WM6.5 – Touch Gesture Input Problems

21 07 2011
Was that a gesture you just made at me?

Was that a gesture you just made at me?

We’ve been seeing a lot of issues surrounding support of the WM 6.5 gesture Input on newer Rugged PDA’s sporting WM6.5 or even WEH6.5 so I thought I’d do a quick help article on the gesture input element of Windows Mobile 6.5.

For those that don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, the gesture input is the way the Windows Mobile team implemented the finger friendly touch interface in an effort to provide a more iPhone-esq user experience, using your finger to “swipe” the screen and getting the OS to respond to those swipes.  Gesture input on WM is far more basic though with very few input gestures being recognised.  however swiping right and left are usually well implemented on devices and this alone has been enough to cause havoc with some customers.

Was that a gesture you just made?

The problem seems to be largely with Proof Of Delivery or signature capture.  We love our touch resistive LCD’s in the rugged world, it means we don’t have to worry about expensive stylus’ to take signatures and if lost during the day then the back of a biro will do just fine (Make sure you have a screen protector though please!).  However everything that worked fine and dandy on WM6.1 or even earlier versions of WM6.5 seems to not be the case with a range of WM5.6.3 Rugged PDA’s we have tested with various software.  It seems that some software is recognising the swipes of a signature as gestures meaning you often can’t take a signature at all.

Gesture support was really made available in WM6.5.3 which is the most common build of WM6.5 we see on new rugged devices.  In this build a lot of gesture and input support was made as a last gasp attempt by the old Windows Mobile team to drag WM into the modern world.  All they really did was mess up an OS that was doing just fine in its Rugged Niche.

Looking beneath the bonnet, we see that gesture input is supported at a control level, so you really need to delve into code to access it and stop it working on the control you are using to take your signature, usually a bespoke one or picture control of some kind.  We haven’t come across any devices yet that allow you to switch it off totally and this is probably the reason for that as it’s not really possible to do this.

If you find this kind of issue then come talk to us as we can help here, whether selecting a device with gestures taken out of them or we can explain to your software provider or team.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.





New models line up in Pidion BM170 Range

19 07 2011
WM6.1 - A step forward?

WM6.1 – A step forward?

The Pidion BM170 offers customers the only PDA form factor with large LCD device in the semi-rugged class of device and we like it here because whilst there are other devices in the Semi-Rugged PDA line class, the BM170 is the only device that has its roots firmly in the “Rugged” camp.  The others are tending to market and run themselves as durable smartphones and we all know where using a smartphone for your line of business application gets you.

The predecessor to the Pidion BM170 was the BM150R which we announced the end of life for some time ago now.  However the BM150R did leave us a little bit quickly for our liking and as such left a small hole in the market for a sub £400 basic semi rugged PDA.  WM6.5 also gives a lot of software vendors issues and depending on the sub version we’ve particularly seen problems around the signature capture elements of solutions where the gesture mapping in the WM6.5 device is playing havoc with this.  We’ll have another post on this soon.

Pidion have recognised this and answered the call by launching 2 new budget versions of the BM170 designed to not only offer a reduced price point but also to be more compatible with WM6.1 versions of devices they might need to run along side.

The line up consists of 2 new devices:

The BM170-G is aimed at the field keeping GSM, HSDPA, AGPS and the 3MP camera.  The BM170-L6 is aimed at “within-4-walls” with no WAN capability, no camera or AGPS.  More importantly both devices run WM6.1 instead of the WM6.5 versions of current models and they also sport QVGA LCD’s and reduced 128MB of RAM.  Both devices have significantly reduced price point and the BM170-L6 in particular come sin very inexpensively.

It’s not yet clear if these devices will run the Android OS available to the BM170, we feel it would run it fine and we can’t really see anything that would stop you from upgrading to the WM6.5 in the future if they make that upgrade available to buy.  You need to be careful with the 128MB RAM but everything else is there.

Sometimes taking a small step back can be a useful exercise and we know there is demand for these devices so it’s a good move by a rugged PDA company who is clearly looking to develop devices at this end of the market that still fulfill the “Rugged” brief.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.





Pidion BM170 Cradle Appears

18 07 2011
BM170 Cradle

BM170 Cradle

The Pidion BM170 is a well selling Semi-Rugged PDA that currently gives users in this class the only choice of a device with a large 3.5″ LCD and PDA form factor device.

Whilst the Pidion BM170 accessories list is already fairly decent for a device of this class, a cradle has been missing from the accessory line up, we’ve been asking for one for the BM170 for some time now and it has finally arrived and we have the first snap shots in the UK of it here.It’s small and compact in design which fits the semi-rugged nature of the BM170 and it’ll will make development, data transfer and charging more convenient for customers using the device. If differs from its main rivals’ cradle (Motorola ES400) with an added separate battery charge slot on the back of the device which will charge either a standard or extended battery at the same time as charging the device.The cradle keeps the same price as the outgoing BM150R’s cradle was and will be available from August 2011.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.





Open Source Rugged PDA Accessories

14 07 2011
3rd party Rugged PDA Accessories

3rd party Rugged PDA Accessories

To close off this Rugged PDA Accessory week, we thought we take a look at 3rd party rugged accessories, how this has developed and where it might lead into the future.

If you look at brands like Intermec and Motorola which are still the 2 leading brands in the UK, then you’ll find a range of 3rd party accessories for them if you look.  There are cases, car cradles and a range of snap ons that extend functionality like RFID reading among other items and people often say this is down to the sheer popularity of some of the devices these companies sell.  This might have been the case in the past but I’m no longer so sure.

