Successful crop management is a complex blend of the right horticultural expertise soil conditions fertilizers and irrigation methods. The use of mobile data solutions in agriculture is increasing. As mAgriculture grows farmers and agricultural specialists rely more on mobile devices to calculate and store information required in the office and in the field. When equipped with the proper features rugged tablet computers can make the job of crop management easier and more cost-effective and ultimately help farmers maximize their yield. A situation true in every farming region.
Soil Sampling: Soil samples determine the density of nutrients the presence of harmful toxins and the ability of water and soil to permeate to the roots of crops. Farmers and field personnel can gather soil samples and log pertinent information into rugged tablet PCs on the spot without having to scribble handwritten notes for later data entry. Results can be integrated with existing databases allowing for a complete compilation of soil information throughout an entire region.
Diseases: The spread of disease can devastate an entire crop. Rugged PC data systems allow for rapid analyses of past disease outcroppings, while revealing how much of a given field was impacted by a current blight.
Mapping: Mapping a given stretch of land identifies countless issues important to crop management such as:
Prevalence of weeds in specific areas
Patterns of runoff and water pooling
Effects of weather on the crop yield.
Rugged tablet PCs allow for easy on-site data entry permitting quick creation of viable maps and instant map sharing with relevant team members.
Harvest Data: A rugged computer system can quickly integrate important data from a harvest such as yield of hybrid crops versus earlier strains the effectiveness of new fertilizers and the ability of fallow soil to support crops. After assisting with data analysis a rugged tablet PC will allow multiple people to collaborate on data without losing track of critical information.
Equipment used in the field on a daily basis must be tough and come with accessories that make the device easy to use. Crop management may involve taking soil samples in the winter, when temperatures plunge well below zero or checking water filtration data in the middle of a raging thunderstorm. Mobile devices are often dropped and may be subject to a range of vibrations and unexpected impacts. A high-performance tablet PC need to endure each of these rigors while functioning for hours ensuring that users have access to them at all times.
The two key points for using a Rugged Tablet PC in Agriculture is Durability and the ability to process data in a manner that does not add time and complexity to the process. Try one Free for 10 days and find out how one could help you.
So what are the key benefits of a rugged tablet pc in agriculture ? Most importantly our products all utilise Windows 7 Professional so can operate your standard desktop apps and web browser sessions outside all day. This enables staff to access and record relevant information in the field eliminating the need for paper based capture of data which then has to be re-keyed into another system.
Our most popular product in the sector is the T7000. This unit is IP65 and built for the harsh environments of the agriculture industry. T7000 is designed for durability comes with an outdoor readable screen Bluetooth GPS Wi-Fi and 3G. The unit will withstand the harshest environments including dust, water, rain extreme temperatures and repeated drops.
We also have the accessories to make your Rugged Tablet PC even more productive.
Snap on QWERTY keyboard.
Desk and Vehicle Docks.
High Capacity Batteries.
In our experience there are a number of key agriculture operations where a device like this can help:
One dairy in the US was using RFID tags for cattle tracking but the devices were proving less than satisfactory. This is where MobileDemand came in and provided the farm with a unit that had superior power and flexibility. Read the Box Canyon Dairy case study
We can also build an agriculture application for you to go on your rugged tablet pc. Check out these sample thin client Apps that you can view on your web browser on a smart phone tablet or desktop.
Optimising labour and resources is as important as in any other industry. Key point here is that if the device is to be used literally in the field the unit must be optimised for that enviroment.
IP – what is it? In many discussions to do with IT it’s shorthand for either Intellectual Property or Internet Protocol but in this context it stands for Ingress Protection. These ratings were developed and are maintained by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and apply to the environmental protection of wide variety of electrical equipment machinery and enclosures. With so many users looking at a rugged tablet pc what are IP ratings?
Ratings usually have two numbers this chart describes both dimensions.
Represents the amount of protection the device has from solid objects or materials.
