Windows, Android Battle For Mobile Enterprise Dominance

By Pedro Pereira, Field Technologies magazine 

With no word from Windows on its next mobile OS, will Android take over?

A battle royal is shaping up for 2012 between Microsoft’s Windows and Google’s Android for the crown of the enterprise mobile operating systems market. Though mobile vendors concede the difficulty of knocking Windows off its throne, some believe uncertainty about Microsoft’s next mobile OS release could create a “window” of opportunity for Android. Apple’s iOS, meanwhile, is barely on the enterprise radar, vendors say.

The battle has several fronts — smartphones, tablets, and assorted rugged handhelds used in such fields as transportation and utilities. On the Microsoft side, things get a little complicated because there are two operating systems at play. Windows Embedded for Handhelds (formerly Windows Mobile) is on version 6.5, and the vendor has given no clear indication when the next release will come. However, Windows 8, scheduled for release in 2012, is expected to support tablet computing and, as such, it could make a splash, vendors say. “Windows will continue to be the OS of choice for desktop and laptops,” says Bryan Wesolek, president of Data Ltd. (DLI), a manufacturer of rugged mobile tablet and in-vehicle computers. “Microsoft’s embracing of the touch interface with Windows 8 will help rugged implementations by bolstering the ability to launch a like OS throughout the enterprise.”

Elva Martinez, software product manager for Datalogic Mobile, a maker of mobile solutions and devices, says Microsoft’s success with Windows 7 has spurred enthusiasm for Windows 8. That, plus Microsoft’s relationship with Nokia, could potentially change the handheld market, she says.

Ron Hassanwalia, VP of sales and marketing at SOTI Inc., a maker of enterprise mobile management solutions, says there is too much confusion in the Microsoft space. While the Redmond giant can battle it out with Android in the consumer space, it’s a different story in the bar code scanning and rugged world where users are demanding bigger screens of at least 5 inches and as many as 10 inches. How Microsoft will handle that remains to be seen, he says.

Bullish On Android
Hassanwalia is bullish on Android in the enterprise. He cites Motorola’s release of the ET1 tablet and recent Android related innovations by Samsung as evidence of the OS’s enterprise viability. Samsung’s innovations include 256-bit encryption and the ability for companies to automatically push applications to devices and block unwanted applications. “Android is definitely a contender in the enterprise space, and it is most likely going to be a contender in the rugged space,” Hassanwalia says.

Martinez has her doubts. “Although a popular choice for tablets and smartphones, Android still doesn’t seem to have the traction needed for traditional enterprise use. It’s finding similar resistance in vertical markets to what its Linux ancestors saw,” she says. Nevertheless, she expects more Android based devices will hit the market in 2012, as OEMs like Panasonic load it in their tablets. With Google behind it, the operating system is here to stay, she says.

For its part, DLI is developing solutions with both the Android and Windows in mind, says Wesolek. “Manufacturers are faced with developing devices that support a thick-client Windows OS while providing the flexibility to future-proof with Android,” he says. “DLI is consistently developing under this mindset and is launching two new devices in Q1 that support Android and Windows.”

Wesolek sees 2012 as a pivotal year for Google’s OS. “Whether it’s sink or swim to win gold, Android is going to dominate or disappear.”

Windows Vs. Android: A Variety Of Pros And Cons
Compared to Windows, vendors say Android offers a mixed bag of pros and cons. As a Linux-based system, Android is an open-source platform that gives developers and OEMs customization flexibility. As a result, says Hassanwalia, the platform benefits from innovations by OEMs working collaboratively on the system.

Wesolek agrees that is an advantage, but also sees a flip-side. “Updating and debugging are done by the manufacturer and not by Google,” Wesolek says. “This complication is compounded by the fact that troubleshooting and diagnostic tools that are available for Windows-based PC architecture have not been released for Android.”

Martinez says Android beats Windows in aesthetics, thereby attracting users. “The GUI looks so much more elegant and provides an environment where all apps flow very nicely. It’s leaner as it doesn’t carry all the overhead that Microsoft platforms are known for.”

However, while Android is perceived as a lower-cost option, it isn’t necessarily so. “By purchasing a Microsoft platform, you are purchasing the armour that Microsoft supplies to ensure a secure platform to run business transactions,” Martinez says. Other Android concerns, she adds, include lack of drivers and interoperability for the enterprise.

Apple And The Enterprise
Unlike with Android, perspectives on Apple’s iOS enterprise chances are uniform. While iPads and iPhones have undisputed consumer appeal, Apple has not sought enterprise business, and nothing indicates this will change any time soon, say mobile solution vendors.

