InformationWeek recently wrote about how commercial and government organizations were experimenting with the latest tablet devices to see which could handle a day in the field. In the article, IT professionals, from Waste Management through to the U.S. Army, described some of the work they did to make consumer-grade devices enterprise-, and in some cases battlefield-ready. Solutions ranged from $10 protective silicon skin wrappers to placing the devices in rubber cases. These were all attempts to make the devices more durable.
But is this enough to make consumer-grade tablets ready for “real world” use? For some, yes. For most, these measures won’t do it.
More than 15 years ago, Panasonic introduced the world to the first fully-rugged mobile computer. Over the years, we’ve found that in highly-mobile outdoor markets, including aviation, construction, field sales and law enforcement, to call yourself “rugged” you have to meet a slew of requirements. Your device has to be able to withstand all of the elements, from the blazing heat of the Middle East to the altitudes of Mount Everest and snows of Antarctica.
So, what should IT professionals look for when they are evaluating tablet hardware devices for use in rugged environments? Here are five pointers:
- Can you see the screen during the day?
- Look for multi-touch, daylight viewable screens that allow you to easily see critical data regardless of lighting conditions
- Look for MIL-STD 810G drop ratings that ensure that your tablet will survive the occasional (or frequent) drop from heights of 4-6’ feet
- Outdoor use will subject your tablet to dust and water. Ingress protection ensures that you keep the elements from impacting the performance of your tablet.
- Using your device in the field means that it will be on for most of the day. You need batteries that will get you through a full shift of work without recharging. Another consideration relating to batteries is that they be replaceable. Many consumer focused tablet devices do not allow for battery replacement.
- Consumer devices are not designed with security in mind. Look for security built into the hardware level with support for features such as encryption, enhanced VPN, dual factor authentication, trusted boot and device management. If you’re dealing with highly sensitive data, seek out FIPS 140-2-compliant devices for Federal government use.
Hardware is half of the equation. Readying tablets for use in commercial enterprises or government also requires a rich application environment. Access to vertical applications that address key concerns, such as Mobile Device Management, security and virtualization will be keys to any successful professional deployment.
Today, Panasonic is announcing the Toughpad™ family of professional-grade Android™-powered tablets, including 10-inch and 7-inch devices. The devices – targeting mission-critical and highly-mobile workers – will be supported by an ecosystem that includes an enterprise-focused app store, peripherals, developer tools, deployment support and more.
Tablets are going to be an important part of the professional IT environment and choosing the right device depends on several factors. Let us know how you plan to use tablets in your organization and what capabilities are important to you.