RFID Technology Helps Children Learn to Sign

30 09 2009

I am always interested in new uses of current technology, especially when it greatly helps others. Before I heard of this news I never really know what else RFID technology could be used for, apart from Rugged PDAs which pick up information on RFID tags when they are out and about, so when I heard they could help teach deaf children how to use sign language, I wondered if there was a whole RFID world that I didn’t know about!

I read an article in a recent edition of the RFID Journal in America, which talked about RFID tags being attached to toys in a children’s nursery. Children would wear a reader which when picks up a signal from an RFID toy, starts a video being played on a nearby computer. The video then shows a person demonstrating the item’s sign. This greatly helps teachers at the school to engage pupils and it also helps hearing parents of deaf children, also learn sign language with their child. Before the technology was introduced, children had to learn from photocopied pages from a text-book, which failed to engage young children and didn’t manage to put clearly across the correct sign for an object. The kit has been developed by Lambert, and it includes a computer, and RFID integrator which connects to the PC and objects with off the shelf passive 125kHz tags. Objects with RFID tags range from aeroplanes to balls, to household items and animals. Initially the company developed the system with barcode tags, but this wasn’t as effective as children struggled to scan the small barcodes that were on objects, and so getting frustrated and losing interest.

The kit helped bridge the educational gap between deaf children who also had deaf parents, which meant they had a lot more help at home and before they started school,  and those children who had hearing parents, who may have been struggling to tech their child sign and also learn it themselves at the same time.

The system has come under rave reviews from teachers at the school, who say it has greatly helped them with teaching children with no language foundation. This system is only currently available in America, where it was developed, and hopefully with more funding put in place it can grow and develop, and be used all over the world, to help children with hearing difficulties learn to communicate.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.





Microsoft’s Unveils New Courier Device

29 09 2009

I am always interested to hear of news from the barcoding world, and any new developments which means that our lives are made easier, I am the first in line to hear of them! So when I heard on a new PDA book from Microsoft, being discussed in the office, I quickly searched the net to find out more. At this point I must issue an apology for moving away from the barcoding and rugged world, but this was such a development in the mobile computer world, that I must share it with you all.

Ever since Apple came on the scene, Microsoft hasn’t managed to keep up with it’s “cool” status. Whenever you see someone on the TV talking about computers and the internet, they are all using Apple computers. Your out in town and a friend talks about the previous night out, when he shows you the pictures, they are usually on an iPhone. Jogging in the gym, everyone is listening to their newly synced iPods. What happened to Microsoft?

The Courier, I hope will claw back the technology world from Apple, that was originally dominated by Microsoft. It is sleek, compact and will get everyone looking when you get it out of your bag and start organising your meetings for that day. It is such a development because instead of calling it a tablet, we will all be reaching in to our bags for our “booklets”. It has dual 7” screens that open out just like a diary would. With not a keypad in sight, it is designed to be touched, written and drawn on. Designed like an organiser, you can start a new journal, connect up contacts in your address book by flicking them across the screen to give them access to your notes. Find out where your next meeting is by flicking across your contacts to the maps to tell you where they are. Using the integrated camera, take pictures, store them, cut them and paste them in to your journals. Write notes on the back of the picture to give you a reminder and add a task to follow it up.

After watching the promotional video, I can see why Microsoft wanted to keep this under such wraps. Why? Because they know that as soon as word gets out, everyone will want one and pretty soon competitors including Apple will be replicating the ideas and developing their own. Do you think that for a change Apple will be looking to Microsoft for ideas instead of the other way round? Just a thought….

The Rugged and Mobile blog.





Motorola MC35 To Be “Dis”continued….

28 09 2009

We were extremely surprised to find out today that the MC35 is to be discontinued.

On further interrogation of Motorola and our distributors we learnt that the little Semi-Rugged PDA’s life was being cut short because of a component shortage. Unusually Motorola have decided to stop all production of the device for good and with no replacement currently lined up, or even in the pipeline, it leaves us asking a few questions.

The MC35 sold well, had just had a Windows Mobile 6.1 refresh and it was pretty unique in its category offering something different in the Semi-Rugged PDA Enterprise arena. It bridged the gap between the business enterprise market and the rugged PDA market with ease.

It did have its troubles! Early variants had poor battery life, phone quality issues to name but a few but it didn’t stop the device from being extremely popular and in all fairness it ended up a pretty good piece of hardware in the end.

