Which Mobile Device is Right for Your Business: Smartphone, Rugged Device or Tablet?
Author: Kerry Doyle
Currently, mobile adoption is a must for field service organizations and no longer a luxury. In general, the future of field service is hinging on advancements in mobile hardware and software. However, the variety of available form factors continues to expand, complicating the choice for CTOs and leaders within an organization.
The general belief is that no single solution will meet every field worker’s needs. One approach maintains that an ideal device mix is necessary. For some organizations this may consist of a personal device used in tandem with another corporate-sponsored handheld.
However, it’s still critical to figure out which form factor, rugged handheld or tablet, would be the most efficient within your organization. Of course, certain criteria are essential must-haves. They include the following:
- Portability-The environment in which your field service workers must function is an important consideration. Harsh working conditions may require more rugged devices, while ergonomic and ease-of-touch devices may be better for some common field service tasks.
- HTML5– Productivity often relies on unfettered communication. Having platform-agnostic HTML5 that works on every device provides interaction across all verticals
- Synchronization– If connectivity for your field service workers is periodically limited, online/offline syncing capabilities ensure that records and data are kept up to date.
- Security– Having the capability to perform remote wipes, in addition to encryption and secure data transfer, virtually guarantees that confidential information will remain protected.
In addition, any Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to which you’re bound and that might require constant connectivity should be factored in. Organizations should also know how much data a field service solution will be pushing to technicians and vice-versa. Overall, knowing how much data these devices need to support will help in narrowing the field of choices.
It’s useful to note that the choice comes down to options available from either rugged device manufacturers or consumer sources. Increasingly, advancements in smartphones and tablets have been incorporated into rugged handhelds, resulting in enhanced features, longer battery life and growth in size.
Moreover, integrated sensor capabilities now present in handhelds enable screen flip for easy signature capture. The addition of multi-core processing further extends battery life to easily make large format handhelds comparable to tablets. Innovations with handhelds such as these mean that more rugged, industrial large-screen format products are now arriving in the market.
While handhelds have offered durability in terms of drop and impact, recent tablet development has resulted in sleek, lightweight form factors. These can be ideal for viewing repair diagrams and schematics, monitoring inventory or industrial site mapping. Moreover, form-fitting rugged tablet covers offer adequate device protection for all kinds of scenarios.
Another aspect of mobility that has gained attention is wearable technology. This alternative represents a huge potential market for software and hardware companies focused on mobile workers, including field technicians.
Wearable technology such as glasses will enable field workers to perform a variety of tasks without hindering the workflow, from viewing diagrams and schematics to instantly accessing data. Smart watches also offer useful features. For example, Apple Watch provides alerts and voice commands that are ideal for scheduling or setting reminders. Recent third-party app additions will make collaborations with other workers in the field even easier.
Finally, it’s necessary to analyze and carefully consider the type of mobile culture and strategy that is trying to be fostered. A key question to ask revolves around whether the mobile device choice is corporate-sponsored or Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). Either approach has its benefits and risks associated with certain areas, such as security and IT support.
Finalizing the form factor decision before mobilizing your workforce is crucial. It prevents confusion over device authorization, such as when a field service worker uses a personal device for company business. It also ensures that you’re choosing the best mobile strategy to achieve the goals and solve the problems you want to address. Once you’ve settled on the right approach, only then can you raise productivity, improve customer satisfaction and streamline communications.