“iOS is like a Hollywood movie star,” says Martinez. “People love movie stars, but if they had to live with one, it would limit their lifestyle and access to activities and tasks the rest of us ‘ordinaries’ take for granted. There has to be more than glamour and fun, there has to be functionality, compatibility, security, and acceptance in a business environment.”

Wesolek sees iOS continuing as a closed-system architecture for consumer-oriented applications. “Rugged devices are developed to fulfil enterprise needs, which is not Apple’s direction,” he says. Hassanwalia says Apple has taken tiny steps toward the enterprise, such as making apps available for bulk purchases. “You get a discount for the bulk purchase. The problem with that is that as a company I am transferring ownership of the software to the user. When that person leaves, I have to buy another seat,” he says.

So Which OS Is The Right OS?
Faced with the question of which OS to recommend to users, not surprisingly mobile solution vendors answer cautiously. Wesolek recommends selecting a hardware vendor that supports multiple operating systems.

Hassanwalia says the decision should hinge on whether the user needs a corporate or personal device. At the corporate level, it’s important to determine the level of control you need over the device. That puts the iPhone at a disadvantage even though a lot of users gravitate to it, he says. Postdeployment costs are higher for the iPhone than its competitors, and it’s too easy to inadvertently delete an app on the iPhone.

Martinez says the iOS and Android are best for “fun and games, socializing, and personal use.” iPads, semirugged computers, and smartphones, she says, make sense in light duty or retail carpeted environments, as well as with mobile workers where enterprise security is not a concern. “If you are in an industrial environment or a business environment where security, compatibility, and reliability are critical, stick to rugged devices with Windows-based platforms,” she says.

What Mobile Topics Were Most Important To You This Year?

By Sarah Howland, Editor In Chief, Field Technologies magazine

Keeping track of what content is resonating most with our audience gives me a good idea of how to best shape the coverage in the magazine going forward, and it can give you an idea of what your peers are thinking about and researching. Interestingly, the most downloaded piece of content on Field Technologies Online this year was our Field Mobility 2012 supplement that we produced last December. You can take a look at the updated version of that report in this issue to see where our readers are at with technology investments and what their thoughts are on the latest trends. Besides that report, here are four of the most popular articles on Field Technologies Online in 2012.

Why Does A Rugged Tablet Cost More Than An iPad? This is an Executive Outlook column that ran in the March 2012 issue, contributed by Ron D’Ambrosio, CEO of Glacier Computer. The article explores some of the reasons that you can’t get a rugged tablet for the price of an iPad. The popularity of the iPad is indisputable, and so is the fact that part of its draw for companies is the lower price point. That said, it’s important to consider what the trade-off is in terms of durability and what that means to your organization.

BYOD: Personal Vs. Corporate Devices BYOD (bring your own device) is a trend that really took off this year. Companies are getting more pressure than ever before from their workforce asking to use a certain device type/their own devices at work. There are pros and cons to a BYOD strategy, and it’s important to thoroughly consider both sides of the coin before making decisions on whether or not it’s right for you. This is a white paper contributed by Datalogic that examines some of the challenges BYOD can present.

What’s The Best Tablet OS? This is a Tech Update column that ran in our October 2012 issue. With the launch of Windows 8 just announced, it explores the various tablet OSs- Windows, Android, iOS — and discusses the pros and cons of each. Whether you’re using tablets, handhelds, or laptops, the OS debate has been a hot topic this year. Many companies are currently considering the abilities and limitations of their present-day operating systems and comparing those with what functionality the other OSs provide to determine if a migration is advisable.

How To Stay Connected With Field Workers. With as much as we’ve come to depend on our mobile devices, issues with connectivity can cause major problems – especially with a mobile workforce that depends on its mobile devices to be productive in the field. This is a column contributed by Laine Matthews of Wilson Electronics that discusses some of the common cellular connectivity challenges and provides advice on how to keep your workers connected and productive in the field.

GPS Enables Mobile Worker Productivity Improvements

By Brian Albright, Field Technologies magazine

Maid Brigade uses GPS tracking to verify employee hours and improve communication with staff.

Cleaning companies bank on their reputations for service. Their employees spend hours in their clients’ homes each week, often without supervision. Trust is critical.

Maid Brigade of Chicago is using GPS location data to help bolster the trust that both clients and supervisors have in the company’s staff of maids. Using the real-time location data, Maid Brigade’s supervisors can now confirm that employees arrive at their jobs on time, stay for the contracted amount of time, and follow their appointed schedules.

The Chicago operation is the largest Maid Brigade franchise in Illinois, with 22 full-time maids, two parttimers, and ten vehicles. According to Manager Tammy Dunbar, the company needed a better way to track employee hours and verify that the maids had arrived at the correct location and worked the required number of hours at each house. Scheduling and dispatching were also inefficient, since employees had to call their supervisors to check schedules and confirm any changes to their appointments.