I guess we’ll never know really why the MC35 so abruptly stopped selling, what we do know though is that it will be a device that will be sorely missed.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.





The new Janam XG100 – Gun Slinger or Pea Shooter?

27 09 2009

I’ve seen things change significantly in the warehouse barcode industry the past year. Whether it’s the growing popularity of tracking in the warehouse, the accessibility of data capture technology being more freely available to smaller companies or the plain and simple credit crunch, things have changed.

Once you could go out into a warehouse and all you could see were MC9090G’s, the odd Honeywell 9500 and Datalogic Skorpio and that was about it! It was a lush hunting ground dominated by a few manufacturers but now there’s a new boy (or is it a girl, I don’t know!) in town.

There’s no doubt about it, every time I hand our well used and battered Janam XG100 into the hands of a warehouse manager, MD or software developer, the response is instant and always the same. First you hear “Oh I like this, this is really rugged, but it’s quite light,” followed by a “How much is it?”, followed by a quick “really? and you get the scanner in with that?” We hear this so much that it’s earnt the Janam device a place on our website featured items.

Price

Lets get the price out of the way right now. The XG100 comes in 5 guises all RRP’ing under £1200 with different keyboards being the only option. The unit comes with a standard 7.4v, 2500mAh battery, with charger and power cord which further reduces the expense, when you consider an MC9090 Cradle option is around the RRP£200 mark.

Rationale

Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve been battering Motorola a little bit this week (and it will stop when I review the MT2000 coming soon!) and the MC9090 in any form factor is a good unit. But that’s what it is, just “Good.” It’s spec is mid-range, the design is aging and the device itself and it’s options are expensive. It has almost become the BMW 3 series of the range, with a high price tag, offering very little accessories as standard but with an options list as long as your arm. The rationale for a BMW 3 series, if you take away the brand image, just doesn’t exist.

The XG100 is like the new Mondeo. It’s inexpensive, comes with everything you need to get going, is actually very highly specified and comes with the all the options you will need. All for a great price point.

If you can just stop thinking “But its a Motorola!” for one instant then the XG100 looks like a tantalising device.

Specification

Why have the option when you can just get it all!

The Janam comes with everything you need for a device operating “Within-4-Walls” as standard.

Cisco certified b/g Wifi, Bluetooth 2.0 and USB 2.0 mean fast communicating with other devices or your network.

A Marvell XScale PXA320 624MHz with 256MB DDR SDRAM/256MB NAND Flash ROM running Windows CE 6.0 mean it has a pretty good engine to run your software fast and efficiently.

A choice of 5 42/52 keypad options mean you’ll find one that suits your business needs.

Probably the best feature is that, like the rest of the Janam range, the XG100 comes with a 1D scanner that is firmware upgradable to 2D so you don’t have to worry about the future of your barcoding needs. Just upgrade when you need to in the future.

Design

You instantly feel the balance and lightness of the unit when you pick it up which your workers are going to thank you for at the end of a busy day. In fact the only device that comes near is the Honeywell 9900, known for its ergonomics. However the XG100 still manages to feel rugged at the same time.

The battery sits in the grip which means you don’t get that common back tilt weight and the unit just feels like it’s not fighting your wrist.

Ruggedness

IP64, a drop spec of 1.8mtrs with a 2000 tumble (4000 hit) rating is good for in this market and gives the XG100 as much ruggedness as a device needs in the warehouse.

Data Capture

The scanner is pretty good. It uses the “Adaptus” technology from Honeywell which is a proven and well liked scan engine. and the results of scanning in all conditions was very good indeed. The laser aimer made aiming easy and a loud beep and visual indicator meant you always knew you hadn’t missed a scan, even in a loud warehouse.

The trigger was fine, felt very much like the MC9090 and it did the job. Perhaps a little more feedback would have been better but its a small point.

Speed of scanning was good. The Imager performed as well if not better than our 1D MC9090 but was not quite as quick as a Datalogic Skorpio we put it up against and it easily scanned barcodes from an angle. The lightness and balance of the unit meant it felt extremely comfortable in use too.

If it maintains this scan performance when scanning 2D then it would be extremely pleasing to use.

