Why Rugged Devices

by | Mobile Workforce

As the rapid growth of the true mobile workforce grows, its imperative employers meet the same requirements of the mobile workforce as they do for their office workers.  By not meeting the unique requirements of the mobile employee, companies will sacrifice productivity, security, safety and reduction in efficiency. This is part 1 of a 4 part series about the total mobile office.

We will discuss why a rugged device is truly necessary in certain environments and what sets it apart, but first, let’s define a rugged laptop:

  • rugged (or ruggedized, but also ruggedizedcomputer is a computer specifically designed to operate reliably in harsh usage environments and conditions, such as strong vibrations, extreme temperatures and wet or dusty conditions.[1] They are designed from inception for the type of rough use typified by these conditions, not just in the external housing but in the internal components and cooling arrangements as well.[2] In general, ruggedized and hardened computers share the same design robustness and frequently these terms are interchangeable.[3] Typical end-user environments for rugged laptops, tablet PCs and PDAs are public safety, field sales, field service, manufacturing, retail, healthcare, transportation/distribution[4]and the military

These devices are made by several manufacturers with Panasonic and Getac being the most prevalent. They are available in all shapes and sizes including a typical laptop, touchscreen tablet and have the ability to be configured to the needs of the environment with mounts, straps or even bar code scanners.

Rugged Devices versus Consumer Products

So now we move on to the important point of why rugged versus a standard laptop or tablet on would typically purchase. Most importantly, consumer grade electronics are simply not made to handle extreme conditions. The external and internal components will fail much sooner and more often in heat, vibration or dust. The most common objection when it comes to purchasing rugged devices is the initial cost, but let’s look at a breakdown of the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of a rugged device versus a standard one. This analysis from Panasonic provides several compelling numbers on TCO for a rugged device.

Tablets, including the iPad have exploded in the enterprise space and every company needs to evaluate the usefulness of a tablet for their mobile workforce. The important question, similar to the laptop, is whether or not this device needs to be truly rugged. An iPad in a tough case is simply not the same as a truly ruggedized device built from the inside out to withstand even the most extreme situations. This article from Field Technologies Online has a very detailed overview of rugged versus consumer and the TCO involved. As in our laptop example, although the upfront cost of a rugged device might be more, over the life of the device, a rugged tablet will prove to be less expensive and less of a hassle.

Rugged Accessories

Peripherals and accessories are used in the office to make data input and reporting faster and easier. These same tools are necessary within the mobile office. With increased use of rugged tablets, there is a greater need to install keyboards and other peripherals within the workers’ vehicles to increase speed and accuracy of inputs to tablet.  Unlike keyboards in the office which remain in a clean and sterile environment, these generally are ideal for applications in harsh environments (i.e. -20-130- degree temperatures within vehicles), resistant to dust, dirt, water and vibrations.  Many of these are designed to take up minimal space within in the vehicle, but provide the most comfort, even when being utilized with gloved hands.  Back-lit and fully waterproof models are available.

Just like the office computer and keyboard, some employees in your company’s mobile workforce need access to a printer to deliver service receipts, utility readings and invoices.  However, the common office ink-jet printer will not suffice in the mobile environment. Zebra is a popular manufacturer of these printers. A quote from their VP of Asset Identification and Tracking (AIT) Product and Solution Management explains the difference in a rugged printer: “Zebra helps customers empower their mobile workforce with tools optimized to easily capture critical information, as well as make data accessible to the people that make the business run. Regardless of weather or temperature, mobile employees work in all conditions and require devices that are easy to use and manage while working in the field. Zebra’s new ZQ500 mobile printer series is the industry’s most rugged printer and specifically designed to withstand the bumps, drops and environmental extremes that are common in field environments.”

Again, the TCO is important to consider with these devices as they will be a higher initial investment but due to their reliability and durability will pay for themselves. This ROI white paper from Brother spells out this information in more detail.


Overall, the importance of rugged devices cannot be understated. Mobile workers are a critical part of a business’ workforce and ensuring they have the appropriate tools to effectively execute their tasks and remain productive will allow your organization to continue run smoothly. Although the initial cost of a truly rugged device may be higher, the TCO is comparable or even lower than a consumer grade device over its life.

Do you need help deciding what devices are right for your business? Pearl Solutions Group can procure, mount and install rugged devices in a variety of environments to satisfy your needs. Simply fill out the form below to contact us.

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