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January 26, 2012

A conversation on imaging in rugged handhelds

Recently I received an email from someone in the industry that concluded with the question: "Wouldn't a conversation on imaging in rugged handhelds be interesting to your readers?"

The answer, of course, is "definitely," and so I responded as follows:

"I recently wrote two articles on the general state of imaging in handheld/mobile systems, so you basically know where I stand. In essence, given the very rapid advance in HD still/video imaging thanks to a convergence of CMOS, tiny storage formats, and H.264 compression technology (Ambarella!), it's now possible to generate excellent high resolution stills as well as near perfect 1080p/30 and better video in very small packages, packages that are small enough to fit into handheld and mobile computers.

"Yet, while we see tiny $200 GoPros and such, and advanced still/video capability in virtually every smartphone, the imaging technology we find in almost all rugged computers, even high-end ones, is lacking. Though we review and examine numerous mobile computers every year, we have yet to find a single one that has hybrid imaging capabilities that come close to what is possible today, and most are, in fact, barely usable. It is inexplicable to me how a $4,000 ruggedized notebook computer or tablet does NOT include competent imaging subsystems. There is room, there is a need, and the costs are not prohibitive.

"What enables me to make those statements? First, I have been reviewing rugged mobile computing technology for almost 20 years. For the past ten or 15 years, imaging in mobile computers has barely advanced. Second, I co-founded Digital Camera Magazine in 1997 (as the first magazine anywhere to concentrate solely on digital cameras). I continue to follow digital imaging closely and we also do digital imaging reviews as time allows. Third, as an enthusiastic scuba diver (see my scubadiverinfo.com), I have done many underwater imaging product reviews, including a couple on the GoPros (see here). Fourth, in working with several embedded systems vendors, I know what's possible in terms of integration. What I do see is an almost total lack of communication between computer and imaging people.

"I was not familiar with your company, but I see that you are in part concentrating on camera modules. Which means that you are probably painfully aware of the situation. What must happen is much better integration of much better imaging capabilities into mobile computers. At a time where I can produce near Avatar-quality underwater 1080p 3D video with two GoPros, and where world events are routinely reported on smartphones, mobile computers are woefully out of touch with imaging. A professional who pays $4,000 for a rugged computer (or even just $1,200 for a rugged handheld) should expect no less in terms of imaging quality and ease-of-use than you can get in a cheap digital camera (i.e. sharp pictures, a decent interface, HD video, and speed). Instead, what we currently have in most mobile computers is simply not nearly good enough. You could never rely on it even for quick, reliable snapshots in the field, let alone quality imaging.

"Think about it: businesses spend a lot of money to equip their personnel with expensive mobile computing equipment. Much of that equipment is used for data capture, sight survey, recording, reporting, etc. It makes zero sense to me to have vast computing power, a great outdoor viewable display, great communication and data capture technology, .... and weak rudimentary imaging that is in no way suitable or sufficient.

Posted by conradb212 at 09:02 PM | Comments (0)

January 20, 2012

Who's Using Rugged Tablet PC Systems

Just as tablets have become indispensable to consumers, rugged tablets are becoming more integral to business.

At first, Rugged Tablet PC systems were used by the military, where they had to be able to withstand very hostile environmental conditions. But over time, they've found uses in a number of other industries, including:

  • Retail
  • Field Service
  • Manufacturing and Warehousing
  • Transportation and Logistics
  • Field Sales and Service
  • Food and Beverage Distribution
  • Military and Public Safety
  • Agriculture

Meanwhile, new studies show that tablets and other handheld devices are now outselling laptops 2-to-1. With such widespread adoption, many companies are likely to find that rugged tablets make business more efficient, seamless, and ultimately more cost-effective.

When Should I Start Using Rugged Tablet PCs?

Rugged tablets are ideal for companies that typically deploy laptops to their field workers, or those that issues PDAs and other handheld devices to their mobile workforce. Other companies find that rugged devices are especially useful for their warehouse operations.

But not everyone is immediately sold on rugged tablets. A lot of people still don't know if their features and benefits justify the up-front cost. Answers to a few key questions can help them decide:

  • Is the device exposed to water and shock?
  • Is it likely to be dropped?
  • Does the user travel often, or work off-site?
  • Will it have to work in extreme temperatures?
  • Does it need a long battery life?
  • What functions does it need to perform?
  • Will it be used during most of the workday?
If the answer to most or all of these questions is yes, then a rugged device is not only useful, but essential for doing business.

But how rugged is rugged enough? Tell us about your application.

Posted by mobiledemand at 02:57 PM | Comments (0)

January 18, 2012

Test 2

Testing templates

Posted by mobiledemand at 11:40 PM | Comments (0)

Testing

Test to see use of entry categories.

Posted by mobiledemand at 08:36 PM | Comments (0)