Degrees of Rugged
When it comes to mobile computing devices, there is a spectrum of mobility spanning from extreme field environments to mainstream business users. Since there is no one-size-fits-all solution, it is critical that users adopt the right mobile computing technology for the environment in which they work. When it comes to the truly mobile worker, the corporate standard model doesn’t work.
At Panasonic, we see four basic standards of rugged; fully-rugged, ultra-mobile rugged – a subset of fully-rugged, semi-rugged and business-rugged. Knowing where you fit into this spectrum will help ensure you deploy the right device for the usage environment.
Fully-rugged devices can handle just about anything thrown at them. These laptops are manufactured to endure 3-foot drops and to withstand violent shocks and vibrations. They are fabricated to operate at temperatures over 140° and below -20° Fahrenheit, and function both at high altitude and under increased atmospheric pressure.
In situations where reliability is critical (i.e. police, fire, EMS, utilities and military) or when the device is exposed to the extreme conditions (i.e. rain, dust, snow, explosive environments, heat and cold), fully rugged devices are ideal.
Typical features of a fully-rugged device include metal casings, sealed ports, water-proof keyboards, daylight viewable screens, shock-mounted hard drives and integrated mobile broadband.
Ultra-mobile-rugged computers – which have the same level of durability as fully-rugged devices – find the happy medium between the functionality of a laptop and the portability of a handheld. These devices integrated features like barcode scanners, RFID and smartcard readers, cameras, GPS and connectivity features like mobile broadband to give workers the tools, data, mobility and ruggedness they need to become more productive. Ultra-mobile-rugged computers – which run a full Windows OS, making them easier to develop, deploy and manage applications on – are ideal for healthcare facilities, oil and gas refineries, manufacturing facilities, railroad yards, storage warehouses – demanding environments where workers are on their feet all day.
Semi-rugged laptops deliver high performance both in the office and out in the field. These devices are often deployed in jobs that require a high level of mobility – like an insurance adjuster or a home health nurse – where the road is the office. Semi-rugged devices incorporate many of the rugged features of a fully-rugged device, including spill resistant keyboards, sealed ports, metal casings, shock mounted hard drives. Embedded mobile broadband, daylight viewable screens and touchscreen technology are also available in semi-rugged laptops.
Business rugged devices are thin and light and equally at home on a plane or in a boardroom. With flexible internal connectors, shock mounted hard drives and spill-resistant keyboards, business-rugged notebooks are designed handle the bumps, drops and spills experienced by on-the-go executives. Mobile broadband, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are embedded into business-rugged devices resulting in the most reliable mobile connectivity available. These laptops weigh below 4lbs and offer exceptional battery life, so cross-country flights and long meetings can be tackled without access to an outlet.
The whole spectrum of rugged mobile devices has extremely low failure rates – in the low single digits – allowing mobile workers to be as productive as possible.
For businesses planning on purchasing a mobile device, consider your usage environments, before trying to pick a solution. As your workforce becomes increasingly mobile, you might also reconsider the notion of a corporate standard. The most successful companies will focus on a best of breed solution.
Articles and analyst papers on different levels of mobile rugged devices:
- Endpoint Technologies Associates: Redefining Rugged: Assessing the Spectrum of Durability in the Notebook Market, 2008
- PC Magazine: What Makes a Rugged Notebook, February 16, 2009