Intermec CN70 Mobile Computer|
Ultra-rugged PDA-style handheld for field service and similar applications
(by Conrad Blickenstorfer)
Update January 14, 2013: Intermec announced integrated RFID capabilities for its ultra-rugged CK70, CN70 and CN70e mobile computers. The devices now offer a fully-integrated UHF RFID reader without the need of an external antenna by using Intermec's IM11 embedded module along with an internally housed antenna. This way, customers get RFID read performance without changes to the compact form factor of the 70 Series mobile computers.
Note: On December 10, 2012, Intermec announced that it will be acquired by Honeywell. [See Intermec press release]
Update January 23, 2012: Intermec announced two enhancements to its 70 Series of rugged handhelds. The first is a switch from the 600MHz TI OMAP 3530 processor, an older 65nm design, to a 1GHz TI Sitara 3715 chip, a newer 45nm design that is fully OMAP architecture compatible. While still using an ARM Cortex A8 core and a POWERVR SGX Graphics Accelerator, the 3715's faster clock speed, up to 2X graphics performance, and lower power consumption mean a considerable step up in performance. The second is that three of the four 70 Series models -- the CN70, CN70e, and CK70 -- can now be ordered with what Intermec calls its "Flexible Network radio" module based on Qualcomm's Gobi 3000 technology and usable on both CDMA and UMTS wireless networks, enabling automatic and seamless "in route" switching between different carrier networks.
On January 11, 2011, Intermec announced the CN70 Series of ultra-rugged computers. The 70 Series initially includes four models, those being the CN70e, the CK70, the CK71, and the CN70 discussed in this article. The reason why Intermec offers four models addressing different applications and industries is what Intermec considers the advantages of a "common platform" approach: same architecture, same peripherals, same docks, same software builds, same technology. This can result in reduced complexity in deployment, updating, management, and also in lower total cost of ownership.
While the four models in the 70 Series address different markets and highlight different functionality, all share common core components:
- All are based on Microsoft Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 (see Microsoft's release on it), which is sort of a minor evolution of Windows Mobile 6.5.3.
- All use a 600MHz Texas Instruments OMAP 3530 processor, an ARM Cortex-A8 based chip that Intermec says provides 3X performance, but we're not sure compared to what.
- All have a 3.5-inch full-VGA 480x640 pixel touch display with LED backlight, light sensor, and Corning Gorilla Glass for vastly increased durability.
- All feature most impressive ruggedness specs, including a 6-foot drop spec, IP67 sealing, and a very wide -4 to 140 degree Fahrenheit operating temperature range.
- All include a 5-megapixel autofocus camera with flash, dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, advanced imaging options for just about any scanning application, accelerometer and digital compass, and VoIP and speech recognition support.
- Of note also a number of Intermec software management initiatives, such as INcontrol asset tracking, SmartSystem device health reporting, etc.
What's unique about the CN70?
The CN70 is the lightest and most compact of the CN70 Series, using the standard Pocket PC/PDA form factor with your choice of either a numeric or a QWERTY thumb-type keyboard. The CN70 is specifically targeted at applications in field service, transportation, logistics and such.
Measuring 3.14 x 6.66 x 1.35 inches and weighing just under a pound, the CN70 can be ordered either with a 29-key numeric keypad or with a 44-key QWERTY layout. Both are backlit, and each was designed with certain applications in mind.
For scanning, the CN70 uses the EA30 high-performance motion-tolerant 2D Imager that features white LED illumination, a red laser aimer optimized for all lighting conditions, a 35 degree downward scan angle, and is capable of scanning all common 1D and 2D barcodes. There is also an integrated 5-megapixel auto-focus digital camera option with flash. When used with Intermec's eMDI software, the camera can capture standard paper documents and convert them into electronic files. There is also an embedded accelerometer used for screen rotation, system suspend, or developers can use it to provide input to custom apps.
On the wireless side, the CN70 has integrated Class II Bluetooth Version 2.1 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate), dual band 802.11a/b/g/n, and either UMTS/HSUPA or CDMA/EVDO Rev. A wireless WAN. There's also an integrated and network-independent 12-channel GPS.
The battery is a fairly beefy 3.7 Volt/4,000 mAH Li-Ion rechargeable that, per Intermec, yields "the industry's longest battery life." Good thing, too, as VDC Research found that battery life ranks on top of features considered important by rugged handheld users.
It is not immediately clear what all the CN70 will replace in Intermec's product lineup. Judging by its specs, it seems to supercede the CN3 and CN4, which are roughly the same size and screen size, but are based on older processors, only have QVGA resolution, and are somewhat less rugged. The CN50, on the other hand, is noticeably smaller lighter, and therefore is not directly replaced by the CN70. What is clear is that with the new CN70, Intermec has issued a technology refresh of the standard industrial PDA without, however, breaking new operating platform or interface ground (like exploring Android or capacitive touch).