DEVICE FEATURES AND ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES
Field service occurs in a variety of settings from factory floors and office buildings, to very harsh outdoor environments such as mining and construction. And in places where a Wi-Fi connection is available, and in areas where cellular signal is not. However, there are options available to address such challenges. The following are some examples.
Among the rugged and non-rugged tablet choices, some useful features include:
PAN (Bluetooth), WLAN (WiFi), and WWAN (cellular, satellite) radios
- GPS (location)
- Camera (photos and video)
- Bar code scanner (data capture)
- Credit card reader (transaction processing)
A variation of worksite environmental challenges include:
- Extreme temperatures
- Wet conditions (rain, sea)
- Shock (drops and bumps)
- Dust exposure
- Extreme vibrations
- Bright sunlight
While these examples are brief and may appear intuitive, the bigger reality could be that field service organizations may or may not be familiar with such condition variations their own engineers face out in the field. Such awareness can play directly into which type of field service tablet an organization may select.
THE TABLET OF CHOICE
A couple of good articles, here and here, present some useful nuggets on how to choose the right tablet. It’s safe to say there are options. For instance, adoption considerations vary from sleek and rugged designs as Getac’s T800, to consumer devices as the Apple iPad. And from tablets running operating systems as Android or iOS, to tablet PCs as MobileDemand’s xTablet T1200 running a full version of Windows.
On device toughness, rugged tablets are well known for their durability and reliability. But there are organizations as Pitney Bowes who have also shown how implementing a combination of a consumer tablet alongside device use policies “saw breakages fall to practically zero.”
However, as in many cases, there's no one size fits all. What may work for one organization may not work for another. So, while organizations like Pitney Bowes are able to meet their needs with consumer grade tablets, others such as Utilities will see greater benefits from rugged ones. Perhaps taking a closer look at the field work environment and benchmarking other companies in the same vertical, may just be the right areas to begin.
As for IoT, its success is dependent on the level of business value it contributes overall. For field service organizations, choosing the right field tablet may offer a strategic push in that direction.
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