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To Be or Not to Be? Rugged without Regret

It doesn’t matter how much money you have to spend, no one wants to be “that guy” that overpaid for a car, a TV, a vacation, or even a rugged tablet.

Sure, sometimes you are willing to pay a little more for better quality if you’re confident that purchase is indeed the right option for you. But if you are dropping money on something you think is right because it’s shinier or more popular among your peers, then the odds of dissatisfaction rise two fold. So does the price you pay for total cost of ownership if we’re talking about investing in a non-rugged, consumer tablet when your field workers require true rugged tablets.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting one should settle for less just because it costs less upfront. Overestimating the capabilities of a cheaper rugged case to protect your workers’ preferred iPad, for example, may seem like the easy fix to making your workers rugged-ready in the field…and easy on the pockets. But, the protection of a rugged case is temporary and so are those cost savings. One wrong drop that the case can’t save you from and you’ll be paying much more for the inevitable disappointment that results when you have to deal with a device replacement, lost data and downtime.

So, as your workers increasingly break out of the soft cube walls into the concrete jungle, how do you determine which mobile devices will be right for them, and for your budget? How do you keep from being that guy that inadvertently overpays for mobility in the end?

My colleague Bob Ashenbrenner and I recently had this very discussion with several folks in the utility, manufacturing, distribution, government, public safety and healthcare sectors during a  Field Technologies Online webinar we hosted. The key is to not put the cart before the horse. You must decide first and foremost if your field workers need truly rugged devices with a simple Stop, Drop and Roll evaluation:

Will the device – and therefore critical work – STOP if the device were to DROP from your workers’ hands or a forklift, for example, or if some water were to ROLL onto the screen or into one of the ports?

Choosing the Right Rugged Tablet PC

If the answer is yes, then the reasons to go rugged are clear. You’ll benefit from the external water and dust protection offered with rugged devices’ higher IP ratings, the additional connectivity options found in numerous external ports and the ability to view the screen in bright sunlight. (How many times have you thought your smartphone was dead only to find that it couldn’t be viewed in sunlight?)

But don’t forget that – as in everything in life – it’s not always what’s on the outside that counts. You wouldn’t buy a car simply because of the way it looks without giving any thought to its engine, horsepower, security, handling and safety features. At least not if you wanted to ensure this car would be right for the job long-term.

So while you know rugged is right for you, the only way to choose the right rugged device (and spend your money wisely the first time) is to make a decision from the inside out:

  1. Operating System: Remember, this is a work-enabling device and software defines the workflow. So always pick your software first. The tablet will then make the software mobile.
  2. Security: “A stolen tablet, a compromised password, or an inappropriately downloaded app can take down your entire network.” Protection of data only becomes more paramount – and manageable – with mobile devices because they are more “out there” and accessible by unintended users. Make sure your tablet offers Computrace protection, two-factor authentication and access to secure data networks that are constantly monitored.
  3. Trust: But verify that this OS, security and ruggedness level are indeed right for you. Take the tablet for a test drive, or three. Best in class deployments employ sandbox testing, then small and large pilots, before letting any mobile solution loose on the open road.
  4. MDM: Today’s best-in-class field tech companies plan to never see these mobile devices once in the field. Yours should too. But that means equipping your IT department with an enterprise-grade MDM such as AirWatch, which allows the use of one MDM for all workers and all of their work-related devices for monitoring, repair, tracking, reporting and security.

If I’m being honest, appearance doesn’t matter if the tablet doesn’t perform. And when it comes to creating and sustaining a truly mobile, fully rugged workforce in today’s industrial or cleanroom environments, performance is all that matters.

The only way to successfully become rugged without regret is to invest in a product that’s rugged and ready for anything – and that means something different to each customer as you can see from many of the questions we fielded during the webinar. If you want to stand out in customer service and operational performance without spending more money than you should now or later, understand what others are doing but don’t obsess over their experience. Focus on finding a solution that fits your individual flow – workflow and daily flow – and that will adapt to your workers’ extreme job environment as well as your evolving data environment as needed.

And, remember, once you choose to be rugged you still have to decide exactly how rugged you need to be. One-size – or should I say one-spec – does not fit all scenarios. But beware: While the “ratings” on rugged device manufacturers’ spec sheets look awfully similar on the surface, the details matter. You have to distinguish the subjective “rugged” messaging they’re touting from the objective rugged measurements they should be certifying according to Mil Spec 810G and IP rating guidelines.

The good news is that Xplore is always objective and what you see (such as in our testing videos here and here and in the spec sheet details) is what you will always get. Our certifications confirm our rugged capacity without question. Our tablet and software customization capabilities just make our leadership in rugged mobility as a whole that much more impressive.

But stay tuned for our upcoming “Mil Spec Mythbusters” blog edition and learn what rugged rating language really means, which acronyms and numbers you should be paying attention to, and why there is so much fuss over rugged specs in the first place. We’ll also reveal why Xplore really does have the right rugged mobility platform for every extreme environment and every workflow you need now – and those you don’t know you need yet . In the meantime, find out how you should be “Righting the Ratings” when it comes to IP.  

View the recorded webinar on choosing a rugged tablet

See the Q&A on choosing a rugged tablet