Photo - A rugged wearable from Honeywell.
Computerworld Malaysia recently asked Honeywell Sensing and Productivity solutions' Singapore-based marketing manager Freddy Fam to outline what companies, especially in the manufacturing, retail, logistics and transportation sectors, should be including in their planning for 2016.
Photo - Freddy Fam, Product Marketing Manager, Honeywell Sensing and Productivity Solutions.
Please start with outlining the daily adoption of mobile computers across industry sectors in Malaysia?
Malaysian retailers, 3PLs (third party logistics providers) and transport businesses - like their counterparts around the world - have seen rapid growth and increasing operational pressures as a result of the e-Commerce delivery process.
The increasing number of small piece orders, the increased number of delivery destinations that have to be reached, as well as the reduced timeframe in which these orders are expected to be delivered pose challenges for local goods delivery businesses.
To help address these operational pressures Malaysian businesses are increasingly turning to advanced mobile computing devices to ensure the efficient and accurate delivery of goods.
What should businesses look for in a mobile computer?
The most important factor in finding the right fit for an enterprise mobile computer is the environment in which it will be used.
Failure rates for handheld devices vary widely, from device to device, manufacturer to manufacturer, which is a reflection of how rugged the mobile computer is and how well it is suited for the specific usage environment.
For example, a handheld that will land on a carpeted floor when it is dropped doesn't need to be as rugged as one that will land on concrete. Drops are the leading cause of damage to mobile computers and are the leading cause of resulting damage and downtime.
To be considered rugged - and therefore reliable - mobile computers must be rated to repeatedly withstand at least five-foot drops to a non-yielding surface.
Understanding how the computer will be used is also very important. Not all work is performed the same, so observing how different workers go about their daily activities is worth the investment in time.
These observations provide insight on how processes can be improved and which mobile computer features are desirable. For example, even a small, lightweight computer with keys can be awkward to use during processes that constantly require workers to lift or pull items, so voice / speech input would be valuable because it provides hands-free data entry so workers can keep their eyes and hands on the task.
And in a climate of constant change and rapid technology advancements, another vital consideration is whether a mobile computer investment will provide a good return on investment (ROI) into the future.
This might involve looking for a mobile computer that easily integrates with current and future systems, such as a WMS, and has the flexibility to work in tandem with other operational hardware now and in the future.
There are now mobile computers on the market offering Windows and Google Android operating systems that offers businesses of using devices with hybrid operating systems or switching to a new operating system in the future.
What are the pros and cons of the operating systems currently used in mobile computing?
The rise of HTML5 and Google Android operating systems on enterprise-ready mobile computers is a major shift away from the Microsoft operating systems that dominated the market for the better part of a decade.
With the increasing use of these new operating systems though, many Malaysian businesses with mobile workers will be asking themselves which operating system is right for them.
While many businesses use Android or Windows operating systems and apps due to excellent performance, HTML5 is also proving to be increasingly popular as it delivers apps that look and feel like those on any other operating system and can run across all devices hosting a capable web browser.
Importantly, updates with HTML5 mean that it now allows apps to continue running even when disconnected from the web. This means for the first time supply chain businesses can look at it as a viable option because their remote workers can continue to use their devices in the field regardless of whether they have an internet connection or not.
Malaysian businesses should be aware, however, that HTML5, Android or Windows apps do not have to be mutually exclusive either - some operators are electing to meet all the varying needs of their workforce and technologies by having the best of both worlds by using HTML5 for web apps and WEH8 and Android operating system to boost app performance.
How is the increasing use of BYOD (bring your own device) impacting the enterprise mobile computing market?
In Malaysia, businesses are increasingly looking for ways in which they can reduce their costs without sacrificing operational efficiencies.
As a result, a growing number of organisations in the region already have, or are currently investigating implementing BYOD policies to help advance the technologies being used in their day to day operations without incurring large scale initial hardware costs.
What Malaysian businesses need to fully understand when investigating BYOD policies is that for mobile workers, such as on-the-road logistics or delivery personnel - profitability will depend on productivity, and productivity is drive by reliability.
When an office worker's smart phone, tablet or laptop crashes, the user usually has alternatives readily available or can simply use a desk phone to call for support. Workers in the field have no such fall-backs. When their devices fail, their work stops.
Alarmingly, failure rates of 50 percent or higher are not uncommon for consumer-grade devices that are used for mobile or industrial business operations.
As such, those Malaysian businesses looking to implement BYOD policies should also consider purchasing bridging technologies that better assimilate common consumer devices into industrial environments, which help mobile workers look up inventory, scan barcodes and securely process payments, increasing customer engagement and improving mobile point-of-sale.
Such tablet sleds provide much needed rugged capabilities to consumer devices and also give workers access to transaction data via the internet or mobile apps, providing an opportunity to upsell products and services and keep customers more engaged in the buying process.
What are the latest trends in mobile computing technology that industries need to keep top of mind in their future planning?
Mobile computers have come a long way since the first bulky devices with limited functionality hit the market years ago, and these days the latest devices focus on power, battery life, design, operational flexibility and scanning capabilities.
For example, Malaysian businesses looking for mobile computers that will best serve their businesses now and into the future should look at devices with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor with 2.26GHz quad-core CPU which enables more robust application performance at better speeds and power efficiencies.
For tough work environments, devices should be chosen that offer an IP67 rated design for protection from dust and water and the ability to withstand multiple 1.5m drops to concrete and 1,000 0.5m tumbles.
For enterprises that require anywhere, anytime real-time connectivity, advanced enterprise-ready 4G/LTE handheld computers that support either Windows or Android operating systems are key.
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