Indicates the amount of protection from liquids.
Since dust and moisture can wreak havoc with electronics the IP Rating is an important consideration when choosing units for your enterprise mobile project.
Devices designed for the consumer and enterprise markets will have different characteristics to each other as the construction of the case will be designed to a specification to enable a unit to pass at various IP ratings. It is also worth remembering that the IP rating itself is not an observation on the likely performance of a unit in a drop test.
Devices like the iPad and iPhone have ratings of around IP42, although Apple try and steer clear of them unlike rivals Samsung.
Rugged Tablet PC What are IP Ratings? Our popular T8540 with Windows 10 has an IP 67 rating. This means that the unit is completely sealed from solid objects such as dust and sand. It also indicates protection against low pressure jets of water sprayed from a hose nozzle from all directions with very limited ingress permitted. The unit was specifically designed like this with sealed casings and protective covers to stand up to even the harshest everyday conditions including dust, rain, spray and coffee spills ! Although even at MobileWorxs taking one through a car wash might not be something we end up doing every day.
Key point there is that if the device is going to be used in an industrial environment or outdoors where it will be exposed to the elements it is wise to pay particular attention to the IP Rating. Picking something suitable will have a practical bearing on your total cost of ownership TCO calculations. The unit and accessories should match the application and the environmental conditions of the user to ensure that it will stand up to real world use in the field.
We all love it but is the iPad right for enterprise mobility?
Is the Ipad right for enterprise mobility?
The iPad it’s great! Super styling, great app performance, marvellous screen, so simple yet effective. A real icon of industrial design in the 21st century and designed by Brit Jonathan Ive. Apple have shipped 85 million so far.
Beyond social media and games one of the more interesting emerging uses for the iPad is to support dual screen marketing. “Sixty per cent of people say they watch TV and go online concurrently two or three times a week, while 37% claim to do so every day”. So the iPad is being touted very heavily as a real weapon for consumer products companies.
So what do you do if your business application is leading you to use a mobile device and the venue is not on your sofa?
Received wisdom tells us that it if you describe your business environment in any of the following five ways you are more likely to be a potential user for some sort of rugged mobile device rather than one was not built with business “productivity” in mind.
Why is this? It comes back to our definition of Enterprise Mobility. There is a world of difference between manager types in an office checking their email vs. a worker on the road performing highly specific tasks. This is reflected in the suitability of a unit to perform a specific task and the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) involved with the acquisition and management of a deployment.
Different releases of hardware over time. Consumer devices typically change every 6-12 months. This can lead to a mix in the installed base as units are replaced which increases support overhead. Locking down an OS and application suite so it is the same for all users all the time is still a lot simpler in an environment where legacy back end systems and staff are all genetically WinTel.
A consumer device like the iPad will typically be replaced 2-3 times in the lifetime of a rugged device. This is mostly due to damage from being dropped but with the big issue may well be theft.
A rugged device typically has a 3 year return to base warranty. The cost of technical and break fix support will be significantly higher for an iPad. They are not built for high frequency repairs and phone support may well not be tuned into your idea of response to a mission critical problem.
Detailed screen layouts such as picking lists and forms do not so work well with finger touch displays found on devices like the iPad. Pressure triggered stylus technology is far more suited to business applications.
Apps to improve the productivity of a manager are generic and readily available for iOS. Building task specific apps for mobile workers can lead to specific mobile application development.
An iPad is not optimised for installation in a vehicle and does not have an IP rating that would suit many harsh environments.
So the iPad is bad news – not at all. Although there are some amusing scare stories there may indeed be applications in your business where an iPad is exactly the right tool for the job. This is where people contemplating enterprise mobility projects often get befuddled and wrapped up in what new shiny piece of kick ass technology you can be a hero by deploying.
The key question is: what is the nature of the business process that is causing a problem, how will enterprise mobility help and which tool over the lifetime of the project is the right one for the job?