Support

Janam recently revamped its support products and not only are they comparable with any of the Manufacturers out there, but these come cheaper and they can be tailored up or down. You can extend the warranty or choose from JanamCare’s Premium or Premium plus products and there’s even a onsite option if you want that. Support is UK based it has a 2 day turn-around and we get rave reports on the support service itself.

Support-wise the XG100 won’t let you down.

Drawbacks

OK, we live a non-perfect world and the XG100 does have the odd Achilles heel.

For starters there’s no Long Range scan option which means scanning from a forklift could be an issue. Talking of forklift trucks, surprisingly the XG100 does not have a forklift cradle accessory either. We can provide these ourselves but non-the-less it’s surely a glaring omission?

The XG100 also only comes with Windows CE6.0. We just think having a Windows Mobile option, inline with the rest of the Janam range, would make the XG100 less of a risk when developing software for it. C.E. 6.0 is also based upon the newer WM7 code base so we just feel having WM 6.1 would have been a better choice but it’s a small nuisance on an otherwise excellent device.

Conclusion

The XG100 is a fantastic device. It’s superbly balanced, has a great Adaptus scan engine, is highly rugged and is inexpensive. Its very nearly everything you need in a Gun format Rugged PDA and for the price point could well be a serious contender for our Gun group test, coming soon.

Final Scores

Design/Usability: 9/10
Scanning: 8/10
Specification: 7/10
Ruggedness: 8/10
Support: 9/10
Price: 9/10
Total : 50/60

The Rugged and Mobile blog.





New Motorola’s Saving Money or Locking You In?

27 09 2009

At Rugged and Mobile you know you’re always getting good, impartial advice and if that upsets the odd manufacturer here and there then so be it!

The latest thing that has, quite frankly, been bothering me and a particular customer of mine is Motorola’s new “Agnostic” cradle system that has been launched with the MC9500.

Why it’s a good idea

Well of course 1 cradle to fit all your devices is surely a good thing isn’t it?  I can just pop my MC55 into the same cradle as my MC9090G.  Buy a few more devices and just not worry about the cradles I need to charge them up with?

Having 1 application across different devices and allowing them to sync in one cradle should also be a benefit?

Why it could be catastrophic

Well let’s think about this.  In a charging only scenario, fine go ahead and charge your MC55 in the same 4 slot cradle; great, but what if this cradle is connected and wants to sync?  Will all your devices behave correctly? Will they all have the same scanning engines, the same software and be locked down the same? We just feel that this could well bring more problems than it solves to unwary customers who are not getting the whole story.

Secondly are they really going to make every device in their new range fit the same cradle?  I think the useability crowd will have something to say about that. Will MC35 users use a cradle the same as MC75 or a gun format MC9090G (all with different voltage ratings by the way!) or does Motorola think we’re all going to use MC9500 from now in all situations. Sure you might get a converter with your device but Motorola have never been good with offering accessories for free and we think this will just be something that ultimately benefits the company and not the customer.

Is anyone really going to buy the converters for existing Motorola devices?  I’m not so sure if this is money well spent?  You’re going to have to buy them for every device you have or buy and we think you’re simply just better off buying a cradle for the specific device. This way you can have your cradles where you need them for each type of device.

Banking on a few cradles for your whole estate?  What if you lose a cradle and then are left under provisioned? You might have spent less on cradles but what will support and downtime cost you? In a highly rugged environment we all know that support is important but you also need a good spares strategy to keep you running 24/7.

Lastly are you really going to put your eggs in one basket?  We think this might just be the idea here! Your Motorola cradles are going to end up costing more now if you want a hybrid manufacturer device estate, which is what you will have because Motorola just aren’t that good across the board any more and with devices from Janam, Pidion, Honeywell, Opticon and Psion all better (and significantly cheaper in most cases) than what Motorola has to offer, we feel the customer is simply not going to benefit unless they’re a large company. Proof of this, where are the converters for non-Motorola devices? We’ll see on that.

We think this is a case of a “big corporate” trying to deliver to “big corporates” and forgetting that many smaller companies will not understand or appreciate the added complexities this will inevitably bring. You can’t cast a big net and get all the little fish and we think there are better options out there.

Our advice? Just make sure you know what all the extra’s are before you sign on the dotted line. Make sure your reseller understands your business and how it needs to be supported and make sure they’ll be there for you after the deployment. This complicates things significantly in my view so just be careful!

The Rugged and Mobile blog.








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