The Impact of Consumerization on Rugged Computing Technology Design

If you’ve been paying attention to industry trends, you’ve likely heard mention of the consumerization of IT. In short, the increasing popularity of tablets for everyday use is leading many rugged computing manufacturers to embrace a number of design cues and size options from the consumer market. Driven by this consumer design aesthetic, rugged tablet form factors are becoming smaller, lighter and less bulky.

Tablets are increasingly designed to be easier to carry for longer periods of time, as they occupy a larger part of our highly mobile working lives. In addition, manufacturers are continuing to follow consumer design cues with seamless 4G LTE connectivity and professional-grade accessories for enterprise tablet computers. With universal wireless connectivity, options like vehicle mounting docks, barcode scanners and RFID readers make tablets a far more versatile tool, since they can be safely transported and accessed whenever and wherever the job requires workers to be.

We’ve seen firsthand how consumer tablets impact the rugged tablet space. When Panasonic introduced its Toughpad FZ-A1, the device looked nothing like a traditional rugged product.  Instead, it resembled thinner, sleeker consumer-grade models. Here’s a look at some of the factors that will influence rugged tablet design in the coming years.

More Size Options
Tablet use is growing exponentially, and will likely continue to grow in the enterprise as tablets become more connected, more versatile and more secure. Their portability, flexibility and ease of use have made them a great fit for applications of all kinds. But with so many form factors available, what size tablet is the best fit for business?

When it comes to meeting the computing needs of mobile workers, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Although 10-inch devices were the genesis of the current interest in the tablet form factor (and they have numerous applications for mobile workers) there are many instances where smaller, more portable devices are a better fit. For a field worker climbing a utility pole, a device that fits in a cargo pocket is more practical than a device that needs to be slung over the shoulder with a strap. Conversely, larger tablets are preferable when more content is required to be displayed on a screen. This is often the case in markets like construction, healthcare, retail and architecture.

Just as we see the need for tablets that are smaller than 10 inches, we also see the need for larger tablets. Within the enterprise space, the application and end user needs often drive the size of the device. Because there are many diverse applications and needs, we’ll likely see a number of size options to meet them. This holds true for Panasonic’s line of Toughbook and Toughpad mobile computers – the variety of shapes, sizes and features are driven by direct input from our customers.

More Features and Functionality
As enterprise tablets become more advanced, they will continue to offer more specific features to allow a greater variety of mobile workers to do their jobs effectively. We expect tablets to incorporate more of the productivity features and solutions that have been integrated into other enterprise devices, such as RFID scanners, barcode readers, enhanced security and greater connectivity options.

Some rugged tablet displays are showing influence from next-gen consumer tablets that continually boast higher screen resolutions or dramatically sharper displays. There is great interest in tablets that can harness the capabilities of Ultra High Definition or 4K resolutions and produce a large, professional-quality display on a device that is still portable and mobile. This would be ideal for structural designers, medical professionals or construction workers – anyone who would benefit from high-quality graphics or a rendering of schematics.

Looking Ahead
The enterprise computing landscape is changing and jobs that were once pen and paper are becoming digitized. The importance of having access to data or being able to view and share it in real time is now a critical part of success for businesses. In essence, mobile technology now allows every employee to function as a node on the company’s network at nearly every point of the day. Being competitive, productive and profitable has to do with making sure information flows between the various points on the network. To that end, having the most reliable, connected and functional devices is critical.

Customers depend on Panasonic because of our reputation for engineering highly reliable, functional and connected devices. As a result, our customers and our customer’s customers are able to access the information they need at any time, from anywhere, to make decisions that deliver the best possible outcomes.