From the boardroom to the battlefield: the changing landscape of rugged solutions

How the product quality of rugged technology is starting to match the wider enterprise space, in both performance and variety

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'If a device fails, it could result in a potential loss of money or operation'

 

The dependence on technology – in particular, mobile apps – to access vital data for certain jobs takes on a whole new meaning when the office is a racetrack pit stop or oil rig in the middle of the ocean.

When working in these types of harsh and unforgiving environments, the need for a laptop, tablet or supporting server infrastructure that is durable and, above all, reliable is crucial to providing the real-time information and intelligence needed to carry out the job.

The continued adoption and rise in mobility is pressuring industries such as military, industrial and oil and gas to consider the deployment of purpose-built, rugged solutions that provide mobile access in environments that smartphones are unable to withstand.

>See also: The enterprise security 'Swiss army knife': Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Companies that operate in challenging environments have a choice to make between purchasing consumer devices, or rugged tablets built on market-leading processor technology.

Some organisations adopt consumer tablets and laptops, and equip them with rugged accessories to cope with the increasing pressure from employees to integrate mobility into the working environment. But these devices are unlikely to withstand the extreme conditions and, after a few months, have to be replaced.

The total cost of ownership (TCO) makes these devices a black hole of money. By deploying specifically developed rugged solutions that have a very low percentage of failure, these companies could see a much better return on investment.

It is vital that users are able to read a situation in real time through access to data – so if a device fails, it could result in a potential loss of money or operation.

This has opened up a big market opportunity for traditional technology vendors, including those that offer consumer devices, to develop or modify existing products to create specifically designed solutions that can handle some of the harshest environments that businesses encounter.

New lighter designs, flip displays and backlit keyboards mean that rugged solutions are a lot ‘sexier’ than they used to be, offering the slick design of a consumer product that is much more durable and has a longer product lifecycle.

It is also important to remember that behind every device is a backend infrastructure that often has to be deployed in the same extreme environments.

As with mobile devices, there have been enormous developments in rugged server solutions that can withstand extreme temperatures, shock, vibration, altitudes, and dust.

In particular, where size and weight need to be minimised, companies now have access to smaller form-factor solutions that provide the same level of infrastructure support required.

In the past, businesses had to build their own or source their servers from a whitebox manufacturer that could charge up to £20,000 for a rugged server.

Now that the rugged industry has moved away from this bespoke approach and become more mainstream, companies can benefit from commercial off-the-shelf solutions from tier-one manufacturers, which provide more cost-effective, powerful and suitable backend products.

All of these devices and solutions on their own are great but are further enhanced when they come with an ecosystem of support around them.

The challenge with all solutions is to ensure that they are secure, compliant and meet with local regulations and specific industry regulations or standards, such as NEBS and ETSI for the telecoms space, MIL-STD-810G for military deployments, and marine certifications for maritime.

These are all examples of industry certifications that are available, or can be achieved via independent third-party testing for rugged solutions compliance.

Also, in the past, companies have bought the devices and then separately loaded the applications needed. This is just not necessary anymore. The majority of people wouldn’t build their own car as they can buy one that is fully functional with all the ‘bells and whistles’ included. So why should it be different when buying rugged technology?

>See also: One for the enterprise: Fujitsu Lifebook S904 review

By working with a vendor of rugged solutions, companies can benefit from solutions that are pre-loaded with all of the applications and software required. They will also benefit from a long history of rugged product development and ability to deliver end-to-end rugged solutions – not just the devices.

The rugged market is slowly maturing to meet with the growing mobility market, and companies now have the opportunity to purchase their full end-to-end infrastructure from one vendor.

This can be a lifesaver for many businesses, removing the headache of sourcing different elements from various vendors.

According to research by VDC, a market intelligence and advisory firm for technology suppliers, the use of rugged tablets has grown 22% year on year since 2012 and is likely to continue.

With lighter, slimmer, better-designed rugged solutions now on the market, companies can provide their employees with products they know will support them in some of the most hostile environments on Earth.

 

Sourced from Anthony Sayers and Jeff Van Horn, Dell OEM Solutions