Mobile device management in 5 minutes!

16 06 2014
Confused by Mobile Device Management? Read our 5 minute intro guide!

Confused by Mobile Device Management? Read our 5 minute intro guide!

Mobile device management is something we’ve sold for many years and in the good old days of data capture there were but a few options.  Like everything else however, these days there are a plethora of solutions, all bringing strengths and weaknesses in their own right so this week I’m going to attempt to lay it all out for us laywomen and laymen of course!

What does an MDM solution do?

From now on Mobile Device Management = MDM, my poor little fingers are sore from nibbling them during the England game on Saturday!!

MDM brings  number of basic management solutions to your work force, here’s the main ones you should consider:

Asset management

MDM is a tool that will naturally list, group and tag all your mobile devices in one place, making sure you can manage and sort any device at a glance.  Some go deeper than others including barcode/RFID tagging and will also strip out some basic device information for you like IMEI numbers.


I was talking about KIOSK last week, but if you have lots of devices in the field that need software, firmware or settings updated or you need to rebuild a device whilst working in the field then MDM is the tool that will help you do that remotely.  Most MDM solutions will let you create full update packs and then you can apply them to any device or group of devices.  Most solutions also let you schedule so that you can update in the middle of the night, not disrupting workers during their shift.


MDM will usually carry its own KIOSK client with it so that your users are locked out of anything you don’t want them to use on the device like the Phone, Texts or god forbid social media or games!!

Remote access

This allows you to remotely access any device at any time.  Copy or get files to form the device, run apps manually, check logs or system information and some MDM solutions even have a remote access screen capture client.


If you need to send a quick message to a user or group of users then an MDM solution can do that for you and even manage responses.  This saves you the hassle of having to use email or texts for basic message sending and receiving.


Manage lost or stolen phones so that data doesn’t get into the wrong hands.  Remotely wipe, lock or ping devices that you believe have been lost of stolen.

Location based tools

Some tools allow you to do basic tracking so you can get a picture of where your devices are geographically.  I’ve yet to find an MDM product that gives you a full tracking suite of tools including ring fencing, trails and speed monitoring etc etc but this is often enough for most.  Also look for tools that will aid and assist workers who need help remotely.  Man Down or last known position reporting can be an essential tool to implement remote worker health and safety processes.

Repair automation

Some MDM products will even integrate their repair centres with them so you can automate the process of getting repairs logged and completed reducing down time for your mobile estate.

There’s more than this but these are the main things an MDM tool can do for you.

How does MDM work?

MDM used to be about installing a server, installing an admin client and then spending weeks punching holes in firewalls so it could talk to you devices in the bog bad world.  For some solutions this is still the way you do it and for some companies this is still the way they like to do things, however these days most MDM solutions have a cloud or web based interface.  You simply sign-up, login and add devices.  With cloud based solutions the norm

How much does it cost?

It varies and purchase models can be subscription or annual licence based but essentially I’d look to pay about £3-4 per device per month for a decent MDM product.  Be wary though because even “Cloud” based products can lock you in for a period which breaks a fundamental rule of being cloud in my book.  With so much choice out there now, go try one as it should be easy to move around and find one that suits your needs.

MDM gotchas

Make sure you know where your data is stored.  Data held, backed up or mirrored in Europe or Asia has very different laws to the USA.

Watch for lock in models, some are very sneaky in my humble view. Pay monthly and move if you’re not happy as the choice is there.

Purchase MDM through your hardware reseller!  Yes, yes, I know, that’s a biased view but just think about it for one moment.  Who is the most likely partner to get off their arses when you have issues that are hard to find?  A hardware reseller is always someone that will help, so if they sold you MDM they have a tool they can use.

Be careful of manufacturer supplied MDM products as you can fall in love with the MDM solution which can lock you in to their brand as they don’t work on other brands!

Don’t go blindly for the well known brands any more.  There are plenty of very, very good tools out there that resellers have adopted and use that are very good and very well developed solutions. Like with hardware these days, look for the human element involved in your MDM tool as it pays dividends.

OK, so there we have it, MDM in 5 minutes.  Hopefully that will give you a nice intro to MDM.

