Guest Column | October 21, 2016

A 20-year History: Putting Rugged Tablets To Work For Workers

Mark Holleran, Xplore

By Mark Holleran, Xplore

Twenty years ago – before WiFi, Google or the iPad - the first rugged tablet and notebook were introduced to the mass market. Both types of devices promised to enable industrial workers in sectors ranging from utilities, public safety, manufacturing, oil and gas, mining, construction and more to safely and securely compute in the field.

Very quickly, the market’s preference for rugged tablets over notebooks was clear. In fact, by the early 2000’s rugged notebook manufacturers pivoted and entered the tablet market to seize on the market opportunity. Why? Rugged notebooks weren't sufficient in meeting the myriad of needs that field workers faced on the job, so they remained vehicle-based PCs. They had keyboards, but weren't mobile given their size and incapability to input data while on the go. They had most of the components needed, but weren’t flexible enough for the situations encountered by workers who frequently transitioned in and out of the office to work in multiple field job sites. Simply put, early users realized that the rugged tablet could serve as both a mobile PC and a notebook/desktop option.

Advancement of Rugged Tablets

According to VDC’s annual report, by 2015 there were more fully rugged tablets deployed in the field than fully rugged notebooks across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. As sales soared, so did innovation. Over the past two decades, rugged tablets have become both thinner and more lightweight, and displays have become both shatterproof and daylight viewable. Rugged tablets also last longer than any other form factor, built to the unique protection of internal and external components, such as vibration-resistant Solid State Drives (SSD) and industrial strength, shock-resistant frames. Today’s ultra-rugged tablets can withstand just about any attempted infliction due to their water-, dust-, salt-, fog-and extreme temperature-resistant design, making in-field and on-sea operations more functional and efficient.