Here at The SmartVan we’ve explored a number of questions related to field service workers adopting tablet computers. Clearly the benefits of mobile access to information are massive — not to mention the huge potential for smaller business that tablets, through the growing ubiquity of cloud-based applications that allow companies to get into the high-tech game for little cost, represent. Amidst this great migration toward tablets and smartphones in the field, however, there appears to be a schism between those advocating for employer-issued, rugged, field-tested tablets and those who say personal, familiar, consumer products like the iPad are ultimately most useful. Sarah Howland, editor of Field Technologies Magazine, offers her perspective on the debate:
I recently moderated two panel discussions at AIM Expo in Las Vegas. One was on TCO (total cost of ownership) and included Stratix and Datalogic. The other was on rugged tablet PCs and included LXE, Panasonic, Motion Computing, and Xplore. Interestingly enough, the topic of individual-liable vs. corporateliable devices came up during both these panel discussions – but not in the context that you may be accustomed to.
How Rugged? Depends On The User
Typically the topic of individual-liable vs. corporate-liable devices is discussed as it relates to the security of data transferred and your ability to remotely monitor or manage the devices. While these considerations are valid, the discussions that occurred during the panels at AIM brought a new angle to the individual-liable vs. corporate-liable debate. In the panel discussion on rugged tablet computing, we discussed the relevance of the iPad in the world of the mobile workers. The conclusion? It can be a fine choice for some mobile workers, but it depends on the user and application. We walked through scenarios in which an iPad might work (more “white collar”-type use cases and users that are carrying their individual device on a daily basis) and those in which a rugged device is a more appropriate choice (mobile workers who are actually using the devices in the field, may drop them, may encounter inclement conditions, and almost always devices that are corporate-assigned). The big point that was made during this discussion is the fact that mobile workers who feel personally responsible for their device (it’s their own device, or it’s work-assigned but they’re the only person who uses it and they do so on a daily basis) are more likely to take care of it and keep it in good condition — and therefore, often require a lesser degree of ruggedness. Workers who are only using the device to access line-of-business applications, use the device only during their 8-hour work shift, or use a different device each time they come in are much less likely to be careful with the device and, therefore, usually need a more rugged device.
This conversation came up in the TCO panel as well, because it’s directly correlated – thinking about the type of user who will be leveraging the device is an important consideration when evaluating TCO. Not only do you want to look at the environment in which the device will be used, you need to think about the behaviors that are common to the type of users you’re deploying the technology to.