Smartphone-based Bar-Code and RFID Scanning Offers Flexible, Affordable and Efficient Solutions for Asset Management and Mobile Data Capture

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Convergence. It has become almost cliché in the world of technology, but it is changing the way people work and business gets done. In asset tracking, the evolution in mobile data capture empowered companies to identify, monitor and manage their products and resources like never before. Many of these companies, however, still rely heavily on dedicated, single-function scanning devices they’ve been using for decades. But thanks to growing convergence between this technology and the world of mobile communications, change is afoot. Smartphones – pocket-sized, multi-function computers and communication tools – are today serving as the new hubs for mobile data capture.

Today’s off-the-shelf mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, can serve as the processing and transmission hubs when paired with simple, cost-effective scanning software or hardware. Why would this be better suited than a dedicated, stand-alone scanning device? For starters, mobile devices are becoming faster and more powerful all the time, with faster processing, frequent software updates and applications like AR tracking. Mobile devices are also ubiquitous – people are already carrying them. They are intuitive, easy to use, always connected and help blend the physical and digital world around us. Perhaps the final tipping point is the recent creation of ruggedized smartphones like those from Kyocera, which offer consumer-tier price points and Military Standard 810G certifications for protection against threats commonly found in retail and logistics environments like shock, dust, water, vibration and more.

Off-the-shelf smartphones, however, are not the answer by themselves. That’s why Kyocera partners with industry-leading mobile scanning companies to provide a range of turnkey data-capture solutions. Every business is different, and so are those businesses’ data-capture needs and that’s why Kyocera works with multiple partners to create choices in selecting the right solutions.  For example, technology and software from Scandit can be loaded onto a Kyocera smartphone to leverage the phone’s camera as an in credibly cost-efficient, enterprise-grade barcode scanner. Meanwhile, Koamtac takes a hardware-based approach, building miniature Bluetooth companion scanners and functional, ergonomic scanning sleds – many of which are ruggedized – that fit smartphones like the Kyocera DuraForce PRO. Along with high-performance scanning of 1D or 2D Barcodes, Koamtac offers optional features including RFID, MSR Card, or Smartcard reading.

Finding the right mobile scanning software solution

If you are considering a switch to a smartphone-based data-capture solution, you should ask yourself a few questions:

  1. What type of scanning will your workers be doing? Are you focused on warehouse scanning, worker location and verification, delivery, etc.?
  2. What type of scans do you want? 1D? 2D? 3D? RFID? Others?
  3. From what distance will workers be scanning?
  4. How many scans will workers be doing per hour or day?

These questions will help narrow down the scanning solution that best fits your business’ needs.

The business benefits of switching to mobile devices with scanning software

Now it’s time to weigh the pros and cons of retiring your dedicated, self-contained scanners and switching to a mobile device like the Kyocera DuraForce PRO with add-on data-scanning capabilities, whether software- or hardware-based. We’ve outlined some of the key reasons and consideration sets in making the switch below:

Mobile devices offer more functionality than purpose-built, stand-alone scanners

While add-on solutions from companies like Scandit and Koamtac provide top-of-the-line scanning capabilities, mobile devices like the Kyocera DuraForce PRO simultaneously provide access to other business-critical applications, such as phone calls, messaging, Internet, time management, Push-to-Talk (PTT) communication, GPS, email and more. These smartphone “scanners” can also run custom business apps – from time tracking to inventory management and more – to make the devices significantly more valuable in the workplace. Kyocera’s DuraForce PRO runs on the ubiquitous Android operating system, the world’s largest ecosystem for mobile business software, making tailored software provisioning and updates easy and seamless with virtually no downtime.

Evolution of smartphone cameras

While a sled or other scanning hardware accessories can offer excellent ergonomics and support numerous data formats (e.g., bar codes, RFID, SmartCards, etc.), the evolution of camera technologies on smartphones can make them a simple, affordable solution for optical scanning.  For example, software like Scandit’s pairs with DuraForce PRO’s built-in 13-megapixel camera to enable scanning even in the toughest environments, like warehouses and packaging facilities. The phone’s additional Super-Wide-View HD Action Camera also comes in handy to document projects and deliveries in video.

