Most of us don’t have much trouble understanding the value of rugged mobile solutions in extreme environments – like mining or oil & gas, but many of us don’t immediately recognize the reasons for a rugged mobile computing solution in less extreme environments – like general field service, healthcare and retail. Here are 3 reasons why a rugged solution is the better solution to optimize mobile workflows.
1. TCO. Those three little letters standing for Total Cost of Ownership. According to VDC Research, rugged device TCO is measurably lower in comparison to non-rugged device TCO. It costs more to purchase, deploy, maintain and repair non-rugged, consumer devices in business environments than it does to purchase, deploy, maintain and repair rugged devices in business environments. The full report outlines the findings in detail including loss of productivity from non-rugged device failure, lack of accessories to support mobile workflows and inability to support current systems.
2. Customer Satisfaction. Have you ever called into a customer service line and had them tell you they couldn’t help you at the moment because their system was down? If you have, you know how frustrating it is. With 55% of government and enterprise organizations using or planning to deploy tablets as their mobile computing foundation* – a lot rides on the tablets’ reliability and functionality. Once employee productivity is affected…the customer is next.
3. Security. Along with device management difficulties associated with BYOD and other non-rugged mobile computing solutions – security is a top concern. Rugged devices are built for enterprise environments, designed to support mobile workflows as well as IT Security initiatives.
*VDC Research 2013
Britton K. Cronin
As a retired police officer, I understand the importance of a reliable, effective mobile solution for emergency response. There are some important choices to be made when selecting a mobile solution, such as choosing the right device, communication strategy, and applications. Making a mistake in any of these three key areas can seriously reduce your chances of success.
The following are tips to keep in mind as you consider mobile computing solutions for your emergency response organization.
1. Choose A Communication Strategy With The Best Coverage
Unlike a repair person who may be able to get away with carrying a device that has a lot of information stored locally, your “field worker” will need access to real time information and therefore will need reliable wireless connectivity. Before selecting a wireless carrier, be sure to compare the carriers voice and data coverage maps with the area your emergency responders cover. If you’re in a very remote area with limited cellular coverage, you’ll need to look into antenna boosters or possibly satellite-based communication as a backup.
2. Get Lots Of Input Before Choosing A Mobile Application
Find out what applications your peers are using to support their responders. One thing’s for certain: developing a customized application from scratch should be the last thing you should consider and only after exhausting all other options, which should include contacting industry associations with which you’re affiliated.
In addition to the considerations about the types of applications you want to use, you’ll need to consider whether those applications will be used locally or accessed remotely. Operating applications locally on a mobile device has the benefit of ownership as well as relying less on available bandwidth to access data, but it may require more computing power and be more difficult to maintain and troubleshoot. A hosted or SaaS (software as a service)-based application, on the other hand, is normally purchased as a monthly subscription, and the computer processing and updating responsibility is pushed to the data center (i.e. cloud) provider, but may be compromised in a catastrophic situation such as a storm or homeland security threat.
3. Keep TCO Top Of Mind When Selecting Mobile Computers
For some organizations, mobile devices are viewed as commodities that can be easily discarded and replaced if broken. If you’re thinking about using the latest consumer-grade Android, iOS, or Windows tablet for your first responders, you should consider research findings from VDC Research Group that show while the initial price tag of a consumer device is much less than its rugged counterpart, when you take into consideration the cost of downtime and the limited uses of consumer devices in harsh work environments, the total cost of ownership (TCO) of a rugged device is a smarter financial move.
Here are some additional considerations to keep in mind with your device selections:
a. Form factor. Handhelds, tablets, and laptops all have their places in the outdoor work environment. If your primary mobile application requires minimal data entry and primarily makes use of drop down menus and check boxes, keep handhelds in mind as viable options. If, on the other hand, there is a need for data entry, applications that run on full Windows operating systems, and/or the need for viewing maps or graphics, then tablets or laptops are going to be better options. One of the advantages of a tablet is that it’s so flexible-- more portable than a laptop, and for workers who do a lot of data entry most tablets can be paired with a physical keyboard via Bluetooth. The one thing to watch with some tablets is the operating system. You’ll want to make sure it supports the mobile applications you’ll be using.