What sort of Mobile Device Choices are there for an Enterprise Mobility Project?
In part due to a lack of real alternatives most enterprise mobility projects in the past have ended up on a rugged PDA using a Windows Mobile OS. Today the landscape is starting to change and the choices more complex so what are your options?
Stick with a Windows Mobile .NET PDA
Well known mobile phone device companies do not seem too interested in designing rugged hand held terminals. So the manufacturers specific to the enterprise mobility sector have adopted many of the features of consumer devices and rolled them into their own products. The ones that sell in volume are now called “Enterprise Digital Assistants” like the Motorola ES400 which looks more like a chunky smart phone than something specific to a unique market. Users are still finding this a good option especially for refresh situations or where the application process is well understood.
A series of industry mergers has reduced the number of large active manufacturers specific to this segment although every year another ODM appears from the far East so it appears there are actually more vendors than ever. All of the top tier enterprise mobility device vendors actively use two tier distribution to get their product to market so price competition at reseller level is intense.
Use a desktop OS in the field
MobileDemand Windows 7 Rugged Tablet PC
Organisations have been using versions of Microsoft desktop OS in field based enterprise mobility projects for many years. Where keyboard input a larger screen computing power and remote data storage are important many users have opted for units such as rugged laptops.
Intel’s Atom chipset has helped manufacturers come up with rugged tablet pc products that have more powerful computing power larger than PDA size screen and use Windows 7. For many the attraction is an OS that they are already familiar with in an attractive package that they may already have apps optimised for.
Try something new
The plethora of smart phones using Android and iOS has given many users the opportunity to use a new class of less expensive feature rich portables. It has also led to many questioning the whole paradigm of total lifetime cost Vs the perception of how rugged a device needs to be in the hands of a mobile worker. These units are eating up traditional phone market share and are already challenging the enterprise mobility notion that Microsoft on a rugged PDA is always best.
The increasing popularity of mobile application development using HTML 5 is making available more business process orientated apps. Old school manufacturers are also likely to adopt Android and bring new products to market. This month Honeywell a manufacturer in the enterprise mobility sector launched an Android version of one of their traditional products.
We have touched on a few of the many factors to consider. The key point is not to let the choice of hardware dictate what is best for your project. Always start with a thorough understanding of what your business problem is first consult widely and only then start to consider which device will be the best investment long term.
A Brief History of Devices for Enterprise Mobility.
The advent of the smartphone in the last few years has been the thing that has led to rapid adoption of apps for enterprise mobility right, er wrong !
In fact this stuff has been around since the 90’s when niche companies started to build devices to enable mobile workers to collect data and transmit it back to MRP and decision management systems.
Early adopters could be found in vertical markets such as warehousing retail parcel delivery and automating route accounting paper trails. Adoption paralleled business drivers to shrink at desk headcount improve efficiency and make operations more mobile at the sharp end. Devices boasted proprietary text based OS’s and small line based display screens with limited graphic capability. Comms consisted of returning a unit to a dock for batch upload and to re-charge NICAD batteries.
Units that were revolutionary at the time sported a 386 compatible chip a version of DOS multi line LCD display and built in bar code scanner. Products like Intermec’s Janus 2020 and Telxon’s 960 also included Spread Spectrum radio – if you remember the frequency hopping Vs direct sequence wars of the mid 90’s take a bow now.
In parallel other vendors concentrated on Terminal Emulation based systems using narrow band radios which proved very popular in warehousing.
Since then key device characteristics in this area have been the longevity of specific model ranges long term serviceability ruggedness and accessories not seen early on in phones such as docking cradles, bar code scanning, cameras GPS and Bluetooth. All these attributes genuinely help the management of large enterprise mobility deployments especially in organisations spread out over multiple sites and borders. Not surprisingly manufacturers have maintained that a rugged device has a demonstrably better TCO over a ‘consumer’ device during a 3-5 year working life.
