How to Choose a Rugged Mobile Device for Field Workers

Mobile devices and computers are now used for a range of business functions and mobile field workers often have a unique set of technology needs. It is important to give field workers the right tools to support their mobility, and consumer grade mobile devices are often not suitable for more strenuous or extreme business field environments.

It is important to give each worker the mobile computer that best supports their individual job demands without compromising on computing capabilities. When working in unusual or extreme environments rugged devices can be essential to ensuring reliable data and continuous workflow, making them a good business investment.

According to Zebra Technologies however, when selecting a rugged device there are several key factors that you will need to consider:

How many specs are disclosed?

It can be difficult to designate a device as ‘rugged’ if you are only looking at a single aspect. Rather assess whether it is rugged across the board. For example, taking a standard device and making it waterproof or dustproof does not make it rugged, especially not use in heavy field work. At a minimum you should look for specs around drop, vibration, shock, and extreme temperature tolerance. A high-quality rugged device will also have been tested against high humidity, salt fog, fluid contaminants, and frequent altitude variations. Make sure the device you choose has the right specs to do the job you need it to do.

How are the specs and capabilities certified?

You do not have to take the manufacturers word for it when assessing the specs of a rugged device. Proper rugged equipment will have its specs certified by an established third party, so that you can trust what you are getting.

How specific are the specs?

If the specs have been rigorously tested, the manufacturer should be able to give specific ranges that the device is protected against. This includes drop heights and high and low temperature thresholds. It can also include details such as drop heights for different surfaces.

What level of engineering has gone into making the device rugged?

In a true rugged device, every part of it will have been designed with extreme usage and environments in mind. This includes all internal components and not just the external casing. Examples of true rugged engineering can be seen in devices that are waterproof even when the I/O ports are open, or with internal antennas that are designed to pick up signal in bad reception areas, or can process at full speed at high ambient temperatures.

How long is the device expected to last?

A true rugged device should outlast other standard models. A key point to consider around this is not only how long the physical device will last, but how long will it be supported by the manufacturer. The rugged device should have a long term plan for support and updates, to ensure ongoing business continuity and compatibility with other devices.

What is the total cost of ownership?

A rugged device will always be more expensive than a standard consumer or enterprise grade model, due to the higher level of engineering and materials that goes into building it. But a proper rugged device is also designed to outlast a standard device by some margin. Moreover, it will also provide consistent and dependable results for field workers in extreme conditions, preventing organizational costs that can be incurred by faulty or unreliable equipment.

This means that while most of the cost of a rugged device is front loaded in the price, the total cost of ownership often compares favorably to standard devices, as it not only outlasts them, but also outperforms them, saving money by increasing end-to-end organizational efficiency.
The primary purpose of a rugged device is to prevent device failures, and the subsequent business disruptions that these failures cause. A true rugged computer is engineered for quality and performance first.

When selecting a rugged device, it is important to do your homework and enlist professional advice so that you select the best solution for your needs. At Cradle Technology Services we offer expert consulting on all your hardware needs so that you will never sacrifice performance or lose money on solutions that are not up to the task.