Advice for buyers of rugged mobile computing devices

Buyers beware. With an increasing number of manufacturers adding a wide range of rugged sounding names and classifications to their mobile computing devices, it is very easy to buy an inappropriate solution for a workforce. This can be a very costly mistake for the business and, in turn, be very frustrating and demotivating for the users.

This independent research, conducted by Opinion Matters and commissioned by Panasonic, shows that the language being used by manufacturers of business and consumer devices is confusing the marketplace. Extreme terms to describe devices are being thrown around like confetti in a bid to convince buyers of the durability and suitability of a device – whether for the business professional, outside worker or consumer. Is it any wonder that the research shows buyers are confused?

Just because a mobile device has an IP Rating or a Military Standard compliant logo or claims to be water or drop proof, does not mean it is fit for purpose. Is the product light and ergonomic enough to be used effectively by the mobile worker, as well as simply durable? Can the manufacturer supply independent certificates to support all its rugged claims? Does it come with the connectivity options that the workforce requires for connection to its office systems?

All these questions and more are important considerations for the buyer if they are to specify a device that will deliver. A well-chosen rugged mobile computing device can deliver a transformation in workforce productivity and be a practical and useful tool for the user – providing a long-term return on investment. 

As a result, I would recommend all buyers examine the manufacturers’ claims very closely; ask to see test details and certificates. Examine whether the testing was undertaken independently or even under laboratory conditions and then test the products themselves, in the field, with a thorough pilot evaluation before buying.

BUYER PRIORITIES CHANGING

It’s also clear from the research that the priorities of businesses are evolving when it comes to rugged devices. Devices that are just tough no longer meet the need. Buyers need manufacturers of their rugged devices to have considered important issues such as the type of viewing screen, battery life and power management and the security of data and the device’s communications capabilities.

I hope this research helps buyers of rugged notebooks, tablets and handhelds to see through the smog and that it provides them with some useful tips and questions when considering the right type of rugged mobile device for their workforce. Only by manufacturers being much more transparent about the language they use and their rugged claims can we continue to deliver on our promise of transforming mobile workforce productivity.
 

JAN KAEMPFER
General Manager of Marketing for Panasonic Computer Product Solutions

KEY RESEARCH FINDINGS

Buyers of rugged mobile computing devices are confused by the terminology describing just how tough their notebooks, tablets and handheld devices are.

CONFUSION OVER RUGGED STANDARDS

GROWING IMPORTANCE OF RUGGED DEVICES

85%

of business buyers of mobile computing devices believe standards for ruggedness are already in place - and yet none exist.

88%

of business buyers said the ruggedness of their notebooks, tablets and handheld devices was very or fairly important to them when considering new purchases for their workforce.

CONFUSION OVER TERMINOLOGY

Many recognised common rugged terms but when it came to proving their understanding of these terms, the majority failed miserably.

IP RATINGS

Less than half of buyers were aware of Ingress Protection (IP) Ratings and two-thirds were unable to correctly identify that the rating was for protection against particles and liquid and the higher the rating the better the protection.

MILITARY STANDARD

69%

of buyers believed or expected the terms "MIL-STD compliant" and "tested to MIL-STD" to be a consistent measurement - they are not.

Buyers were wildly confused by what was covered in the commonly quoted US Military Standard 810G, with more than 35% of respondents incorrectly believing it applied to battery life.

In reality, MIL-STD 810G is a series of lab tests designed by the U.S military to test equipment limits in various environmental conditions where it is expected to be used. Although prepared specifically for military applications, the standard is also often used commercially. There are a wide range of conditions covered by the standard but common commercial tests include shock or drop, dust, water and extreme temperatures. The key is to check which tests apply to the product and to ask for proof of test certificates.

OVER-RELIANT ON MANUFACTURERS' CLAIMS

To add to the risk, 20% of buyers confirmed that they do not undertake any tests of their own when buying devices and simply believe the manufacturers’ claims.

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT THAT THE FOLLOWING ELEMENTS OF A DEVICE ARE RUGGEDIZED (E.G. MADE DURABLE)?

TOUGHBOOK’S ADVICE FOR BUSINESS BUYERS OF RUGGED MOBILE COMPUTING DEVICES.

Ask your vendor:

  • To supply MIL-STD 810G and IP certificates to support any testing or standards claims.
  • How their products are engineered to offer light weight without compromising ruggedness or durability.
  • If the Military Standard tests have been carried out on one single unit or if they used multiple units to fulfil the tests.
  • Which display options their devices support.
  • For a device with a high capacity battery option and exchangeable design to improve TCO and ROI.
  • Which ports and interfaces are included in the main unit without adapter cables.
  • How they support seamless data transfer and the latest connectivity standards.
  • How they optimise power management on their devices.