July 13, 2012
The Future Of Mobile Computers Is Rugged
By Jerker Hellström, CEO, Handheld Group
We are going through a radical shift in the way people work and use computers. Increasing availability and affordability of wireless broadband is giving the global workforce true mobility, for the first time in history. Many of them will use smartly designed mobile rugged computers for their everyday computing and communication needs instead of traditional laptops.
“We live in interesting times,” said Robert Kennedy in 1966. I am prone to agree, although Bob and I surely refer to vastly different developments and scenarios. I would like to suggest that we are presently going through a real, radical shift in the way in which people work and use computers. It is about true mobility, for the first time in history.
Working from home or closer to the customers can have several positive effects: it may make staff more content and also more productive. It may make the organization slimmer by reducing the need for office space. And the society as a whole may reap great environmental rewards if this newly found true mobility leads to fewer trips by car, bus, train or plane to and from the office.
Another strong trend that drives true mobility is the availability of much improved so-called “rugged” or “ruggedized” computers. As opposed to traditional, or commercial, computers, these computers are specifically designed to operate reliably in harsh usage environments and conditions, such as strong vibrations, extreme temperatures and wet or dusty conditions.
There are two main standards for classifying rugged computers:
>> The American military standard for equipment, MIL-STD-810. This is a broad range of environmental conditions that include low pressure for altitude testing; exposure to high and low temperatures plus temperature shock; rain; humidity, fungus, salt fog; sand and dust exposure; leakage; and shock and vibration. The standard is comprised of 24 laboratory test methods. Generally speaking, the more methods tested (and passed), the more rugged the unit. So a rugged computer would, on one level, be classified by how many test methods it has passed.
>> The IP scale. Not to be confused with Intellectual Property or IP address, IP in this case stands for Ingress Protection and the ratings are displayed as a two-digit number. The first digit reflects the level of protection against dust. The second digit reflects the level of protection against liquids (water). So an IP67-rated unit is totally dustproof and is capable of immersion in water for at least 30 minutes to a depth of 1 meter.
Rugged computers have become much more sophisticated and advanced in the last few years. They now have faster processors to offer better and broader use, and the ability to bring desktop functionality out into the field. Their batteries can work for eight hours on a single charge – a full work day. They may work on any choice of wireless frequency anywhere in the world. They have high-quality cameras that allows in field image capture.
Rugged mobile computers have also become much lighter and have much better functionality overall, including better displays and improved ergonomic design – all contributing to an improved user experience. New screen technology provides spectacular screen clarity and brightness in any outdoor condition, even direct sunlight.
They also look better – it has become cool to own a rugged computer (also because many famous athletes and adventurers use them). Design and functionality are two strong reasons why the rugged computer segment is growing faster than other computer segments.
Jerker Hellström is CEO at Sweden’s Handheld Group. He has more than 25 years of experience from developing, designing, manufacturing and marketing rugged computers globally, and this piece is excerpted from a longer document. Contact him at 011 46 (0) 510-54 71 70.