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What Rugged Mobility
Got Right In 2015

Can your rugged computer handle thermal stress?
(July 2012)

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What Rugged Mobility Got Right In 2015

The rugged computing industry saw some exciting advancements in 2015.

by Peter Poulin, January 2016

Rugged mobility is not a new concept within global manufacturing, defense, transportation, or natural resource sectors. It's not all that unfamiliar to our local public safety, healthcare, or utility leaders either. All require durable, environmentally resilient computing tools that provide real-time data access and always-on communications channels no matter where their workers may be logging on. Each requires a complement of purpose-built accessories that support specialized workflows, no two of which are ever identical.

Yet, after nearly two decades of rugged mobile PC innovation, our industry found itself rising to new standards in 2015. Perhaps it's because business process requirements finally called for rugged tablets' full PC competencies and unrestricted mobility. Perhaps it's because customers were no longer willing to settle with a one-size-fits-all solution that many manufacturers thought was sufficient for a broad audience. Or, maybe, it's because consumer device manufacturers made more aggressive attempts to cash in on the lucrative mobile growth opportunities within today's top industrial environments.

The abundance of apparent choices created a cognitive overload problem for some customers, as the lines between truly rugged devices and consumer devices seemed to blur. To ensure a positive experience for customers, it became increasingly important to demonstrate the incomparable advantage that purpose-built rugged tablets provide for many field service environments.

Rugged tablet designs continued to evolve to meet an ever-expanding set of customer requirements. Also came greater separation between rugged devices and consumer devices -- making trade-off decisions less blurry. Customer-inspired designs no longer compromise on the computing attributes that are critical:

  • the inclusion of multiple, IP55 and IP65 sealed USB, RJ45, Serial Cable, and HDMI I/O ports
  • bigger screens
  • double the storage capacity of previous models
  • double the processing power
  • double the battery life
  • 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity
  • more physical and data security
  • higher ATEX, C1D2/C1Z2, and MIL-STD-810G rugged protection ratings than ever before.

All are standard features that meet customers' rising computing mobile standards, in a single tablet form factor. And this is just one example of what rugged mobility got right in 2015.

Throughout the year, we also saw a rise in rugged tablet serviceability and more diverse OS adoption. More rugged mobile PCs are now running Android OS versus running from it, and the expanded compatibility of today's tough tablets simultaneously support current Windows OS versions while preparing end users for migration to Windows 10.

But, if I'm being honest, I don't think our ability to check all of the boxes on a criteria list is the only reason rugged tablets had such a spectacular 2015. These new qualifications wouldn't be as impressive if customers didn't really want or need them, and rugged mobility platforms wouldn't be welcomed by new global industries or enlisted for today's most extreme environments if our contribution to their mobility solution stopped at a device.

Unlike consumer manufacturers, we rugged mobility leaders have the legacy knowledge of each sector's extreme challenges and the inherit awareness of each industry's — and each customer's — business processes, systems requirements, and productivity goals. Unlike many new market entrants, we've spent days in the field with utility or military customers to experience the reality of their daily demands and hours with public safety professionals to document every one of the hundreds — even thousands — of workflows that need continuity between the office, the vehicle, and the most remote corners of the country. For nearly 20 years, we have been fine-tuning our rugged mobile computing solutions to accommodate not just the continued evolution of industrial workflows but the daily flow of field workers across all enterprise sectors. That cumulative effort is why, in 2015, we were able to improve systems flexibility, I/O standards, and intrinsically safe mobile computing. Thanks to the renewed innovation of rugged tablets, the most powerful rugged tablet platforms in history are now accessible — and relevant — to many vertical industries.

But, in 2016, we now have to focus on how to deliver beyond the device. Rugged tablets' impact on the mobile computing industry — and customers' futures — will be defined by how we collaboratively utilize every standard feature available. We have to embrace every effectual system in place and every bit of feedback we've received from field service technicians to expand the reach of rugged mobility solutions and create efficiencies that, in reality, may already be at our fingertips today.

Peter Poulin is Chief Marketing Officer of Xplore Technologies, a leading provider of rugged mobile computers built to withstand harsh environmental conditions and physical stress.