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Kristin Hill

Evolution of Tablets in the Workplace

When you consider all of its attributes, it’s no surprise the tablet is increasingly finding itself the star of modern workplace solutions. First of all, you just can’t beat the price. The simple tablet easily takes the place of expensive and cumbersome electronic hardware such as CPUs, laptops, scanners, and cameras (just to name a few); plus, updating software is as easy as downloading an app. And who could forget the tablet’s environmentally-friendly attributes—such as turning media like paper and ink into extraneous supplies? But perhaps it’s the fact that it can go wherever the user goes, instantly transporting information with the tap of a finger that makes the tablet the ultimate champion in workplace solutions. In fact, the only challenge a tablet seems to have is how tough you can make it and still enjoy its long list of conveniences.

Until now, the tablet has been ineffective in extreme environments. Tablets are great at creating convenience within the confines of front-office or household surroundings, but not such a great prize-fighter in the ring of rugged environments. With all its marvels of technology, not many manufacturers have seemed very interested in making a tablet survive an innocent drop from a forklift or a slightly steep temperature change. In fact, considerations like these are pretty much afterthoughts that all-too-often depend on aftermarket cases to make up the difference.

With the affordability and versatility tablets can bring to hard-working solutions, it’s time to get tougher on them. Harsh surroundings such as construction, manufacturing, and warehousing are starting to line up for the advantages tablets can bring to their doors. And, while a more fortified tablet can take on some hazardous environments, one must not forget that it needs to be more than just tough. It must also deliver a full-shift of power per charge, connect to WiFi networks, support video, and much more.

Some operations managers naively feel that simply enclosing a consumer tablet in an extra-rugged case will solve any problem a severe environment can present. But all too soon, they’re reminded that consumer cases—no matter how ruggedly they’re made—simply can’t protect against circumstances such as extreme temperatures or vibration.

So, once extra-rugged cases are out of the mix, operations managers often face a world where they must trade mobility, versatility, and ease-of-use for tougher devices. In fact, many decision makers feel that tablets forged for hazardous environments must be constructed of heavy materials that not only add bulk, but also detract from ease-of-use. Add in that those in charge of procurement tend to prefer investing in solutions that will grow with the business, and the tablet dilemma grows even more complicated.

Luckily, tablet manufacturers have started responding to the needs of the tougher consumer. By designing their tablets to respond to more hazardous situations—such as harsh operating and storage temperatures, cold starts, transit dropping, vibration, shock, humidity, and more— they’re giving industries known for some of the most demanding environments a tablet option that’s as versatile as it is tough.

One such manufacturer is Zebra—who has recently introduced an entire family of tablets that puts the power of mobile data at the fingertips of workers in industries such as mining, warehousing, and the military. In addition to taking on tough situations, Zebra’s L10 Android Rugged Tablet family (made up of the XPAD, XBOOK 2-in-1, and XSLATE 10.1-inch tablets) offers a battery that provides full-shift or around-the-clock power with a single charge and the fastest wireless connections including WiFi, Bluetooth, cellular, GPS, and NFC. Plus, true mobility is also back on the table due to aggregated carrier support for faster cellular uploads and a magnesium frame that makes it harder than steel and lighter than aluminum.

Tablets like those in the L10 family also offer customizable data-capture features such as a 5 MP front camera that’s great for video calls, a 13 MP rear camera that can capture data such as proofs-of-condition, and an integrated enterprise-class barcode scanner for flawless fast capture in practically any condition. Plus, L10 tablets run on an Android platform, so they can update with push-button simplicity. Now that there are tablets that can stand up to the hazards of the great outdoors, sub-zero cold, riding in forklifts, and the blinding rays of sunshine, workers in harsher environments can begin to expect more from their mobile solutions. Thanks to manufacturers like Zebra, workers not only have tablets that can keep up with the fast pace of their jobs, they also have tablets that can endure the rigors of rough environments for a long time to come.