The Internet of Things: Connecting Field Workers

With the worldwide mobile workforce exceeding one billion workers in 2013 and an expected 1.3 billion by 2015, the need for the ‘perfect’ enterprise device is becoming ever more essential. As companies deploy more and more workers out into the field, the need for them to be connected back-to-base is vital. Where traditional pen and paper was once a necessary requirement, mobile computers and handheld tablet devices have now become a fundamental tool for field workers.

While the term Internet of Things (IoT) may seem relatively new, the notion itself is in fact nothing but old news. The Internet of Things relates to the idea that a device is somehow connected to the internet, whether that be a home electrical appliance, a smartphone, a tablet device or printer. Smartphones and tablets are the most common devices positioned with mobile workers as it allows them to access real-time, critical data using WiFi, 3G and Bluetooth connectivity. These devices allow the measurement of assets, people or transactions using RFID; a vital component in the development of hardware and the Internet of Things.

Take for example the introduction of Zebra’s Link OS, an innovative operating system linking powerful software development and software apps with smart Zebra devices (providing there is a wireless or 3G connection available). Link OS allows Zebra printers to be managed from a remote location using its RFID features.

Honeywell have also adapted to meet the requirements of the mobile workforce. Honeywell rugged devices can be used for traceability and data capture allowing field workers to provide proof of completed jobs through image or video capture, eliminating errors caused by manual input. Honeywell’s Captuvo series of enterprise sleds, SL62 and SL42, are designed to add durability and increase the ruggedness of the popular Apple iPad Mini and Apple iPhone 5. As well as providing a protective casing, the Captuvo sleds also allow field workers to process secure payments, scan 1D and 2D barcodes where necessary and automatically parse data found on government-issued identifications.

Equally, Honeywell’s Dolphin 6110 mobile computer has the ability to scan 1D and 2D barcodes, provide field workers with the opportunity to make phone calls using VoIP (Voice over IP) technology and eliminate the need for multiple devices.

Due to the lower total cost of ownership, rugged mobile computers for field workers is currently out performing consumer mobile devices. The Trimble Juno T41 mobile computer, for example, has integrated RFID and GPS tracking to enhance worker efficiency along with an 8MP camera for image capture. The impressive IP65/IP68 (Ingress Protection) rating also ensures the device is protected against dust and water splashes.

Self proclaimed as ‘The Perfect Partner on the Road’, the Datalogic Elf handheld computer is designed to suit field force workers in various industries, in particular postal and utilities. Using its GPS features, the Elf provides field workers with navigation aids enabling quicker location of jobs and thus improved worker productivity and reduced down time.

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Having mobile devices connected to the internet allows field workers to place and process orders, capture signatures and access real-time data, allowing for a more efficient workforce. GPS can be utilised to assess the most time effective travel route, allowing field workers to attend jobs quicker and effectively diminishing any lost time.

Having a mobile device connected to the internet eliminates the need for manual paperwork and also any travel associated with it. Using a device that is WiFi or 3G enabled means that data can be entered electronically and sent to the office in real-time and their next job location sent in return.

By 2020, the amount of connected devices to the Internet is expected to reach 40 billion, or in other terms, 10 devices for every man, woman and child on the planet. With this in mind, it helps us understand how businesses, and in particular field force workers, will be benefitting from the progression of the Internet of Things and creating an efficient workplace.

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We are a specialist, value added distributor of mobile computing and data capture products. Underpinning all that we do is an understanding that our customers deserve outstandingly executed basic distribution services.

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