Even the most Ruggedized PDA’s can have very short lives if used in the wrong environment.  In previous parts we discussed IP Ratings, Drop Tests and Rugged PDA Design and here we continue our “Ruggedness week” series in part 4 looking at how your actual environment can seriously alter the ruggedness of your PDA.

Water, swimming pools and boats!

If you’re working anywhere where there’s a risk of dropping your Rugged PDA fully into water then you need a device with IP67 or above.  Even IP67 is only up to 1m (I think it was designed to help if you dropped your PDA in the toilet believe it or not!!) and anything deeper than this is specialised.  Oh and yes that little Motorola DEFY would definitely not be ringing the morning after that party if you had actually seen it at the bottom of the swimming pool!!

Humid environments

This goes for humid or tropical environments too.  Just be very careful with anything IP65 or below as you really need something like IP67 to keep the mist and steam out the device.

Hospitals and Laboratories

This is where it can get interesting because at first glance a hospital doesn’t seem all that rugged?  However where there are germs you’re going to need to use hazardous chemicals to wash equipment down and the Rugged PDA is no exception to this.  There are a growing number of special “Antimicrobial cased” devices and most manufacturers offer an AB version of their rugged handhelds.  It not only helps protect the rugged pda from harbouring germs but it helps it withstand the chemicals used to wash it.  I’ve seen very rugged PDA’s in labs literally dissolve after months because they have the wrong housing so be careful!

Explosion Risk Areas

This is where you need to make sure the device you’re using is spark free.  So if your business is oil refineries, gas leaks or where there’s a high chance of explosion you need an IS device.  Again there are a few to choose from and whilst this is not technically a rugged thing it is important that you choose the right type of device for this environment.

Warehouses and retail

Particularly tough on Rugged PDA’s, there is a particular form factor used in warehouses that tend to have greater shock absorption in the shape of rubber edges and also metal casings.  A normal field mobility device will not cope half as well in this type of environment as a proper warehouse device will.  They’re the ones that look longer and usually come in a “Gun” form factor.

Cold or hot environments

Check the specs of the Rugged Handheld as you’d be surprised at the differences.  Most Rugged PDA’s will be fine for 90% of the jobs at hand but where temperature plays and particularly when it gets cold in freezers etc, you need to look at rugged PDA’s with low operating temperature thresholds, storage thresholds and also choose ones with heated accessories.

The Toolbox

A lot of smaller Rugged PDA’s get thrown into toolboxes after every job done and whilst this is fine, you just need to be aware that if you close a metal tool onto an LCD screen then its going to crack!  There are rugged PDA’s with better skins on their screens, or make sure you find out about the holster options for each device.  Do they come with hard plastic cases, leather, tough nylon?  You;d be amazed at how a proper rugged Nylon holster can save you £100’s in the long run.

Lastly make sure you understand what your users are going to be doing, where they’re spending their time and how they do their jobs.  I am ever amazed at how little managers buying RUgged PDA’s actually know about the habits and workarounds their users employ!  A little bit of knowledge, education and help in this area can work absolute wonders for your business mobile solutions.

I’m going to do a saturday finish off for this series so tomorrow we’ll take a look at Rugged PDA Support and also finish off with a candid look at the IP42 rating as it gets right under my skin!!!

Dave

The Rugged and Mobile blog.