How Rugged Mobile Devices Affect Total Cost of Ownership

Recently we’ve been discussing how the utilization of rugged mobile devices (or rugged device cases) adds value in enterprise settings. Today we’ll continue this discussion by looking at the effect of ruggedness on mobile device total cost of ownership (TCO).

Definitions of Ruggedness

To evaluate how different levels of ruggedness affect TCO we’ll use the following definitions as defined by the VDC mobile hardware TCO study from 2007 (see figure 1):
[table caption=”Figure 1 – Definitions of Ruggedness” nl=”^” width=”600″]
Ruggedness Level,Definition,
Fully Rugged, Designed to meet at least MIL-STD 810-G and IP54 standards,
Semi-Rugged, Designed to meet IP54 standards (but not MIL-STD 810-G),
Durable, Mobile hardware without military drop or environmental sealant ratings but with features such as shock-mounted hard drives; accelerometers; spill-proof keyboards; etc,
Non-Rugged / Consumer Grade, Mobile computers with no enhanced durability or ruggedness designed into device,
[/table]

So what Qualifies as a Mobile Device?

The VDC Study we used as the foundation of our calculations takes into account four categories of mobile hardware: Non-Rugged, Durable, Semi-Rugged, and Fully Rugged. These categories apply to mobile computers, laptops and PDAs. The study places smartphones in their own category, which is assumed to be non-rugged.

It’s important to remember that this study was created in 2007, and since then a market of rugged smartphones has emerged, featuring the same environmental sealant and military drop protection ratings as the mobile computers and PDAs used in the study. In addition to this new market, fully rugged smartphone cases (for example the Seidio Obex case or the Lifeproof case) can bring smartphones up to IP68 and MIL-STD-810G standards (fully rugged). Based on this observation we logically assumed that a smartphone featuring the same protection ratings as fully rugged mobile computers and PDAs qualifies as fully rugged. Consequently, for the purposes of our discussion a “mobile device” will be any smartphone, PDA or mobile computer.

Scandit Barcode Scanner Comparison Chart

A couple months ago we decided to compare the TCO and feature sets of a traditional handheld barcode scanner (Motorola LS2208), a popular mobile computer used for barcode scanning (Intermec CN4), and several smartphones using Scandit’s barcode scanning technology. The comparison revealed that rugged smartphones and/or rugged encased consumer smartphones drastically undercut the cost of the popular mobile computer (Intermec CN4), while providing more advanced hardware and software.

According to our calculations the Intermec CN4 will cost over USD $7,681 over its lifetime while a Samsung Galaxy SIII smartphone with a fully rugged case will only cost USD $2,056 over the same time period. Not to mention that the hardware specs on the Samsung Galaxy SIII blow the Intermec CN4 away. The numbers are startling:

– the encased Samsung Galaxy SIII has 2.5x as much battery life as an Intermec CN4
– the encased Samsung Galaxy SIII boasts 8x the computer memory as an Intermec CN4
– the encased Samsung Galaxy SIII provides over 60x as much local disk storage as an Intermec CN4
the lifetime TCO of an encased Samsung Galaxy SIII is 26% of the lifetime TCO of an Intermec CN4

For a full breakdown of the costs and a feature comparison be sure to check out our enterprise barcode scanner comparison.

The Value of Ruggedness

According to the above analysis, companies who utilize traditional mobile computers for barcode scanning can save up to 73% of those hardware costs by switching to a fully rugged smartphone-based barcode scanning solution. By purchasing rugged smartphones or adding ruggedness to existing smartphones through fully rugged cases companies can reduce the amount of peripheral hardware they own and maintain while providing their employees with an easy-to-use and much more personal device. In the case of companies who utilize traditional dedicated barcode scanners, there is an opportunity to do away with old hardware by creating an app that is accessible through company-issued smartphones or employees’ personal smartphone devices. In addition to its use as a barcode scanner or generic data capture device, the rugged smartphone has greater versatility and a better user experience than both the mobile computer and a dedicated scanner. To get a sense of the scanning capabilities and user experience of a smartphone utilizing Scandit’s barcode scanning technology, watch our video:

Over the next few weeks as we’ll be bringing you more posts about mobile device ruggedness, including a guide to choosing a rugged smartphone device or case. Stay tuned!