b. Rugged vs. Semi-rugged. Lots of mobile computing companies will use the term rugged, when in fact their devices are better categorized as semi-rugged. Make sure to not only ask questions but test devices before making your final selection. Here are some questions to keep in mind:
i. Can the device be cleaned with disinfectants?
ii. What kind of a drop (and onto what kind of surface) is the device designed to withstand?
iii. Does the device have specific internal components that protect it against shock and vibration (i.e. not just a consumer device in a hard shell)?
iv. Is the device’s screen readable in bright sunlight and backlit at night?
v. oes the device use a spinning disk drive or a solid state drive?
c. Battery Life. Unless the mobile device will spend most of its time in a vehicle charging dock, battery life is a very important consideration. Many emergency responders work beyond the traditional 8-hour shift, so a 10- or even 12-hour battery life is important. Even better is selecting a mobile device that supports hot swappable batteries, so that in the event the primary battery is running low, a replacement battery can be added without losing any data.
d. Docking and Mounting Solution. In-Vehicle computing is a big part of a mobile solution for first responders. Making sure the docking and mounting solution is safe, space-saving, rugged and flexible is as important as the mobile device selection.
Emergency responders are relying on mobile solutions in a greater capacity now more than ever before. Choosing a mobile solution that combines the right device, application, and form factor will go a long way in helping your response team work more productively and to focus on what they’re best at — saving lives, protecting our communities and serving the public.
One of my favorite parts about working at Motion is getting to see how the products are being used. I’ve been amazed at the broad range of environments and industries that our products have ended up in over the years. These experiences have taught me not to be too narrow in my thinking when developing new products and solutions. Of course it’s always great to have a clearly defined target user (construction worker, retail sales associate, nurse, etc.), but it’s also important not to make decisions that needlessly exclude other potential users. Here are a few examples that have surprised me over the years:
> Helicopter power line inspection
Symbion Power is the leading aerial inspector of power line systems throughout the United Kingdom. For the past 22 years they have been at the forefront of technology adoption which aids them in conducting more efficient inspections.
Symbion Power specializes in overhead line inspections for the electricity supply industry and provides aerial surveys using the very latest technology in thermal imaging and corona discharge cameras, coupled together with an extensive range of visual patrols from air to ground. Prior to deploying Motion tablets, Symbion Power was using a paper-based system to conduct aerial assessments with maps and handwritten notes to detail inspection results, which was later manually transcribed into a spreadsheet. By deploying Motion Computing Tablet PCs, they were able to improve both their efficiency in the air and quality of data collection with advanced inspection applications, digitized maps and improved GPS software all at their reach.
I’m not even sure what he was doing, but we got an unbelievably beautiful picture of Tibetan monk overlooking a Himalayan valley while using a Motion Tablet PC.
> Snow resort
As the southern hemisphere’s largest snow resort, with 3,075 skiable acres and 72 lift gates at 30 locations, Perisher has the highest terrain, the greatest number of lifts and the most reliable snow in Australia. Perisher’s management team implemented a paperless ticketing system and Motion Tablet PC-based mobile computing solution to provide the more than 700,000 yearly skiers with even more efficient service and enhance the overall resort experience.
> Hot Air Balloon
Out of Australia, a hot air balloon company uses a Motion Tablet PC for GPS and mapping during flights!
> Sound Technician
Kings of Texas swing, Asleep at the Wheel, are a famed western-swing, boogie-woogie and roots-music outfit that’s been on the upswing for nearly 40 years, turning out an incredible 25+ albums while playing an unrelenting schedule of one-nighters that would make a vaudevillian dizzy. The band prides itself on continuous reinvention, exploring new avenues and sounds; however, they don’t ever have to worry about ensuring premium audio quality for all members of the audience thanks to sound technician Jim Finney and his Motion J3500 Tablet PC, which he uses for mobile audio mixing.
> Swiss Air Rescue
It is Rega’s mission to provide medical help from the skies directly to the scene of an accident, around the clock. Regardless of whether it is an avalanche, a traffic or forest accident or someone has to be rescued from a glacier crevasse, Rega is always prepared to come to the rescue. The extensive documents necessary for each flight are now always up to date and available on the Motion Tablet PCs. The work process is now electronic, which significantly reduces manually-intensive paperwork. Data can now be accessed quickly and easily, even when the helicopters are in flight.