Built in durability from the inside out, no protective case required

Whether used on their own or as part of a sled-based solution, rugged smartphones like Kyocera’s are designed to withstand high-intensity environments where drops and shocks are likely to occur. For outdoor jobsites, they offer protection from liquids, dust and extreme temperatures. And for work in Hazardous Locations where flammable gasses may exist, the Kyocera DuraForce PRO is rated Non-incendive Class I, Division 2, Group A-D, T4.

Long battery life works through a full shift and more

For a smartphone-based solution to make it through a full shift or even a full day, substantial battery life is a necessity.  The Kyocera DuraForce PRO comes with a powerful 3,240 mAh battery that can be charged wirelessly or more quickly with a wired connection because of its support for QUALCOMM Quick Charge 2.0 technology. For larger-scale implementations, there is even an optional multi-bay charger accessory available for charging a fleet of devices at the same time.

Extra-loud speakers and noise cancellation

Smartphone-based scanning solutions are also communication tools.  For potentially noisy environments like warehouses and distribution centers, the DuraForce PRO includes dual front speakers that can generate volume above 100dB. Combined with noise-canceling microphone technology, this enables phone calls and walkie-talkie-style push-to-talk conversations between workers in even the loudest settings.

Enhanced scanning connectivity

Once data is captured – whether via software- or hardware-based solutions – it needs to be shared with the business network.  With a smartphone-based solution, there’s no need for docks or wires to synchronize that data. DuraForce PRO comes with Bluetooth 4.2, NFC and Wi-Fi for adding scanning connectivity on the front end. Then, for transmission of that data to the network, includes not only ubiquitous 4G LTE cellular data connectivity, but also enterprise-grade Wi-Fi® with 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/i/r/k, 2.4 and 5GHz and Wi-Fi Direct for maximum flexibility and connectivity options on the LAN.

Competitive price point and low TCO

When choosing a rugged mobile device as the hub for a mobile data scanning solution, not all devices are the same. DuraForce PRO is roughly half the cost of many other rugged devices and, even when a scanning sled is added to the solution, can still cost substantially less than purpose-built, single-function scanners.  Its built-in ruggedization eliminates the need for costly protective cases and its durability means less downtime and lower replacement costs. Analyst firm VDC Research compared Kyocera’s rugged smartphones to non-ruggedized phones in the workplace and found that those using rugged devices saved an average of 46 percent on their total cost of ownership (TCO).

To learn more about Kyocera rugged devices, please visit www.kyoceramobile.com or follow us on Twitter (@KyoceraMobile), Facebook and LinkedIn.

Got Rugged? These Industries Do.

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While industries like transportation and logistics have been using rugged devices for years, advances in technology, combined with more attractive price-points, have made rugged mobility accessible for more industries – and many are taking advantage of the benefits. From optimized logistics to accessing and parsing big data to cloud computing in harsh environments, more and more industries are realizing the power of rugged mobility – including manufacturing, government, transportation/logistics, public safety and more. As the modern economy continues to lean on mobiles devices to execute more and more business functions, a growing number of industries are deploying mobile as a strategy. As a result, the demand for rugged devices is rising. Businesses are implementing rugged devices both to protect their investments in technology from damage, and to ensure that downtime is minimized.

Facilities Management and Field Services

Corrigo – a leading mobile facilities and field services management platform for facilities managers and service providers – teamed up with Kyocera in 2015 to deliver its unique SaaS-based solution to the building- and facilities-management industries. Corrigo’s cutting-edge platform helps transform operations, from tracking work orders to asset management and end-to-end process data analytics. Kyocera rugged devices – including the DuraForce PRO – are perfect vehicles to deliver these services. With features like Push-to-Talk (PPT) and a dedicated large side button, loud speakers, powerful battery life and optimization for Corrigo’s mobile app, the Kyocera-Corrigo collaboration is enhancing the customer experience – and the business operations – of a variety of companies across this industry.