Microsoft has enjoyed great vertical integration in this field. Supplying the technology that underpins both the back end systems the customer is using and also versions of Windows Mobile and CE which became the most widely used handheld device OS. Pre-eminence was further helped by a plentiful supply of Microsoft trained programmers and a lot of software shops with an interest in keeping customers on the platform.
Key point here is that there are many experienced industry veterans still involved in the industry. Seek them out in manufacturers and resellers you may be surprised at the valuable advice and insight they can contribute to your project.
Next time – arguably picking a device for a project has never been more difficult so what are your options?
How do enterprise mobility deployments get justified?
Some companies measure the impact of the deficiency in the their business process and rationally identify enterprise mobility as a way to address it. Others spoof it and come up with an approach that looks like an un-budgeted good idea or even better “our competitors are doing it so we thought we had better join in”.
It’s IT so the plot can get lost from time to time. All the same rules apply there are some excellent projects being undertaken and some real stinkers.
In many companies first time enterprise mobility newbies are often IT staff schooled on desktop systems or operations people still using a phone just to make calls. They soon realise this area is not what they are used to. The supplier landscape is different from the mainstream, devices and apps are from weird sounding vendors OS’s can be different and issues like comms and security can cause headaches. At the same time the project needs them to combine business transformational app functionality with the nuts and bolts of app delivery that can include everything from sign on screen printing receipts and charging a device in a vehicle. The moving parts are all out there the trick is to get them to all work together to ensure high employee adoption.
So how do you figure out if spending precious time and budget to automate your mobile workers is worth it? If your management team believe that you need to address any or all of these 10 compelling events then you are well on your way to justifying your project?
Need to save money on back office functions. Especially re-keying data from one medium to another
Improve key metric cycle times such as invoicing.
Improve customer satisfaction perhaps by providing better information or faster response times.
Enable a remote worker to be more productive with their time. or
Put staff in a position to undertake new customer facing tasks.
Have an ERP system to feed?
Making a business process work that was probably re-engineered in the past.
In recent years there has been an explosion of smart phone based apps to do just about everything from ordering Pizza to keeping in touch with friends through social media. It is easy to spot these as apps aimed at individuals but not so easy to identify and define the nature of apps in the corporate or enterprise mobility area.
Industry commentators say that the edges of this boundary have got blurred in recent times. Whether true or not for sure the nature of apps to automate the mobile workforce is and will continue to change.
So what do we consider to be the primary terms of reference for an enterprise mobility project?
Traditionally deployments have been made up of systems bought by companies for the exclusive use of employees. Each company even those competing in the same industry will have evolved different processes and procedures. So the sector is characterised by a vast number of enterprise mobility apps all tailored to meet specific workflow needs. The lack of a killer app means that companies have addressed the challenge of mobile application development in a variety of different ways. Some go for off the shelf pre packaged ‘solutions’ and change their processes to suit while others bespoke software to meet specific needs. Religious argument abounds !
What we can say is that in almost every case the solution will enable a remote worker to use a portable device to get connected to a business back end system and displace traditional methods of data capture. At its simplest the keyboard input of a manually filled in paper form. The degree to which a worker is really remote is not so important. Someone doing price mark down in a supermarket is really just as remote as a field service technician. The medium of their connectivity and the circumstance of their work are indeed different but neither are at a desk and their respective companies have figured out that enterprise mobility can speed up the digestion of their transactions and so create efficiencies reduce errors and contain cost.
So unlike the real consumer app market this is one where companies are investing money in the belief that introducing technology to the mobile workforce will somehow generate business benefits. Another reason you may not be so familiar with enterprise mobility is that the user base for even the largest enterprise deployment is modeat compared to the number of potential users for a hot consumer app.
The key point is that it’s mission critical to a business. If I cannot update twitter it is annoying if i cannot process a parking fine or generate an invoice on a field service visit it will cost my business time and money – Gulp!
Next time – more on this enterprise mobility stuff and how do these deployments get justified?