The Keys to a Successful Rugged Mobile Computing Deployment in Field Service Applications

While the concept of mobility is not new, it is still a major undertaking for enterprise organizations. Before conducting a mobile device deployment, these organizations need to ensure that they perform an in-depth evaluation of the various solutions on the market today and how they can impact their various lines of business.

We recently examined the considerations enterprises should take into account in a webinar with Mobile Enterprise titled “Tablets in the Field – The Keys to Rugged Success.”

David Krebs of VDC Research kicked off the webinar by reiterating that mobility is not an insignificant undertaking and that organizations need to ensure they enter the decision-making process with “their eyes wide open.” According to David, one billion employees, or one-third of today’s workforce, are now mobile – meaning they spend a significant portion of their day away from a single location. Clearly, these workers must be enabled with computing power, just like workers with desk jobs. However, there are a multitude of choices for how to enable them: notebooks, tablets and smartphones – not to mention hundreds of product offerings across each category. The tablet is one piece of the equation but shouldn’t be considered a one-stop solution.

J.P. Koval, supervisor of mobile technology field operations at San Diego Gas & Electric, a Panasonic customer, found this to be true. J.P.’s team of 350 customer-facing technicians needed new mobile devices due to the fact that they needed to move away from Windows XP and upgrade to Windows 7. This group had previously been equipped with Toughbook CF-29 laptops, however due to their highly-mobile and customer-facing roles, J.P. and his team determined that tablets would be a better fit for these technicians. During the webinar, J.P. noted that this was not the case for all SDG&E employees though.

“Half of our workforce is still using clamshell devices. For anyone viewing GIS, circuit and gas maps or doing extensive data entry – this is simply a better platform,” he said.

Also, while the Toughpad FZ-G1 tablets are an ideal fit for J.P.’s group, the rollout did not come without challenges – as is the case with any new hardware deployment. J.P.’s advice to the webinar participants was to be sure to conduct training sessions. He and his IT team held sessions with just five employees each so that there was a significant amount of one-on-one time with instructors. He also recommended providing a channel for feedback. This can be as simple as a SurveyMonkey email, asking users to provide their opinions about the new devices and any feedback they may have. User feedback was incredibly beneficial to J.P.’s team. Because this group was accustomed to using Toughbook CF-29 laptops, which have a screen that is three inches larger than the Toughpad FZ-G1, SDG&E users mentioned that they were having a harder time seeing information on the device screens while they were docked in their trucks. In order to resolve this issue, J.P. and his team quickly redesigned the ergonomics of the in-vehicle docking stations, bringing the tablets much closer to the drivers.

Panasonic’s own Brett Unzicker, senior director of sales, concluded the webinar by reiterating the fact that there is no “one size fits all” approach to mobile device deployments. Rather, it’s a matter of determining the right device for the right user. The full Mobile Enterprise webinar is now available on demand. For more information about Panasonic’s mobility solutions, visit‎.