Public Safety & Law Enforcement

Communication and information in public safety are critical. Whether it’s a police officer rushing to the scene of a crime, a firefighter battling a blaze or first responders attending to victims of a disaster, the right information at the right time can make all the difference. Traditionally, public-safety agencies utilized rugged devices like two-way radios to ensure reliable and immediate communication. But with a bevy of new mobile technologies emerging to help enhance the exchange of information in real time and better prepare public-safety officers for critical moments, rugged communication technology looks a lot different than it did 20 years ago. Smartphones provide public-safety officers with access to real-time information, collected across multiple systems, so that they can respond and react to changing circumstances. Whether it’s information on a potential suspect, GPS location tracking, traffic information or dispatch communications, mobile technology is the conduit through which information is distributed. Along with other Land Mobile Radio (LMR) interoperability partners, Kyocera is working with companies like Kodiak and TangoTango to leverage cellular Push-to-Talk to enable public safety and police officers to communicate over smartphones beyond their existing two-way radio networks. In areas like Franklin and Turner Counties in Georgia, the TangoTango app running on Kyocera rugged devices enables law enforcement to communicate with other surrounding counties and agencies for interoperability. And they are doing this at price points similar to consumer PTT rather than bearing the huge cost of expanding and integrating private Land Mobile Radio (LMR) networks. Public agencies are making significant investments in mobile infrastructure, including expanded broadband capabilities, to handle ever-increasing data, and rugged devices with the capability to deliver that data.

Transportation & Logistics

 For the transportation industry, every second matters. Every train, bus, truck and plane must be accounted for – and must stay on schedule or risk far-reaching complications. For this reason and others, the transportation industry was one of the earliest adopters of mobile-communication technology. Today, however, mobile technology has moved far beyond the ability to communicate, adding new opportunities such as safety measures and workflow processes when paired with a telematics solution. Using a cloud-based solution such as GeoTab with rugged smartphones in the field, operators can dynamically track vehicles, cargo and hours of service, provide up-to-the-minute scheduling to customers and passengers, cut travel times through GPS navigation and more efficiently share information and data to ultimately improve ROI. Rugged mobile technology has opened efficiencies for the industry, allowing organizations to access and utilize the latest cloud-based SaaS applications to deliver data in real-time, helping address issues coming from a rapidly expanding field of operations.

Recently, Kyocera supported the deployment of DuraForce XD rugged smartphones for Success Logistics drivers, offering a cost-effective, easy-to-use and durable mobile solution. Success Logistics needed an Android device that would run the Geotab Drive mobile app for drivers and that could withstand the many challenges transportation workers face, from inclement weather to vehicle tracking and long hours on the road. After testing out multiple rugged Android smartphones, Success Logistics ultimately decided on the Kyocera DuraForce XD as the “go-to” device to be used with Geotab Drive. The cost savings of switching from an Automatic On-Board Recording Devices (AOBRD) to the DuraForce XD smartphone were significant, presenting a much more economical solution for the Company, along with the numerous benefits of having a fully rugged 4G LTE Android smartphone that could withstand the harshest environments with Military-Standard-810G certification for protection against dust, shock, vibration, temperature extremes, blowing rain, solar radiation, salt fog, humidity and water immersion.

Manufacturing

 In a business where precision is imperative to success, every movement, every action and every piece of information is crucial. Existing and emerging mobile technologies are helping the manufacturing industry create new efficiencies, build better products and optimize operations. The ability to collect, parse and act on real-time data has been a boon to manufacturers. Anomalies are recognized immediately, before they can affect the logistics chain. New efficiencies are determined with computing power that could only be dreamed about just decades ago. Technology, however, is delicate. The high-powered smartphones used to move data were not initially built to withstand the manufacturing environment – often full of heavy machinery, dust and moving parts. That’s where rugged complements the industrial workplace. Kyocera rugged devices stand up to even the most intense manufacturing atmosphere, helping ensure that operations do not come to a halt because of hardware failure.

Kyocera is at the forefront of the rugged revolution, with devices that have been engineered for nearly a decade to stand up to the harshest environments. With devices that meet Military Standard 810G for protection against dust, shock, vibration, temperature extremes, rain, low pressure, solar radiation, humidity, immersion, and temperature shock, more and more companies are turning to Kyocera rugged devices for their fleets. With features that improve in-building coverage, powerful battery life that lasts throughout an entire shift and leading-edge security – a key requirement for most businesses – Kyocera offers a two-year warranty on its newest rugged devices. As more industries realize the power of mobile technology and cloud computing, Kyocera rugged devices are helping companies and organizations protect their technology investments and optimize their operations.

