How often have you heard a rugged computer manufacturer talk about how “far” their technologies will go to keep your field-based workers connected and productive – often showcasing the PC’s ability to reach the ends of the Earth and beyond? And how many times have you been skeptical of such claims? Probably more often than anyone would like to admit, right? I get it.
Even the most rugged laptop – built to withstand arctic temperatures or the pressures of high-altitude travel – has limitations. Off-the-grid communications limitations specifically, in that they’ll never capture a signal if they can’t find a 3G/4G network. So oftentimes, even though you still bring these environmentally hardened rugged computers with you into the field for emergency response calls, pipeline inspections, and other specialized data collection tasks, you just accept that it’s a “file now, transmit later” tool right? Until you’re back in network range, you don’t have access to data, for dispatch or reporting. Maybe in the most extreme cases, you’ll rely on a satellite phone to maintain real-time, voice communications.
Well, I have great – no, earth-encompassing– news for you! CLS America has introduced a legitimate “off-grid” PC working in partnership with Xplore. Working closely with field-based professionals such as maritime and wildlife authorities, the military, law enforcement leaders, and even expeditionary researchers, they’ve partnered to build a mobile computer that will literally stay connected anywhere you need it to go, the entire time . North Pole? Check. South Pole? Check. At sea? Check. Anywhere in between? Check.
Thorium X, the field industry’s first-in-class satellite communications rugged tablet, is a convergence of the best-in-class technologies covering the entirety of the extreme communications spectrum. It merges the Xplore D10 rugged Android tablet (as the core, no-compromise computing platform) with the Iridium satellite network (comprised of 66 satellites orbiting Earth) to give you real-time mapping data and weather reports, enable real-time email communications, and facilitate the completion and sharing of personalized electronic forms relevant to your workflows. Even when there’s no 3G/4G, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth signal in site.
That’s real-life proof that technology can go to extremes to support workers who are out there all the time. That was the take of a lot of utility industry leaders at DistribuTECH 2017. Specifically, there was a lot of interest around the notion of an always-connected mobile computer, and a lot of curiosity about the viability of satellite communications in a device with full computing capabilities...
- Tech decision-makers wanted to know whether or not constant, non-coded data communication, anywhere on the face of the Earth, can be guaranteed. Let’s just say that they became convinced this wasn’t an empty promise once they saw the Thorium X in action.
- Then there were questions about throughput of the data connection. In short, we demonstrated how Thorium Software manages the data connection in order to efficiently manage email, mapping, weather and custom forms.
- And, lastly, many asked about the cost of the satellite data connection. While the answer depends on use, it’s fair to say that the average monthly cost is in the same ballpark as cellular data contracts. But, you don’t have to fret over roaming fees or the need for country-specific network reliability and customer support. Instead, with CLS’ satellite-connected tablet, you get standard, around-the-clock communications connectivity in regions of the world where no other wireless coverage is available or even possible.
Now, will this first-in-class satellite-connected Android tablet be the right PC platform for every mobile workforce? Maybe, or maybe not. It sure won’t cost you anything to consider the potential advantages of this unprecedented level of communications connectivity, especially if you’re responsible for a highly mobile workforce.
Consider this: Even if your field service technicians are off-the-grid one day a month for an ultra-remote pipeline inspection, how much time does it take them to drive back within range of a network to submit their findings and recommend maintenance or repair actions? How much lost time, and lost productivity, could be recovered if they had been able to transmit their findings in real-time via a satellite connection? If you’re looking for an Android-based mobility solution anyways, this is certainly an option to explore today. After all, you never know how much this joint CLS America-Xplore innovation can advance your corporate mission until you understand how fully it can support the needs of your remote field teams.
Blog Author: Bob Ashenbrenner
President of Durable Mobility Technologies, LLC.