Rugged smart phones, the smart choice for industry

By: Stephanie McDonald
26 May, 2011

The past four years has seen a dramatic growth in the use and availability of smart phones, and the handheld devices are now having a profound influence on the way many people do business.

Smart phones are phones which have computer-like capabilities, such as recording and storing information in word processing programs, providing remote access to e-mail and the internet, and some phones can even be used as bar code scanners.

Capacity Systems says smart phones have become so important they are now a necessity for gray and blue collar workers, not a convenience.

"They cannot do their jobs without the ability to collect data, consult with colleagues, access enterprise information and complete transactions," Ross J. Moore, director – sales at Capacity Systems, told IndustrySearch.

"When their phone fails, their productivity plummets. Depending on their jobs, hand-held device users lose an average of 50 to 80 minutes of productivity each time the device fails, not counting the time IT or other support staff spend troubleshooting the device.

"Because downtime is so expensive, there is clear value to keeping these devices functional. Ruggedness is a requirement, not an option, when working extensively outside office and home environments."

Capacity Systems manufactures what it calls "ruggedized" smart phones. These phones differ from standard smart phones because they have been designed to survive harsher use, such as repeated drops on concrete, and also have a bigger battery.

Due to the increased functionality of smart phones, battery life can be significantly shorter than that of standard phones. To overcome this problem, Moore advises manufacturers to buy from a recognised company which understands battery technology.

Manufacturers using a smart phone with a bar code scanner also need to look at what materials the phone’s screen is made from.

"Enterprise users need smart phones that are designed to prevent the leading causes of device failure, which include screen damage, antenna problems and lost peripheral functionality," Moore said.

"The touchscreen should be constructed from a durable, scratch-resistant material that will withstand tens of thousands of taps and strokes from the stylus."

Whereas features such as size, cost and weight are important influences on consumer-oriented smart phones, Moore says these features are not the most significant factor when it comes to manufacturers using them.

"Failure rates are high for devices that are not engineered for field professionals," he said.

"Beware of unsubstantiated ruggedness and performance claims and cost-benefit analyses that do not realistically account for device support, repair and replacement."

Not everyone in the industry will need a ruggedized smart phone, though. There are several questions you can ask yourself to decide if you need one.

These include: Am I going to use it on the factory floor? Can I get a device that my van salesman can use for all communications instead of having more than one device? Does it need better sealing from wind blown dust and rain?

It’s clear technology will continue to have an influence on the evolution of smart phones.

"I see them becoming smaller and more user friendly. One day everyone in business will carry the one unit and it will do all the various tasks from sales presentations to order taking to filling orders," Moore said.