The Reason for Rugged

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At Kyocera, we like to talk about our phones as being “Rugged for a Reason,” but saying “a reason” is a tad misleading. There’s more than a single reason for going rugged – and every business and individual has reasons of their own. From performing reliably in harsh environments to withstanding events that would normally lead to damage to the screen, battery and beyond, rugged devices are changing the way we think about mobile devices – and changing how we use them. As technology marches forward, our world shrinks. Increasingly, it is shrinking right into our pockets. It wasn’t that long ago that smartphones were a luxury. Today, they’re close to a necessity.

According to Pew Research, more than 75 percent of Americans now own smartphones. We rely on these devices for everything from keeping in contact to accessing information to mapping a route to taking pictures, video and beyond. We seem to spend more time with our smartphones than we do with anything – or anyone – else. These often-fragile devices, however, are traditionally unreliable when it comes to taking on the bumps and bruises that come with constant usage, and with life itself. But rugged devices are on the rise, and Kyocera is leading the way with a portfolio of devices that aren’t just built to survive where other phones fail; they’re built to thrive.

There are many reasons to go rugged, including:

Rugged for Harsh Environments

 Not everyone works behind a desk or a counter. Industries like construction, manufacturing, transportation and law enforcement work in harsh and unpredictable environments every day. For these industries and others, rugged devices are a critical tool for executing everyday business, and have been for some time. Rugged devices have been around for years but, until recently, they were typically built specifically for enterprise organizations, and required a large-scale investment. In the last several years, however, a new generation of devices brought ruggedized features into more attractive devices sold by nationwide carriers at prices comparable to standard mobile phones. In other words, rugged is available to everyone today.

While technology has changed, the reasons for utilizing rugged devices in harsh environments have not. Businesses and workers require devices that can not only withstand the environmental challenges they face every day, but also continue operating at full force without missing a beat. Every second of downtime costs businesses money. That’s why companies rely on dependably rugged Kyocera devices to ensure business moves continuously forward. Kyocera’s rugged devices are designed to meet IP68 for dust- and waterproofing and Military Standard 810G for protection against hazards like dust, shock, vibration, temperature extremes, blowing rain, low pressure, solar radiation, salt fog, thermal shock, icing and freezing rain, humidity and water immersion. Devices like the Kyocera’s newest rugged smartphone, the DuraForce PRO, don’t just survive, but thrive in challenging environments with features Glove and Wet Touchscreen Operation and Underwater Mode.

 Rugged for Business

Industries that involve harsh environments aren’t the only ones taking advantage of deploying rugged devices to enhance field operations. From optimizing logistics to utilizing big data to make informed, real-time decisions, rugged devices are opening new doors for a variety of businesses. In the modern economy, data is king. Collecting, distributing, parsing and acting on data drives the decisions of businesses every day, in real time. Mobile devices are the conduits for the flow of information. It is imperative that they stay connected – and functional – 24/7. Kyocera rugged devices make sure they do, with long battery life, 4G LTE connectivity and rugged designs able to stand up to what life, and business, throw at it. 

Rugged for Life

Life is full of obstacles and people are clumsy. That’s the reason mobile-device insurance and repair businesses are booming. At some point, just about everyone dunks his or her phone in the toilet, drops it on the concrete or submerges it in the mud. We’ve become so accustomed to having a smartphone in our pocket at all times that we tend to treat them more like a leather wallet than an expensive computer. And considering we use our smartphones more than we use our wallets (in fact, some people use their smartphones as their wallets), our devices are in grave danger every single day. It may seem hyperbolic, but it’s true.

Aftermarket cases and plastic screen protectors can help blunt the damage from short drops and bumps, but the amount of protection they offer is often tied directly to price and sacrifices usability. Strong cases typically approach (or even exceed) $100 and often hinder accessibility to buttons and ports. Truly rugged devices like Kyocera’s offer similar protection right out of the box, without the cost of a clunky case or the sacrificed usability.

Rugged for Adventure

Life wasn’t meant to be lived sitting down. The desire to get outside and play is wired into our DNA. Whether you’re mountain biking in the Rockies, skydiving over the Mojave or hiking the Appalachian Trail, certain rugged devices – like the Kyocera DuraForce PRO – are built for adventure. With a 13-megapixel camera and a super-wide-view HD action video camera, the DuraForce PRO enables adventurous users to capture the excitement and relive memoires for years to come. There’s even a case available for DuraForce PRO that lets it mount to today’s most popular action-camera mounting systems, so users won’t have to worry about holding the phone as they bomb down the mountain or reel in the trophy fish. And of course, active consumers should always make sure their devices have the rugged features built to withstand the harshest environments, to be confident that their smartphones will survive the adventures, regardless of how perilous they may be.