“Our biggest problem was that we couldn’t find out where the maids were in real time without calling them on the phone,” Dunbar says. “We didn’t know if they were on schedule, if they got lost on the way to a home, if they took long lunches. There was no way to track them except for the manual logs they kept.”

For first-time cleaning assignments at new customer homes, the maids, for example, were to spend 1.5 hours at the residence. Supervisors wanted a way to confirm how long the maids were at each location and to have some visibility when cleaning assignments took longer than the time allotted. These types of cleanings are charged according to the actual time cleaning and not at a fixed rate, so this data directly affected billing.

“A tracking solution would help us find any issues with the maids and eliminate the problem of customers fibbing about the amount of time the maids were there to reduce their bill,” Dunbar says. “And if they got lost, we wanted a GPS solution that could help them find their way to the next house.”

The company evaluated several GPS solutions for its fleet-tracking problems, eventually selecting the NexTraq Fleet Tracking system. According to Dunbar, the company chose NexTraq because they are a preferred vendor for the national Maid Brigade franchise operation. “They were a vendor of the month for the Maid Brigade franchise,” Dunbar says. “They also had some innovative solutions as far as how we could use the tracking data in the business.”

NexTraq imported the company’s customer database so geofences could be set up around each location. Each vehicle was equipped with GPS tracking hardware and a Garmin personal navigation device inside the cab. The tracking software is Web-based, so office staff and the field supervisor can access the information from any computer.

GPS Training Proves Challenging
“The training was intensive,” Dunbar says. “The system does so many different things that it required a lot of training, because each of the office staff is using it a little differently. I still don’t feel like I know everything.”

The company uses the scheduling component of the solution, combined with input from supervisors, to create a schedule for the maids each day. As the maids arrive at each home, they note their status on the Garmin devices (en route, arrived, completed, etc.) and can exchange messages with supervisors.

The messaging solution has helped streamline communication with the maids and eliminated timeconsuming phone calls. “We send out a lot of quick messages, and we have a field supervisor here who translates them into Spanish for us,” Dunbar says. “Because of some of the language differences among our staff, the messaging system actually works better than using the phone. Some of our employees read English better than they speak it, so it makes communicating easier.”

The maids still have to fill out the paper route logs, but managers can now verify the data each day by using the GPS information. Once the route is completed, the route logs are compared to the tracking data, and then the data is input into the company’s MicroMaid back end business solution. (MicroMaid is a proprietary software developed by Maid Brigade.)

The company now has a record of how long the maids stayed at each home. “We know if they were there for the hour and a half,” Dunbar says. “We had trouble confirming what they wrote in their time logs before, because we have 22 maids coming in and out of the office, and we couldn’t follow up with all of them. The tracking solution has resolved that.”

Real-Time Visibility Uncovers Opportunities For Improved Efficiency
When the system was first deployed, supervisors discovered that several maids were taking long lunches, making extra stops during the day, and fudging the times on their route logs. “They would get the work completed and finish the route early, but their route log would still reflect a 5 o’clock stop time, which made it difficult to keep accurate records,” Dunbar says. “Now we know where everyone has been, and we’re more efficient at scheduling because we can see how long the stops are really taking.”

Once employees were made aware that their time was being monitored, they were no longer able to provide inaccurate information on their time sheets. “We just naturally started to see those behaviors drop off once we showed them that we were paying attention,” Dunbar says. “The maids love the system now. We showed them that we weren’t really changing anything; we just needed to be more accurate.”

Employee labor hours are now completely verifiable. Dunbar and the supervisors can see how long each maid spent at each home, and if clients have a question about the service, they can easily verify when the cleaning took place. “We occasionally have a customer claim that our maids were not at the residence for the amount of time contracted,” Dunbar says. “Now we can point to the system and show them that the vehicle was at the residence for the correct amount of time.”

The company is also saving on miles driven by using the route optimization function. “The maids are already driving quite a distance to some of the locations so we’re not really saving time, but we are saving miles by improving the routes,” Dunbar says. The company has been able to use the maintenance module in the solution to set up alerts when each vehicle is due for an oil change, and Dunbar says she plans to expand the use of that solution to schedule other regular maintenance and tune-ups for the fleet.

“The only complaint I have is that we don’t get alerts letting us know if the maids are behind or ahead of schedule, and we’d like a different indication when an invehicle message is coming through versus a route schedule update, but we’re talking to NexTraq about that,” Dunbar says. “Otherwise, this has really solved many of our problems.”

