The following article first appeared in Mobile Enterprise, and is excerpted here with permission.
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.
With increasing availability and affordability of wireless broadband, people are no longer confined to the traditional office environment. Soon we will all be connected, everywhere and always. Mobile operators are expanding networks and increasing capacity to handle the explosion of data traffic stemming from the increasing use of smartphones (that are in reality more computers than phones).
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. 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.
Standard computers are simply not suitable for use in outdoor environments. They have poor battery life and cannot withstand shock, dust and water. They break too easily and too often, thus making the price-benefit analysis inferior to that of rugged computers (although the latter are more expensive to purchase). The total cost of ownership is much lower, as much as 65% lower per year, for rugged computers, mainly because their durability minimizes or eliminates the loss of productivity that is the result of computers breaking down.
Office Workers Embrace Rugged Devices
Traditionally, rugged computers have been used by field workers operating in tough and naturally mobile environments such as logistics, geomatics, forestry, public transportation, construction, mining, public safety and military. But a strong parallel trend is that even ordinary office workers are now also starting to use rugged computers for a life on the go to avoid having to replace commercial laptops or handheld devices or even smartphones so often. Many blue-collar workers, like garbage collectors and train staff, have also started using rugged computers and handheld devices to make their work more effective and productive.
What Is a Rugged Computer?
There are two main standards for classifying rugged computers:
The first is 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; 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.