When it comes to rugged devices, everyone has a reason. What’s yours?

Sapphire: Strong Enough for Jewelry, But a Match Made in Heavy for Tech Products

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When we think of sapphires, most of us think of the expensive gemstones used in jewelry, but many people do not know sapphires actually have had a wide variety of industrial applications for hundreds of years. Why would companies want to use such an expensive mineral in their technology products? First and foremost, sapphire is incredibly durable, behind only diamond as the second hardest mineral, scoring 9.0 out of 10 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. It is also a very chemically stable mineral. Sapphire’s durability and chemical stability has made it ideal for use in precision mechanics, timepieces, displays and more, across many different industries.

Real sapphire – which is a variety of the mineral corundum, an aluminum oxide – saw its first industrial application more than 300 years ago as jewel bearings in high-end mechanical timepieces. While this was costly, longevity and accuracy were worth the high price of these components. These types of timepieces were built to pass down from generation to generation.

The first man-made sapphire was produced as far back as 1902, using a process of grinding natural aluminum oxide into powder and then heating it to 3,761°F. While most sapphires used in jewelry are colored, this is actually due to impurities in the mineral. Without any impurities present, sapphire is a completely clear material. It has high strength, anti-abrasion and anti-corrosion characteristics, good light transmission, and can be processed into sheets, all of which are ideal for clear device displays, such as smartphones, watches, microwaves, projectors, as well as precision tools and other electronic components.

Kyocera has been producing and utilizing man-made single-crystal sapphire for electronic components for more than 40 years. Some of the uses for sapphire include watch lenses, inspection equipment parts, medical diagnostic equipment parts and chamber windows. More recently, Kyocera began developing pure sapphire displays for its leading portfolio of ruggedized smartphones. Perfectly suited for rugged devices, sapphire displays have proven to be incredibly resistant to scratches and damage that often blemish smartphones. Once reserved for luxury phones costing thousands of dollars, only in the past few years have smartphone manufacturers begun using sapphire displays in mass-market phones, and Kyocera was the first.

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Kyocera’s Sapphire Shield Display technology is now used on multiple Kyocera smartphones, including the Kyocera DuraForce PRO at Verizon. Our Sapphire Shield helps protect devices by:

  • Resisting ongoing, minor scratches and micro-fractures. When you pay hundreds of dollars for a smartphone, you don’t want the touchscreen display to be degraded and ruined over time by ugly scratches and cracks. As phones sit in pockets and purses, however, that’s exactly what happens when they get scraped by keys, coins and other hard objects. At Kyocera, we like to show off the durability of our Sapphire Shield display by testing it with steel wool, knives, coins and other common display-killers.
  • Enhancing the long-term integrity of the display. Think of how glass is typically cut. Rather than actually cutting all the way through a sheet of glass, traditional glass cutters simply score the glass so it can be broken along that same score. Similarly, scratches and micro-fractures in a phone display weaken its integrity over time by preparing it to be more easily broken along those fault lines.

Sapphire displays cost more than typical hardened-glass displays, which explains why they were historically used only in high-end luxury phones. Kyocera, however, has gotten past that issue and used sapphire displays in devices costing far less than today’s most popular smartphones. It’s a win-win for everyone involved, but especially for the phones’ users, who can worry less about cosmetic blemishing and long-term failure (i.e., shattering) of their displays.

For more information about Kyocera’s Sapphire Shield Display technology, visit: https://www.kyoceramobile.com/sapphire-shield/ and for details on other applications of Kyocera sapphire technology, visit: http://global.kyocera.com/prdct/fc/list/material/sapphire/index.html

John Chier is director of corporate communications at Kyocera. He has worked on the Kyocera team shaping its communications strategy over the past 15 years – 13 of those years in-house and two with a Kyocera agency partner. John has always had a passion for writing and began his career as a newspaper reporter at the Whittier Daily News, part of a multi-paper syndicate in Los Angeles. When not working, he and his wife can usually be found coaching, shuttling, refereeing or cheering for his three sons and their numerous plays.