Top 3 Considerations For Tablet Selection

By Sarah Nicastropublisher/editor in chief, Field Technologies

We recently interviewed Stacy Morin, manager of information systems at Great State Beverages for an upcoming case study in Field Technologies magazine. While talking with Morin, we asked her thoughts on the following question and thought you may find her response interesting:

Field Technologies: What were your top three considerations when selecting the tablet for your mobile solution? Why were these characteristics the most important criteria?

First, the devices have to be rugged; they have to be able to take a beating. They get tossed around, they are in and out of the trucks, and they get tossed into the passenger seat. They have to be able to withstand drops and temperature changes. So ruggedization was huge.

Second, battery life is another big factor, because you can’t always count on the guy having his car charger, or making sure you have an extra battery. That has been an outstanding feature of the rugged tablets; we haven’t had to replace any batteries.

Third, it had to be Windows based, because it needed to be compatible with our mobile software.

They also have a bigger screen than most of the other hand-held devices. If a salesman is going into an account, they can pull up a sell sheet, and it looks good. You aren’t trying to view it on a four-inch screen.

Field Mobility Supplement: How The Latest Technologies And Trends Are Transforming The Mobile Workforce

By Field Technologies magazine

For this annual report, we conducted a survey of our audience to see what technologies are currently in use, what are on the roadmap for the near future, which features/functionality you feel are most important in some of the main field mobility categories, and what your take is on the current field mobility trends. This year, we had more than 700 of you take our survey (Big thanks to those who participated!) and here we share the results. We’ve also incorporated some realworld anecdotes and advice from your peers from companies that are currently using these various technologies and reaping the benefits. Look for their insight in the boxes at the bottom of each page — many of these companies have been featured in Field Technologies, so if you want to read their full story you can search them by company name at www.FieldTechnologiesOnline.com.) Before we dive into all of this great information, though, let me give you my take on the landscape for field mobility in 2014 based on the conversations I’m having with folks like you.

For full access to this content, click below.

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Improvements On Display Brightness In Rugged Tablets

Rugged Tablet Display Brightness

By Jill Friedman, Xplore Technologies

One of the biggest struggles for outdoor workers using mobile devices is being able to read their screen on days with sunshine.

The only way to avoid reflections or a display washing out is with a brighter display. Screens on tablets can be nearly impossible to read under intense sunlight, whether it’s from the sun outside or overhead lamps on the factory floor. Industrial users need to see their screen, data and visuals immediately, any downtime involved in squinting to make out a single graph could be burdensome.

Importance of NITs
A bright, sunlight-readable display also starts with having the right NITs level. NITs are the basic unit of luminance used to measure brightness. The higher the NIT count, the brighter the display.

But there’s a sweet spot of NITs for sunlight-readable displays. Standard displays on consumer tablets and mobile devices typically average around 200 to 300 NITs, and 500 NITs is considered to be sunlight readable. While some outdoor tablets range between 500 and 1,000 NITs, tablets with 1,300 NITs reach the optimal level of display brightness that make it easy to read for crews working outdoors in direct sunlight.

Such brightness is made possible by a powerful backlight. Simply put, there is no alternative to reaching this level of brightness without a solid backlight. But the strong backlight also needs balancing with other aspects, like low-light settings and energy management. For example, to counteract varied light settings, ambient light sensors built into the tablet recognize when a user is moving from a low-light setting to a high one, and adjusts the brightness accordingly.

Contrast Also Part of the Equation
While brightness makes the screen easier to read, there’s still another level to ensuring viewability: Contrast. And the brighter the screen, the great the contrast should be so users can clearly make out graphic images and data.

Contrast is measured as a ratio of the brightest color compared to the darkest black, and many mobile devices have ratios around 100:1. However, brightness-enhanced rugged tablets have a 600:1 contrast ratio, which means the brightest color is 600 times brighter than the darkest black.

Such rugged tablets with 600:1 ratios make it much easier for workers in glaring light to make out colors for bar graphs or mapping applications, data table borders and clearer images.

Enhanced LED Displays
One important note is that as the NIT count grows, the more energy is needed to power the backlight. To ensure optimum brightness and proper energy management and efficiency, LEDs are often used as the lighting source for the backlight.

Hailed for the energy-efficient qualities, LEDs can produce the brightness needed for viewing in direct sunlight without having to sacrifice anything, or consume excess amounts of energy. In fact, not only are they more efficient sources of lighting, but longer lasting, more reliable and less costly than conventional lighting sources. The wealth of positive attributes make LEDs the best choice for rugged tablets, and users will notice the benefits of them.

The tablet screen is always being looked at by industrial users, but is less so understood for all its complexities and elements. NITs may be a foreign concept and some might have no frame of reference for a good contrast ratio or energy savings, but these elements are crucial to sunlight-readable display. It’s all about balance – balancing higher brightness with better thermal management – and the combination of more NITs, better contrast and heightened energy savings create a formidable tablet display.