Mobile Device Selection: Rugged vs. Commercial

23-November-2012 10:24
in Technology
by Admin

In these difficult economic times organizations are continually changing and adapting to find ways to improve productivity and efficiency whilst reducing costs. Simply redesigning processes in most cases is not enough and many organisations are turning to technology to realise these goals. Mobile working is a very common area that organisations are targeting to make their business more profitable and efficient.


Mobile working can cover a wide range of applications across multiple industries from a field engineer receiving his/her jobs on an industrial PDA to a sales rep having order details on their smartphone during a sales call.


In the past certain applications such as supply chain, field service, asset management, mobile delivery, stock control and material management have always opted for “Rugged” devices as they often operate harsh environments. However, in recent years with mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops becoming more widely adopted a great debate surrounds the question of whether to select rugged devices or to use commercially available non-rugged devices. This question has proven to be complex for organizations to answer as they attempt to balance the cost of projects and mitigate their impact on budgets, while selecting device features most appropriate for their application.


In order to objectively assess the business case for deploying handheld devices, it is critical that the organization understands the ramifications of their choice of device. Cost should be measured over its expected lifespan from purchase to disposal rather than a point in time. Over time, device performance can seriously affect the overall performance of the business and the return on investment (ROI).


The Total Cost of Ownership or TCO is the measurement of the true cost of mobile devices that includes the cost used to run them as well as the purchase price. The main operational cost is user downtime which wastes time resolving or replacing non-functioning devices, it’s difficult for organisations to quantify the cost to the business of loss of productivity from device failure. According to VDC (Venture Development Inc -, the expected failure rate of commercial handhelds compared to rugged devices can be as high as 4 to 1.


The other issue to consider is the stability the mobile hardware over the perceived life span of a solution. Typical when an organisation undertakes a deployment it would be part of an overall company strategy which would be based on a fixed term typically 3-5 years or more. Non-rugged commercial devices have a much shorter lifespan typically 12-18 months which can cause issues with compatibility of business application software on different hardware platforms.


In general rugged devices are found to be significantly less expensive (approximately 20-30%) from a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) perspective that encompasses 5 years. However, this figure does vary across applications and industries which is why any mobile solution project needs to consider the exact requirements of the operation and the demands of the environment before deciding which device is best suited for the application.


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