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Myths about rugged devices


There are many misconceptions when it comes to rugged mobile technology. Below we have addressed the most common misconceptions to give you a better idea of what rugged devices are all about. This will help you to make the right choice when equipping yourself or your workforce with mobile technology.

Heavy, bulky - Some of the concerns we hear about rugged technology is the size and bulkiness of the average device. Although the majority of fully rugged devices are larger than consumer devices, this is necessary to protect valuable mission-critical data when out in the field. Rugged devices are drop-resistant and protected against dust particles and liquid ingress; this is achieved in a number of ways by building a strong internal chassis supported by bump protective casing and certified by an IP (Ingress Protection) rating. The enlarged protective casing was traditionally made from heavy but strong alloy solutions, this offered excellent protection but added additional weight and bulk to the unit. 2016 has brought in new lighter alloy solutions which enable chassis to be built thinner and lighter without compromising the structure such as magnesium alloy.

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The simplest way for a rugged tablet to meet a high Ingress Protection rating is to cut down on the number of open ports and although in many cases protective port covers can be used on IO ports (such as HDMI, USB 3.0, True Serial ports and SD card storage) and the internal cooling CPU fan still needs to vent heated air. However, now with the introduction of the M-series ultra-low power consumption CPU from Intel this is no longer the case. The M-Series is still powerful but features an added bonus of running cooler than standard CPU’s at heavy load. As the M-Series generates less heat the CPU allows for internal cooling via a heat sink; the result is no unnecessary ventilation thus no additional areas for hazardous dust and liquid to enter the system.

We are now seeing the introduction of fully rugged tablets and laptops which are under 900 grams in weight such as the new IP65 rated Panasonic CF-20’s detachable tablet section or the Panasonic FZ-B2.

Our rugged military devices include added protection which naturally increases bulk and weight, but if there was a choice between a family car on a battlefield or an armour plated tank I know what I’d pick! All our devices have peripheral carry solutions; even the lightest and thinnest devices can benefit from hands free solutions such as shoulder and waist harnesses.

Expensive - without mentioning ROI (return on investment) and TCO (total cost of ownership) it’s important to understand where rugged devices are intended to be deployed. Typically, companies looking for rugged devices have previous history with drops, spills and breakages but it’s the cost of downtime that should never be overlooked. For the outlay of one rugged device for a single field engineer any downtime exceeding as little as a few hours can be more expensive than the initial cost of the rugged device. If you need to replace a less expensive consumer device because of user breakages once then it’s only a matter of time before you will be replacing the consumer device again due to similar breakages. The environment doesn’t change, therefore, the intelligent decision is to ensure equipment taken into the environment is purposely built to survive that environment. A good example of this would be survey management. An engineer has to travel to carry out surveys on site; if the equipment fails in the field, then the whole day may be written off. Rescheduling another visit can be costly in terms of time, wages and fuel.  Moreover, it can be inconvenient to the point of upsetting your client, potentially resulting in the loss of future work.

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In short, you can read our article on consumer v rugged devices, however the potential financial implications of a single worker’s downtime can easily escalate to cover the cost of multiple rugged units. Only the ill-advised would choose incorrect technology to equip an entire workforce.

Aged technologypeople often believe that rugged devices are behind the times, when in fact the reverse is true. Leading manufactures such as Intel, ASUS and Gobi have been testing the latest cutting edge technology on high-end rugged devices for the past decade. The protective environment of rugged devices gives the internal components the best test bed for the latest and greatest. A good 2016 example of this would be the new Intel M-Series which is now featured across two of Panasonic’s Rugged Toughbook and Toughpad range (the FZ-M1 and the CF-20). Intel worked closely with Panasonic to deliver an outstanding mobile solution which excels in terms of battery life and performance and with the latest technology we are now seeing rugged devices outperform typical consumer specifications.

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Another good example: Gorilla Glass was first featured on the Motion F5-Series Rugged Tablet PC years before it hit the consumer market; yet it is now commonplace in smartphones. Though it might not seem obvious from the outset, technology in our range of rugged laptops and tablets is typically introduced to consumer devices, not the other way around. 1 step ahead for rugged technology.

Ugly duckling – beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or so they say. Traditionally, rugged devices have never been contenders for the best looking device, however there are good examples of devices which look great and are rugged (check out the R12 and the FZ-G1). Specifically, rugged devices are work tools, they have been designed with functionality in mind not looks. It is worth considering that tools that look great are more susceptible to theft than tools that appear solely dedicated for the job at hand.

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Conclusion – Rugged technology has come on leaps and bounds over the past decade, what were traditionally known as expensive and bulky devices are now showing to include cutting edge technology with a superior return on investment. This opens up new roads for rugged mobile computing, we are now seeing units being deployed into sectors such as retail stores and art galleries. Mobile business workers are also adopting semi-rugged technology after the realization that consumer devices wear quickly when used on a daily basis and soon enough failing at criticle times.

Rugged Mobile Technology – weighty, bulky, prehistoric, costly – Myth busted!

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