How tough does your mobile tech need to be?
By Jan Kaempfer, General Manager for Marketing for Panasonic Computer Products Solutions
I recently read an article on one of the latest smartphones which has been designed to survive submersion in five feet of water for 30 minutes, and advertised as “water resistant”, however when tested this proved not to be the case. The rugged device failed a number of water resistance tests, with reviews reporting unresponsive touchscreens and infiltration of bubbles in its cameras. This just demonstrated to me how important it is to ensure that your device does what it purports to do. Let’s face it we all enjoy watching those online videos of laptops being blown up, run over by tanks or dropped in water, and unlike this new smartphone, sometimes they even survive, but in reality just how tough does our business tech really need to be?
Of course this boils down to really thinking through your requirements and the type of activities users will be doing with their devices – are they field workers, office workers, are they up a pole or down a hole, or sat at their desk 90% of the time?
I say this because we are in the ‘tough’ or rugged market, as is reflected in our range of fully ruggedised, semi ruggedised, and business ruggedised mobile notebook and tablets, so we spend a lot of time understanding how tough mobile tech needs to be for certain users. Certainly when it comes to field workers and ruggedised machine requirements we have a longstanding reputation for producing world leading technologies. In fact, I am proud to say that we can legitimately make this claim because we have always and continue to invest heavily in research and testing which means that we develop and build world beating new technologies and products.
The rigorous testing routines carried out on the Toughbook and Toughpad range ensures the products do what we say they will do, which is a really important point. We know better than most that tough working conditions demand tough mobile computing products and our devices are designed to withstand and handle a variety of environments. Our business ruggedised range is built to resist spillages, bumps and bangs, and our fully ruggedised models can survive drops of up to 1.8 metres and conditions including extremely cold or hot environments, humidity, dust, dirt, atmospheric and physical pressure and vibration.
FULLY RUGGED TESTS
Let me give you an example. Hard drive disk failures and broken screen displays are common if a standard laptop or tablet is dropped, however our devices are designed to absorb impact and resist these types of breakages. The drop tests that our Fully Rugged mobile computers undergo vary from 1.2m through to 3m drop heights to ensure they survive. Each test is carried out 26 times on each product and is certified by an independent testing lab. The drop surface for these tests is 5cm thick plywood over a steel plate over concrete and the tests are performed in accordance with Military Standard Testing Methods. Our business rugged Toughbook mobile computers and 4K Tablets are subjected to 30cm and 76cm flat drops onto their bottom side.
And this is just one form of testing. We also do liquid resistance testing where we measure the level of resistance to moisture in our devices. Spills and splashes of soft beverages onto your computer are inevitable, however sometimes much harsher substances can find their way onto your keyboard and screen. [JK1]
As our computers are often used outdoors they are also tested to operate fully in the harshest downpours. Our Blowing Rain water test involves testing, operational fully rugged Toughbook and Toughpad computers for 30 minutes in a 113 km/h wind, and rainfall of 15 cm per hour[JK2] . These are just two examples of the robustness of our testing. Other fully rugged tests include vibration resistance testing as units used in all forms of transport from cars to trains and planes are subject to constant vibration so it is crucial that they can resist damage from long-term exposure. Field work can involve rough terrain vehicle trips so mobile laptops must be able to withstand vibration and continue to work effectively, and models used in manufacturing or mining can also be subject to substantial and frequent vibration stress.
IN THE FIELD
Equally operating out in the field can leave equipment exposed to dust and dirt which has the tendency of finding its way into all sorts of areas. This can lead to potential problems with the functionality of the keyboard and other components, slowing productivity and efficiency. We therefore fully test our fully rugged products for their resistance to dust, sand and other airborne particle infiltration. Other tests include humidity, temperature tolerance and pressure resistance, as well as wireless testing.
By subjecting our products to these rigid and tough tests, we are able to manufacture rugged wireless mobile computers that are robust, consistent and reliable for a broad range of industries, and that are capable of operating in a variety of environmental conditions. So unlike the smartphone example that I referenced at the start of the article, our products do what they say on the tin and offer a range of ruggedness users may need from the military and emergency services, through logistics, warehousing and retail, to the mobile salesperson and market researchers.