dallas found AppSheet about three years ago to help a client that was losing a lot of radios at various events. Sometimes the client wouldn’t recover his radios until they were handed back to him three years later at a subsequent event, he said.
Initially, Dallas attempted to use Excel to keep track of radios and accessories. Then he tried a Microsoft database. But neither one was particularly user friendly, he said. What Dallas really wanted was a mobile app to do the job, because virtually everybody carries a mobile phone these days. He considered several app solutions, but ultimately selected AppSheet.
“Something on AppSheet just caught my eye,” he said. “And I thought ‘Well, that’s interesting.’ And it did more than I had anticipated.
“It works so well for me that I don’t see how it could be any better,” he added.
That’s quite a testament from a chap who never liked programming. Although Dallas earned electrical and mechanical engineering degrees from the University of Glasgow, he always avoided coding at school.
“I’m rubbish at coding, basically,” said Dallas. “With AppSheet, it’s all expressions, you don’t have to code at all.”
In addition to the Royal Wedding app, Dallas and his assistant use an AppSheet app for invoicing. His assistant inputs details of his engagements, and the app sends invoices. The app changes colors to display what clients and jobs have and have not yet paid.
Dallas has even begun selling the apps he’s created with the AppSheet platform. The first one was for asset management. And the sound engineer of a famous U.K. singer recently commissioned Dallas to create an app to manage his stock.
To date, Dallas has used the AppSheet platform to build 23 apps. And if you thought his Royal Wedding experience was interesting, hold on to your fascinator! (I mean hat!)
Dallas also has created an app that he and his roommate use to let each other know if their three cats have been fed. When one of them sets out the feline morsels, they press a button on their mobile, and the other receives an alert.
He even gifted one of his pals with her own app for her 40th birthday. “It’s called Mandy’s App,” Dallas explained. “She’s always falling out with people. And when she falls out with people, she can always make a note of who’s in her bad book…. And she can issue violations to people.”
That’s a pretty good story from my vantage point. But Royal Wedding watchers probably want to hear more about his time at Windsor Castle.
That’s understandable. So here’s a bit more commentary on that.
“It was quite exciting, to be honest with you,” he said. “I was right next to the chapel. It was amazing. I saw George Clooney and all the stars arriving. It was quite overwhelming actually.”
Perhaps the most memorable moment for Dallas actually came a day after the Royal Wedding. He was decommissioning gear at the Queen’s residence, and he saw the newlyweds depart.