Enterprise Handhelds: A Changing Landscape

Companies in diverse industrial sectors are continuing to expand their digital footprint and providing increased mobile capabilities to their workforce. The trend encompasses slim and lightweight devices that can perform in a range of challenging environments. These new form-factors represent a shift away from a proprietary Operating System (OS), a key feature in the ongoing evolution of enterprise handhelds. They’re part of a growing transition toward enterprise purpose-built devices for field-based workers that provide increased power, versatility, and reliability within a more ergonomic profile.

These newer models also enable improved IT control through Mobile Device Management (MDM) platforms. In the past, Windows CE and Windows Mobile were relatively unsecured OSes and much of the ruggedized handheld market conformed to these specs. The transition away from proprietary toward an open OS is due to diverse factors. They include: the pervasiveness of the Android, Windows 10 Mobile, and Windows Embedded 8.1 Handheld OS; a greater reliance on mobile apps across all business sectors, and key device improvements.

Moreover, the current design aesthetic comes directly from the consumer space and is based on user demand for a handheld experience that’s robust while more familiar, and easier to operate. Think lighter, more ergonomic. For example, a key difference between the older handheld device push-button interfaces and these newer handhelds is the on-screen keyboard.

With this new enterprise handheld design, technicians don’t require significant training on its use, because they can rely on their own personal smartphone experience. From a workforce perspective, the newer enterprise purpose-built form-factors available from Panasonic, offer increased power (Quad-, Octa-core CPUs), glove-enabled functionality, and daylight-readable screens that are fully operational in inclement weather, as well as exceptional wireless connectivity to deliver secure, anytime/anywhere data access.

The Evolution Toward More Power and Increased Functionality

The adoption of a more powerful CPU is partly due to an increase in responsibilities for field-based technicians. They’re remotely gathering, processing, accessing and sharing more data than ever before. They’re also interacting with customers and regularly transferring critical data in real time.

For example, accurately gathering product status is crucial in a number of field service sectors such as warehouses. For staff members tasked with resupply, filling orders and capturing real-time product location while on the move, these devices represent a new level of versatility. Recent handheld design features, such as built-in, ergonomic bar code readers, enable faster information retrieval and response.

One of the goals of IoT data collection is to provide near real-time visibility and insights to improve responsiveness and business operations so that as activities are occurring, the end user is continually collecting useful data and it can be shared in near-real time. For example, in the uniform rental industry, garment technicians scan individual items at each pick-up location. With this scan all data related to location, time, and items in the pick-up can be automatically recorded and transmitted to update central operations to anticipate and plan for the next day.

In terms of increased productivity in the medical sector, instant data access is crucial. For example, locating hospital equipment, such as infusion pumps, often presents challenges. In general, medical centers have very specific proprietary solutions for collecting proximity data and they’re not easy to use. Mobile enterprise handhelds can simplify such tasks and can even be extended to monitoring patient location.

Meeting Real-World Challenges

For IT, the new enterprise purpose-built handheld tablet form factors can eliminate the backend complications associated with proprietary OSes and the added costs of servicing inadequately designed devices that aren’t meeting enterprise professionals’ user needs. The evolution to an open OS and an enterprise handheld tablet form factor translates to increased IT agility and responsiveness for handling IT tasks, such as application updates, patches, remote security, and robust Mobile Device Management (MDM) to improve overall efficiency.

While the consumerization of IT represents a significant trend, the new mobile technology deployment story remains the same: IT desires well-designed, purpose-built devices that are durable and reliable. Ultimately, the more time IT staff spend managing and fixing broken devices, the less time they have to enact other technologies and improve a company’s bottom-line performance.

Finally, line-of-business decision makers and CFOs desire a beneficial ROI and want their devices to remain viable over a longer period of time. They understand that the initial investment for enterprise handhelds can be significant. However, the considerable processing power and increased functionality means more well-equipped technicians in the field, reduced IT servicing, and longer device lifespans.

The need for durable, environmentally resilient, and powerful mobility has heralded the advance of new standards. The workforce operating in today’s demanding physical environments expect the levels of mobile functionality, access, and response characteristic of their own personal devices. Combining a consumer-inspired smartphone design with business process requirements represents the next stage in rugged technology evolution.

Recently Panasonic announced the Toughpad FZ-N1 and FZ-F1 handheld devices: lightweight, fully rugged, and built for the professional in mind. They can take continuous usage—shift after shift after shift.

Panasonic handhelds feature many benefits that aren’t available from any other device.

  • Angled bar-code reader for maximum scanning productivity
  • Industry-leading quad-core processor by Qualcomm
  • Dual SIM multi-carrier data support with cellular voice capability
  • Optional long-life battery
  • High volume 100db speaker with noise suppression and echo cancellation microphone
  • MIL-STD-810G, 6′ drop, all-weather IP65 and IP67 dust- and water-resistant design
  • Patented rain-sensing and glove touch–enabled screen technology
  • Three-year warranty with business-class support

Panasonic’s line of handheld computers also includes the Toughpad FZ-E1 and FZ-X1, 5 inch, fully rugged handheld computers running the Windows 8.1 handheld OS and Android 4.2.2 respectively.

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Enterprise Handhelds: A Changing Landscape