I think another reasons could be down to certain manufacturers being far more open with their connector specifications and pin outs and we’re seeing moves in the rugged PDA market to support better development of accessories.  Sure you need to have some kind of quantity of scale to tool up and to cover development and testing costs but we live in a world now where these have reduced significantly and the development process has become far easier to run with.  In fact developing products has never been so easy and is certainly no longer only the realm of the big boys.

You can approach a Rugged PDA in 2 ways.  You can control every aspect of it, make sure that everything used with it is controlled and also make sure that the service, parts and repairs can’t be obtained anywhere else.  The idea of this is that the manufacturer can then offer and deliver promises about service, repairs, the device and its accessories but I think in today’s world it’s also means you risk providing a sterile device, expensive rugged accessories and service/support that are inflexible, impersonal and proving in my view to not move with the times.

The second approach you could take is to opensource your product.  The iPhone is a device that has done this and despite all the closed shop ways Apple often like to work under, the “POP” port on all its mobile devices has created a huge family of innovative products from simple chargers, to medical equipment.  Like-wise with service and support.  The task is not about controlling the support customers get with a fixed unflexible process, the key here is to help resellers and distributors to offer innovative, unique and exceptional products and services to their customers.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.





Rugged PDA Essential Accessories

11 07 2011

So we continue with our Rugged Accessory series by taking a look at some of the most popular accessories a device should come with.  Remember that not all Rugged PDA’s are the same or used in the same scenario so we’ll try and seek out whether a cradle is as useful in a warehouse environment as it is in the field.

The Cradle

Perhaps the central accessory of the Rugged PDA, although not as popular as it once was.  Cradles come in a fair few types.  Starting off with the number of bays they have, single and quad being the most popular configuration but new multi kits allow you to join cradles together to make up you own number of bays. Cradles are useful because they give a very convenient way of charging and syncing devices and you can use a cradle to sync via PAN (USB, RS232) or LAN with an ethernet enabled cradle.  To be honest you still a lot on the warehouse and you’re IT/IS teams are still going to want them but for users based in the field they’re not so popular any longer.  They are a great way to keep your users from connecting and disconnecting cables though which can help with life of the solution.

Syncing/Communicating

Sync cables allow you to connect the device to a PC without using a cradle.  Essentially its just a slimmer way to connect.  This allows you to sync the device and in some case charge it too.  Remember that USB is limited to 500mA so it will take you an age to charge even a 2000mAh battery up this way and most manufacturers don’t hook up the charge pins on their USB cables.

RS232 communication is also something a rugged PDA has to do more often than you think.  Does the device you are choosing have ready-made Serial cables or a reseller that can tailor one for you? or indeed is it capable of hosting communication at all?  This is on eo the key functional differences a rugged Handheld has over a smartphone.  If you’re wanting to talk to hardware then ask about hosted serial accessories.

Chargers

Rugged Charger

Most people in the field need a convenient way to charge their rugged PDA and a direct charger, either for UK Mains or Vehicle power are probably now the most common accessories asked for.  It always helps to buy manufacturer provided chargers as they’re the right power rating for the Rugged Handheld but also they will mean that you get years of decent use out of them too.  Watch out for some new accessories in this area soon which will allow you to sync and charge with 1 rugged connector pack.

Vehicle cradles

Again in a field mobile environment this is almost becoming the accessory most requested and they come in all kinds of configurations.  Convenient drop in charging will not only give the device more battery life during the day but it could mean you can opt for smaller batteries which are less costly and give the user a slimmer, lighter device to use.  They also allow you to use the device for a wider set of applications such as Sat nav and for communicating with on the move.

Batteries

How big and are there options of battery size?  Smaller batteries make for a less expensive small and lighter device but a larger battery will have far more staying power and will have a higher overall life due to requiring less charge cycles.  The type of batteries and the battery strategy you choose might not be one supported by the device’s battery options.

Cases

More and more users are asking us about cases and we run a plethora of own brand and manufacturer branded cases here.  How a device is used and received by users can sometimes be the case you choose for it and  the right case will always mean fewer repairs as the users will not only stop dropping devices as much but they will be protected further inside a case.  a £30 case can often save £100′s down the line in broken LCD’s and overall device condition.

Triggers/Holders

Triggers handles that snap on to a device will allow it to be used comfortably in a range of scenarios.  This means your picking/warehouse teams can use the same devices as your field guys which can have an impact on your solution and support of it.

Service/Support Packs

Although not an accessory service and support are still a feature that can make or break a device, we’ll talk about these in the next series of posts.

Ongoing consumable accessories

Make sure you can always get hold of Stylus’, LCD protectors, tethers and all the parts you are going to lose or use up during the lifetime of the device.

3rd party Accessories

If all else fails or if you have a specific requirement, how many accessories are there provided by 3rd parties?  This has often been where more common devices manufactured by Motorola or Intermec have scored but with QTY’s of scale and product development being so

CF Cap

CF Cap

accessible these days by anyone, we’re seeing a plethora of accessories hitting the market for all manufacturers equipment.  Snap-ons allow for RFID, serial comms etc, Special end caps covering Sockets (CF/SD) positioned correctly on Trimble and Psion Work About Pro’s mean you can turn to SDIO or CF products to extend the functionality of your device and some manufacturers simply open up their connector specification so its easy to develop your own bespoke kit for them.

There are so many accessories you can choose from these days and whilst these are the core, always ask about anything specific as there are rugged PDA’s that might be key to the success of your solutions.  In the next article well round-up by taking a view on the changing way accessories are developed.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.








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