In addition to being very interesting, all of these unexpected uses have provided some great insights, including:
- Removable batteries that are small enough to fit in a coat pocket, which keeps them warm when outside in the winter for improved battery life
- Rugged stylus for when a regular one just won’t withstand the extreme environment
- Rapid scan settings which allow the barcode scanner to read multiple codes in a 10 second period
- Removable magnetic stripe readers for at-need credit card transactions
- Quick release vehicle mounts that make it easy to grab and go
Each of these product features resulted from customers using our products in ways we didn’t initially expect. By listening carefully to their requests, we came up with solutions that were attractive to a much broader audience.
Different industries often have similar workflow requirements even though the specifics tasks may be very different. Over time, we’ve found that the defining attributes of a workflow (entering data while standing or walking, working outside, gathering large amounts of data, working out of a vehicle, etc.) are more important than the SIC code of a company.
I am pleased to announce that we are now shipping the first ultra-light and rugged tablet PC – the CL900! The first shipments include customers and partners in Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, France, Germany and the United States, representing industries across Motion’s target markets including retail, field service, construction and healthcare.
For those of you who are familiar with the process of bringing a product to market, I’m sure you can understand how exciting today is for the entire company. We first began developing the CL900 in early 2011. We wanted to provide our customers with a small form factor, rugged tablet PC with both touch and stylus input that maintained Motion’s high standard of power, battery life and durability. With these factors in mind, we created the 2.1 lbs. CL900 with a 10.1-inch display, running Windows 7 and powered by Intel’s latest Atom Processor, the Z670 Series. Being a Motion product, it was essential that the CL900 come with Corning Gorilla Glass and pass MIL-STD-810G and IP52 testing (check out the drop test video). You can check out the press release for additional product details.
We were very excited to announce the CL900 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this past January, and we received very positive feedback from media, analysts, partners and customers alike. According to Boy Genius Report’s Zach Epstein, over 100 tablets were announced at the show. As you can see, not only did we go up against some very stiff competition, but we were also the first ultra-light, rugged tablet PC to ship! Many of the tablets unveiled at the show never even came to fruition.
I want to congratulate and thank Motion’s employees for their continuous work on and support of the CL900 from the initial concept all the way through first customer ship.
With all of the market buzz about tablet PCs, it's important to consider the distinctions between consumer focused tablet devices that are suitable for content consumption and tablet PCs made with the business in mind. At Motion, we design our products to meet the demanding needs of mobile workforces across business and clinical environments. This means full multi-tasking support and compatibility with either the Windows® 7 or Windows XP operating systems. It also means systems durable enough to survive being occasionally dropped or exposed to moisture and dirt.
With these requirements in mind, we're excited about the launch of the new C5v and F5v tablet PCs. It isn't often that we are able to significantly improve performance, increase battery life and add new features while maintaining full backwards compatibility. In 2007 Motion launched our first "purpose-built" tablet PC with the C5 Mobile Clinical Assistant (MCA). We extended the powerful performance and integrated features to the field shortly after with the F5 and have seen remarkable results at customer sites. Our newest systems are based on the latest Intel® CoreTM vProTM low voltage processors, and the C5v and F5v are delivering a tremendous improvement in performance over the Core 2 Duo systems. The C5v and F5v provide users significant enhancements, based directly on customer and partner feedback, including longer battery life and improved security. Other new features like the hot-swap battery feature, front-facing web-cam, and Gobi 2000 for improved connectivity are all focused around helping the mobile worker improve in the field performance.
But don't just take my word for it, Conrad Blickenstorfer, rugged computing expert, highlighted the new F5v in a product review at http://www.ruggedpcreview.com/3_slates_motion_f5v.html RuggedPCReview.com. In his very thorough review, he focuses on the importance of powerful processing, commenting, "Overall, in RuggedPCReview's benchmark testing, the new Motion F5v has roughly 2.2x performance compared to the 2009 Core 2 Duo machine, and about 3 to 3.5x performance compared to the original Core Solo version. It also easily runs rings around any Atom-based device."
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