GPRS, 3G and 4G speeds explained – 2014

19 05 2014

This week it’s all about 3G technology and I wanted to kick off today with a speed chart of  all the various levels of data connectivity.  I talked about the various levels of connectivity here, but this article goes into the speeds a little more and brings the whole thing up to date.

The levels are explained below:

How mobile device speeds have changed over the years

How mobile device speeds have changed over the years

I know some of the speeds are approximate but the image is top give people an idea how speeds have changed over the years and just by how much more things are getting faster more recently. Please feel free to share and link back to us.

Next time i’m going to take you through 3G and what all the spec-sheet nonsense is about to help you understand what you’re buying more.


7 things a Rugged Smartphone has that classic Rugged PDA’s don’t

12 05 2014
Is the Rugged Smartphone becoming the most popular form factor?

Is the Rugged Smartphone becoming the most popular form factor?

Rugged handheld PDA’s aren’t what they used to be with more and with more different styles and form factors of device being added every month just what do you buy?

Well one category of rugged device is the “rugged smartphone” and the rise of this form factor has been largely down to the fact that as mobile becomes the norm in business, we look for what we use in every day life…only rugged for business and enterprise means that it lasts.  This blog looks at the top 7 differences that set apart the rugged smartphone from the trusty old rugged handheld.

1. Screen size rules!

The standard screen size on a classic PDA device is 3.5″, a rugged smartphone we start at 4.3″ and we’re seeing 4.5, 5.0″ and more already as people seek to replicate the same experience they have on their own smartphone devices.

2. No keypads

Gone are the numeric or qwerty keypads of yesterday. These days any buttons needed are programmed into the applications running on the screen.

3. Capacitive screens

Capacitive screens make for a much more fluid and usable device and whilst a few years ago even we were dubious about them, they’re now here to stay and allow applications to be way more productive than they used to be with stylus and drop down boxes!!

4. Light and small

Despite a larger screen rugged smartphones tend to be smaller, lighter and are easier to carry and store away than their “mobile computer” counterparts. The Gen2Wave RP1300 will easily go in a pocket unyet its still fully rugged with 4000mAh battery.

5. Built for Android

Whereas the older keypad and VGA format devices suited Windows Mobile down to the ground, these newer smart devices are as at home running Android too.  many devices we sell run Windows Mobile or Android quite happily, whereas Android retro-fitted to a PDA with a qwerty keypad somehow doesn’t quite feel right to us.

Rugged smartphones are built for Android

Rugged smartphones are built for Android

6. Familiarity

Give a rugged handheld to an employee and they now need to unlearn what they know about their iPhone or Android smartphone.  Give a rugged smartphone to an employee and they know exactly what it is.  With familiarity comes sponsorship of the tool which means less training costs and frustration with learning a new tool.

7. Price

Yes, the price of a rugged smartphone is usually less than even the cheaper rugged handheld computers that we sell. Often due to the omission of unneeded barcode scanners and peripherals.  Look out for non-fully rugged versions that skimp on the drop specs!

So if smartphones are working for you in terms of form factor, but you need something more rugged that will last a few years and spend far less time in repair centres then a Rugged smartphone might just be for you!

Rugged mobile computer screen resolution explained

7 05 2014

So in the last blog we spoke about physical screen size, but in this one I’m going to talk about rugged device screen resolution and what that means to you.

What is screen resolution

Resolution is measured in pixels and is the number of actual pixels a screen has. You can think of them of tiny little squares that can change their colour that all add up to a glorious image when added together. You can work out your resolution quite easily by just multiplying the height and width resolution of your screen.  So for instance if it’s 800 x 480 then you have 384000 little pixels in your screen.

Typical screen resolutions

Certain resolutions have become standard and in the rugged market we have typically seen QVGA (240 x 320) and VGA (480 x 640) screens.  This has largely been due to the nature of Windows mobile and how it handles screen size, or not for that matter! so QVGA and more recently VGA have been the bread and butter for rugged devices for many years.

However with tablets becoming ubiquitous and Android now firmly a player in the rugged market this has all changed and we’re seeing far more “Smartphone” and even bespoke resolutions coming onto the market.

I’ve drawn an in scale image below of how all the resolutions look together on as near to a 4″ screen physical size.

