Modular mobile technology can prevent IT headaches caused by purpose-built devices
Trevor Bernier, 05-07-2019
A new car loses about 10% of its value the second you drive it off the lot and some car brands lose nearly half their value in just a couple of years. The same can be said about purpose-built mobile devices designed to be replaced every couple of years. These devices lose significant value because they are made for a single barcode scanning application, come with technology and operating systems that quickly become obsolete, and have non-rugged hardware or components that need frequent repair. Enterprise IT managers are better off to invest in future-proof mobile solutions that can scale with demand, variability, and emerging wireless communication standards. Any mobile platform purchased today should have a broad range of capabilities, be able to evolve with the latest technology, and withstand harsh environments.
So, what can your IT department do now to prevent a lot of headaches in the future?
Leverage smartphone technology and software
Apple and Samsung continue to be the world leaders in mobile device innovation with tremendous advances each year in processing speeds, cellular communications, screen technology, batteries, and user experience (UX). Unlike purpose-built, application-specific devices, smartphones and smartphone software give sales, manufacturing, warehouse, and field service workers the ability to read barcodes (a wide selection of symbologies from near and far scan ranges), take photos, capture signatures, use GPS, search the web, or download the latest productivity apps. And this can all be done on the same type of device regardless of the function, eliminating the headache of maintaining multiple devices and platforms across your enterprise.
The beauty of a smartphone-based solution is these devices are usually already in your employee’s hands. This means the same mobile device management (MDM) security software can be used across your mobile fleet, vendor relationships are already in place, and volume discounts can be leveraged. Plus, software upgrades can be deployed on an ongoing basis instead of relying on the purpose-built device manufacturer to provide updates.
The learning curve and frustration that comes with introducing new or difficult-to-use purpose-built devices means that employees will be distracted on the job, resulting in slow decision making, inaccurate documentation, or a decline in throughput. With smartphone technology, training is simple since employees are already familiar with the user interface (UI) and large touchscreen, and the speed and responsiveness of the operating system.
Use cross-platform development tools or web-based applications
To increase worker productivity, some organizations allow employees to choose between an Android or iOS device, or ask that they bring their own device (BYOD) to work. In this case, or to ensure future flexibility, your IT department has a couple of options. They can use a cross-platform environments such as Xamarin, Cordova or React to maintain a single set of code and roll out new or updated features on either operating system. And now that mobile web browsers like Chrome, Safari, and Firefox have robust and powerful features to create a rich user experience, web-based applications that are browser and operating system agnostic is another popular option.
Protect your investment with a rugged, modular, and smart mobile terminal
No matter what type of business you’re in, smartphones are fragile (one drop on concrete could shatter the screen or break its functionality) and much like purpose-built devices, they have limitations if advanced lighting and optics are needed for your barcode reading applications. Rugged mobile terminals are designed with IP65-rated housing and can withstand 50+ drops from two meters on to concrete.
Purpose-built mobile computers are made with specific technology and components that make upgrades and repairs a lengthy and costly process. Accessories, that may change from model to model, can often account for 30% or more of the total cost of a mobile solution—hip holsters, pistol grips, spare batteries, charging stations, vehicle mounts, etc. With a modular smartphone-based design, software upgrades can be easily managed by your MDM software. When you’re ready for the latest Android or iOS device, you can keep the rugged base and simply exchange the top cover kit—all existing chargers and accessories stay the same.
Mobile terminals are equipped with patented decoding algorithms as well as modular lights, filters, and lens options to read a broad range of 1D and 2D codes from standard, long, and extended scan ranges. The included mobile barcode software development kit (SDK) enables seamless integration with your applications. Mobile terminals are designed to leverage the latest communication technologies supported by mobile devices including 5G when it’s available. They have extended battery life and wireless charging stations, so you don’t have to worry about the electrical contact pins of a traditional charging station breaking or corroding.
Investing in modular mobile technology can help prevent the headaches caused by purpose-built devices. To learn about the mobile terminals and other mobile solutions available from Cognex, download the Mobile Solutions Product Guide.