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Is 2014 the year of business BYOD and mobility?

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Maintenance and asset management solutions specialist Mainpac assesses the impact of mobile devices being deployed in the workplace, and the need to choose the right solution to suit the application environment.

Mobile devices deployed over the years in work environments were for the most part, limited in scope and highly expensive to purchase until Apple came along and made mobility sexy.

Targeted primarily at the consumer market, Apple devices such as the iPhone and particularly the iPad have encouraged corporate IT and customers to explore the viability of deployment of these devices in their projects.

Apple mobile devices can be deployed in the corporate environment based on the desired business outcomes that need to be delivered, and where they are planned to be used. For instance, in environments that are not particularly hostile, such as the staff meeting with prospects and customers in their offices, an iPad or any consumer tablet is an ideal, cost effective mobile device. 

However, hostile environments such as container yards or mine sites, till recently demanded the use of expensive rugged devices such as the multi-thousand dollar Panasonic Toughbook.

There are more options available today thanks to the increasing consumer demand for smartphones and tablets that has lowered the cost to design and manufacture such devices, leading to more vendors with a wider diversity of product offerings, especially in the mobile computing segment. Additionally, third party covers are also increasingly available to improve device protection.

Before assessing the suitability of a tablet device for a specific work environment, it helps to understand their ‘IP Rating’, which is a two-digit number established by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) that describes the Ingress Protection afforded by the device.

For instance, when the IP rating is IP42 or IP54, the first digit represents protection against ingress of particles such as dust and the second digit represents protection against ingress of liquids such as water; the larger the value of each digit, the greater the protection – and generally, the greater the cost.

Most consumer devices are rated at IP42, which provides a reasonable degree of particle protection and means that vertically dripping water has no harmful effect when the device is tilted at an angle up to 15° from its normal position.

Therefore, before investing in a mobile computing device, one has to consider whether spending substantially more on the hardware is warranted for one’s application. Moreover, accessories can easily add hundreds or even thousands of dollars to the purchase price of a high end tablet device.

Given that there are many rugged mobile devices available than ever before at cheaper prices, one should explore the market beyond conventional choices such as Intermec, Panasonic and Symbol (now Motorola), before making a purchase decision.

Secondly, there is no need to buy a device with an IP rating beyond the environmental conditions. For instance, IP65 is recommended for an in-truck mounted application if it’s a dumpster on a mine site, but IP54 works just fine for a Hi-Lux fleet that ferries crews around the yard.

Thirdly and most importantly, invest in the mobile device solution only after staff consultation and field testing by involving the users in a pilot. This would eliminate future problems with PDA screens not bright enough for outdoor use or CPUs not fast enough for the application software. 

Mainpac specialises in maintenance and asset management solutions designed to help customers around the world improve their asset ROI and reduce maintenance costs.

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