In the June 27 edition of Mobile & Wireless UPDATE, Pocket PC Edition, I looked at Pocket PC Phone Edition, which has begun to enter the market in the last couple of months. Pocket PC Phone Edition is a consumer device intended primarily for individuals or knowledge workers within an organization. However, consumer Pocket PC devices probably aren't suitable if you're designing and developing specific mobile line-of-business (LOB) applications for your organization.

Mobile LOB applications offer specific functionality such as mobile field-force automation, mobile delivery automation, and sales force automation. These types of applications typically feature advanced functionality, including barcode scanning, mobile printing, and signature capturing. Therefore, when you develop applications, you can target only one device because of the specific drivers necessary to operate peripherals. Additionally, because mobile LOB applications are often used in hazardous conditions, they're typically subjected to device shock (dropping), temperature extremes, dust, and moisture. As a result, consumer Pocket PC devices never truly live up to expectations as a successful mobile solution.

My team and I have seen many companies attempt to deploy mobile LOB applications on consumer Pocket PC devices. These solutions almost always fail because of limited battery life or because the devices require replacement after one drop. Therefore, we always deploy mobile LOB applications on ruggedized devices, which are built specifically for the task and include integrated peripherals that further eliminate points of failure.

Many vendors provide ruggedized devices or solutions that let you ruggedize existing devices. The options for ruggedizing existing devices aren't particularly impressive, but if you already have a large investment in consumer Pocket PC devices, these options are a reasonable alternative to purchasing ruggedized devices. The two primary vendors of ruggedized Pocket PC devices are Symbol and Intermec, both of which have devices that feature the Pocket PC 2002 OS. The companies' ruggedized devices offer many similar features, including the following:

  1. Shock resistance – Protects the device with certified drop values from 3 feet to 6 feet onto hard cement.
  2. Water resistance – Permits use in rain or snow conditions.
  3. Dust resistance – Prevents dirt and dust from getting inside the device.
  4. Temperature resistance – Permits operation in extreme hot and cold conditions.
  5. Extended battery life – Permits continual operation throughout a typical work shift without requiring a recharge.

In addition to the ruggedized features, these devices also come with peripherals that differ from those of their consumer counterparts. The following peripherals can be either directly integrated into the device or add-on modules.

  1. Barcode scanners (one-dimensional and two-dimensional) – Lets you scan various types of barcodes.
  2. Magnetic-stripe readers – Reads credit cards and other cards that contain magnetic stripes.
  3. Built-in wireless LAN (WLAN) or wireless WAN (WWAN) – Permits easy network connections to send and receive data.
  4. Mobile printers – Let you print customer receipts.
  5. Keyboards – Permit easy data entry.
  6. Global Positioning System (GPS) – Permits mapping and routing functionality.

The reliability and flexibility of ruggedized devices make them a popular platform in the mobile applications industry. In the next Mobile & Wireless UPDATE, Pocket PC Edition, I'll look more closely at Symbol and the various ruggedized solutions that the company offers. See you then.