Some common screen resolutions to scale

Some common screen resolutions to scale

You can see that different resolutions give a different screen estate to play with so can play a major part in how your business applications can be viewed and run on a device.

Pixel density

That’s not quite the whole story as pixel density is also an important aspect of screen resolution.  Basically pixel density is the number of pixels per square inch that your screen has.  So a 7″ screen with a 480 x 800 screen resolution will have a far less density of pixels than the same resolution on a 4.3″ screen as the same number of pixels have to fill a much larger area.

Screen resolution matters if you want fine detail and images on your screen

Screen resolution matters if you want fine detail and images on your screen

What to watch for and why resolution matters

Although we don’t see too much problem with this, people who want to develop complex applications or ones that require photo inspection style requirements will need high pixel density and you need to watch out for this, especially if buying a tablet.  Higher pixel density will make smaller objects look way better on a screen and conversely a low pixel density screen can make larger objects look pixilation and poor.

Just be careful if buying a tablet to ensure the screen resolution fits the size of the screen.

Rugged Handheld screen sizes explained 2014

6 05 2014
The many screen sizes of rugged devices!

The many screen sizes of rugged devices!

We blogged a long time ago about the changing nature of the PDA device and tablet screen and after just reading it again it’s still worthy of a mention and a read, especially to help with the history of the VGA/QVGA resolution.  However a lot has happened since then so I wanted to talk about screens this week starting today with a look at screen sizes.

Screen size, resolution and pixel density explained!

So screen size is the physical size of the screen and they’re measured just like TV screens, from corner to corner. This is where you’ll see values like 3.5″ or 7″ for tablets etc.

Resolution is the number of pixels the screen has in total. More pixels = better resolution and also means you can fit more on the screen and in today’s information packed work world, this is becoming important so more complex applications can run in 1 screen.

Density is what consumer devices have gotten hooked up on in recent years and it’s a measure of how many pixels have been packed into a certain size.  Its slightly different to resolution which is a physical count of pixels in that density is a measure of the number of pixels fitted into a space.  So a large 7″ screen with the same resolution as a 4.3″ screen will have less pixel density as there are less pixels crammed into the larger space the 7″ screen has.  We don’t tend to get hung up on this in the Enterprise world but when you hear terms like “Retina display” or High PPI this is what there’ s going about!!

Screen size is measured diagonally

Screen size is measured diagonally

Screen sizes

So screen sizes used to be simple, with all but the least common devices using a 2.8″ or 3.5″ screen.  However this is all changing now with PDA’s and smartphones now coming out with seemingly bespoke LCD’s all the time and this has hit the rugged world.

Now we see:

2.8, 3.0, 3.2, 3.5, 3.7, 3.9, 4.0, 4.3, 4.5, 5.0, 5.88, 6.0, 7.0, 8.0, 10.1, 12.1 and I’m sure I missed a few there too however what’s important to mention now is that the popular range of sizes has moved in the past few years from:

2.8, 3.5 to 2.8, 3.0, 3.2, 3.5, 3.7, 3.9, 4.0, 4.3, 4.5 and we’re starting to see the first 5.0 screens hitting the market.

Why screen size matters

We’re all staring into our screens a lot, lot more than we used to as mobile becomes the standard way we run our lives and it’s a 3 way pressure that’s changing the screen size.

Firstly apps are becoming more complex as we want to do more and more on our phones and tablets. We don’t just check our bank balances, we want to manage our whole financial life on our mobiles, We don’t text any more, we either write emails full of media and attachments or we use complex social applications to stay in touch.  We create, edit and watch media like film makers and we play games that are more complex than PC ones only a few years ago.

Add to this new technologies have allowed screen fabrication and customisation to become cheaper, they’re way less drain on battery power so they have become brighter, easier to use and we can use them for longer. Capacitive screens have created completely new ways of using screens that suit larger more complex applications too.

So it’s only natural that screens grow and businesses utilise that to their advantage making applications that run solely in the mobile space.

So what we still don’t know is what screen size will be the optimum for you?  However what we do know is that in 2014 there’s a device with one that’s just right!

In the next blog we’ll talk about resolution and why that’s important.

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