Communications, Electricity, M2M, News, Software, Water

Taking the first step towards smarter mobility: making utility service more reliable

Rugged tablets power real­time responsiveness, feature future­proof connectivity standards

By Brett Gross, Director of Sales AU­NZ, Xplore

Power, gas, water, and telecom utilities are responsible for one of the most mobile workforces in the world. In fact, Navigant Research expects there to be more than 2.4 million mobile utility workers worldwide by 2020, up from 1.2 million in 2013. That’s double the number of field technicians and supervisors who will need access to critical workflow applications and real­-time communications while on four wheels or foot in some of the most remote locations on Earth.

Many utilities today still rely on paper­-based processes or fixed computers to manage the majority of their business operations – not just in the office, but from the field as well. Such antiquated systems are not conducive to tackling the challenging environment many global utilities operate in today.

Rugged tablets consistently provide the right balance of reliable, real­time business intelligence. Rugged tablets prove time and again during extensive field testing and real­world evaluation that they are the only mobile PC form factor capable of delivering the real­time data and long­term reliability that modern utility operations demand.

They’re also the first – and only – truly mobile PC to meet new connectivity standards designed to improve field service responsiveness.

For years, rugged tablets have undoubtedly demonstrated their durability and speedy performance under pressure, and newly introduced rugged tablet generations are even better equipped to support both planned and unplanned field work.

Many come standard with up to 20 hours of battery life; 10 inch­plus outdoor viewable screens; 4G LTE and Wi­Fi connectivity; and multiple built- in, weather­proof input/output (I/O) ports.

Some rugged tablets even include up to eight critical test and connectivity ports to support RJ45 and True Serial cables, among other frequently used utility peripherals.

Since all of the I/O ports are sealed against excessive water and dust penetration when closed and some even protect against the elements when port doors are open, utility field technicians can continue with their diagnostic and restoration activities uninterrupted during inclement weather.

Whether dispatched to complete critical inspection, maintenance, or restoration work orders, rugged tablets will power along strongly even if dropped or exposed to frequent vibrations, high humidity, or extreme temperatures.

Their physical attributes aren’t their only strengths, though. Rugged tablets’ internal security and multiple data input methods facilitate real-­time data capture, information access and work completion from any location in the field, in a vehicle, or in the office.

They provide immediate access to applications and up­to­the­minute data, and they feature collaboration tools that expedite data sharing and decision­making capabilities among widely dispersed teams through digitiser pen input and full­screen digital documents (that replicate more traditional pen and paper forms).

Many rugged tablets also feature high­-res cameras, companion keyboards and both capacitive and resistive (glove) touch capabilities, while geo-­tagging tools and integrated satellite GPS improve routing and GIS workflows.

Rugged tablets also boast some of the most powerful processors and expansive storage and cache size options on the market and remain compatible with a wide range of back office systems across multiple generations.

This allows for the use of more custom software applications that mimic and extend utilities’ existing workflow documents into the mobile environment.

The best tablets offer backward and forward compatibility with accessories, as well as multiple secure transport options such as in- vehicle docks with one­hand release; shoulder and hand strap carrying options; and slip­free, moulded grips.

This lowers the total cost of ownership (TCO) not just for the device itself, but for the entire mobile investment.

In short, rugged tablets are the only mobile devices genuinely designed to help utilities accomplish their mobility and business automation goals without compromising on screen size, connectivity, security, OS support, processing power, or rough handling survivability.

However, rugged tablets are not the entire solution. Rugged tablets are necessary, but not solely sufficient, for future­proofed mobility. Mobile workforce modernisation is not as simple as a widespread rugged tablet deployment.

Yes, mobile technology can increase productivity and data accuracy, and the right mobile technology can keep your workers online no matter the weather, their working location, or work order requirements.

However, mobile devices are just one part of the whole mobility solution – not the entire solution.

The best way to capitalise on the physical strength and internal power of these field-­ready mobile computers is to identify custom software and service options that refine the rugged tablet’s skill set to your real­-time business requirements.

End-­user training,feedback from the field and constant adaptation of the entire solution will ensure harmony between the hardware, software, and end users, ultimately driving widespread adoption and future-­proof efficiency.

This partner content is brought to you by Xplore Technologies.

For more information, visit www.xploretech.com/au.

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