Every January, thousands of consumers, journalists and tech aficionados descend onto Las Vegas to get a glimpse of what's new and next in the tech space at CES. But despite the event's focus on "consumer electronics," we've seen significant growth in tech designed to support business and enterprise environments - ranging from wacky voice muffling headphones for noisy officemates to everyday devices like business laptops and tablets. The "latest and greatest" of those everyday tech tools, however, are intrinsically flawed, because they can't stand up to everyday wear and tear in a normal office environment.
Imagine spilling coffee on the keyboard of the latest $1500 Lenovo ThinkPad 2-in-1 or putting your new MacBook laptop in your backpack without a case (along with keys, a leaky water bottle and whatever else you keep with you day-to-day), and then accidentally dropping that backpack while rushing out of the office at 5pm. All of a sudden the "latest and greatest" tech is now nothing more than an expensive paperweight or a headache for someone in the IT department.
Top-of-the-line business technology shouldn't be so fragile that it can't be used in the real world, but that doesn't mean that it should be bulky, either. Instead, to meet today's modern business user, technology needs to balance a modern aesthetic, rugged design, top performance and unmatched ingenuity - all in a sleek, CES-worthy package.
Is rugged really necessary for business pros?
When most people think of rugged technology they think of big, bulky devices that can withstand explosions, underwater explorations or even drops from a helicopter. And they’re right, those kinds of rugged devices do exist, and sales for them are actually thriving in industrial industries that require that kind of tough durability, like in oil and gas, public safety and military settings. That said, the typical business professional doesn’t often encounter fiery blasts on their way to the office and really only need to worry about overheating caused by leaving devices in a hot car. And the only kind of submersion they experience is of the dreaded “drop-in-the-toilet” variety or coffee spills.
So why would office workers need rugged tech? Each of the aforementioned scenarios unfortunately happen quite frequently, and when they do, they throw a wrench in daily workflows and cause unwanted downtime, loss of productivity and lead to IT department frustrations. Productivity losses don’t just hurt the employee though, they also cost their employers, as a recent study found that when combined, application, server, and network downtime cost North American organisations more than $700 billion every year. Luckily for those that work in office environments, their employers and the IT teams that support them, there are devices in the market that are rugged enough to withstand each of these occurrences and can handle even much more wear and tear.
Sleek design + top performance + mobile convenience
Workers today are inherently mobile – they check their email and take work call on their smartphones, take laptops home from the office so that they can wrap up reports, and use tablets to read the latest news or view presentations on-the-go. In fact, according to a recent Gallup poll, 43 per cent of 15,000 employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely. But with three devices weighing them down, the perks of being a “mobile worker” can actually be quite cumbersome. Smartphones are obviously necessary devices because of their handheld size and calling features, but what about laptops and tablets?
Most business users require a laptop for its keyboard and high-performance capabilities, but would actually prefer to use a tablet for its portability and ability to be used in transit. Consider this - have you ever tried balancing an open laptop in one hand to review a presentation while rushing to a lunch meeting that’s two blocks away from your office? Probably not, since laptops are awkward to use while on the go, and are so fragile that the thought of dropping one likely means the screen will shatter or that the exterior will get severely dented. In this situation, a tablet would be the preferred device, but one might be concerned that they would miss the keyboard functionality or high-performance features needed in more common, sit-down business settings.
Fortunately, not all rugged tablets are the over five-pounds, slate-based devices like when they were introduced to the market over 20 years ago, and certain rugged tablets even come with Bluetooth-connected, storable companion keyboards, making them the ideal 2-in-1 device for workers that split their time between the office, home, and everywhere in between. Along with the misconception about rugged tablets requiring a bulky exterior, many are under the impression that they aren’t as fast as more traditional professional computing devices, which is simply untrue. There are now rugged tablets on the market with top-of-the-line Intel PCIe solid state drives and speedy processors, which give them a significant boost in speed, power and storage capacity, reducing downtime by enabling dramatically faster device startup, application load time and file transfers. There are also rugged tablets on the market that are specifically designed for business scenarios with features that consumer-grade tablets and business laptops simply don’t offer, such as optional barcode scanners and RFID readers. And, since downtime is not an option for busy mobile workers, select rugged tablets come with hot-swappable batteries, which can extend the device’s battery life up to 20+ hours without requiring the device to be powered off when switching batteries.
In fact, unlike consumer-grade tablets, the demand for rugged tablets is actually growing as professionals’ working in both extreme conditions and more predictable office settings crave mobile technology that can stand-up to their tough work environments.
As mentioned earlier, rugged doesn’t need to mean bulky, and rugged tablets featuring sleek, CES Innovation Award-worthy designs have evolved to include shatterproof and sun-viewable displays, shock and water resistance, and even extreme temperature endurance. These rugged 2-in-1 tablets are specifically designed to meet the demands of today’s real-world business environments, giving today’s mobile workforce the portability they demand, the ruggedness they crave and performance features necessary to tackle daily workflows with ease.
John Graff, VP of Marketing, Xplore Technologies
Image Credit: CES