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.

SUNSET OLIVE OIL COMPANY TURNS TO KYOCERA FOR INSTANT RUGGEDIZED COMMUNICATIONS

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OVERVIEW
For more than a century, Pompeian, Inc. has manufactured the nation’s leading olive oils, wine vinegars and cooking wines out of Baltimore, Maryland. The company recently announced an expansion with the introduction of sister company Sunset Olive Oil in Montebello, California. Sunset Olive Oil has become established and nationally renowned for its branded and private-labeled products.  As the company continues to grow, it has placed cutting-edge technology at the forefront of its business operations in order to improve communications and efficiency across its expansive production site.

THE CHALLENGE
Long before joining forces with Pompeian, Sunset Olive Oil began relying on rugged Kyocera devices with push-to-talk service to provide nearly all of its employees with mobile connectivity. Opting for rugged Kyocera flip phones in the early years, Sunset Olive Oil recently upgraded its team to Kyocera’s newest Android-based smartphone, the rugged DuraForce PRO, choosing the device based on its durability and push-to-talk (PTT) features. Two-way communications are extremely important in the olive-oil-production business, and PTT facilitates seamless individual or group communication between management, supervisors and their staff on a daily basis, enabling the transmission of important, timely information about schedules and work-flow changes. The staff utilizes an Push-to-Talk service on the Kyocera phones, which allows reliable connectivity over 4G LTE or the company’s Wi-Fi network. The DuraForce PRO’s large, dedicated PTT side key and 100+dB dual front speakers make it easy to communicate and stay connected even in noisy environments.

With internal and external work facilities that collaborate on the management of olive oil production and bottling at their plant, Sunset Olive Oil’s managers knew they needed a durable, reliable phone that could withstand hazardous environments. Within that fast-paced environment, it is common for workers to drop their phones on the concrete shop floors. In the past, workers trying to use non-rugged devices often suffered damaged screens and broken phones due to falls and accidental drops. The company needed a durable and rugged solution, and DuraForce PRO fit the bill with its Military Standard 810G protection against shock, vibration, temperature extremes, humidity and more; waterproof IP68 certification (up to 30 minutes in up to 6.5 feet of water); and non-incendive Class I, Division 2 protection for use in hazardous locations with some exposure to flammable gas, vapors or mists. At the same time, many of the Sunset Olive Oil production staff wear gloves, so it was important to have a device on which the touchscreen would still work while wearing gloves or when the screen was wet. With Glove and Wet Touchscreen Operation and tactile hard keys for navigation, the DuraForce PRO helped workers save time and stay efficient, keeping their hands safe from the elements and enabling them to do important work – making calls, checking messages and texts, and using PTT and other key features – without removing their gloves.

THE SOLUTION AND ITS BENEFITS
“The Kyocera DuraForce PRO is extremely durable on the manufacturing floor and provides instant, reliable communications among our staff when using the push-to-talk application and side-button on the phone,” said Sheila Thompson, Operational and Shipping Lead at Sunset Olive Oil. Today, the Kyocera DuraForce PRO is the official company phone at Sunset Olive Oil. For the company it means easy, efficient communications, while for employees it means not having to jeopardize personal, non-rugged phones in the challenging industrial environment. Choosing a rugged solution that enables key features like PTT, protection against hazardous environments and Glove and Wet Touchscreen Operation has made the lives and jobs of Sunset Olive Oil employees easier, safer and more efficient.

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.

Rugged Mobile Devices Deliver Significant Cost Savings to Businesses of All Sizes

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The following post is inspired by Kyocera’s recently published white paper, authored by Dr. Muzibul Khan, titled: Carrier-Subsidized Rugged Devices Are a Game Changer for Field Force Mobility. Check it out to learn more about enterprise-ready, affordable commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) rugged devices and field-force mobility solutions.

Companies have long relied upon ruggedized mobile devices to enable on-the-job communications in challenging settings, and to connect field-force workers with the people and systems that are critical to business operations. Traditionally, this niche has been served through the utilization of purpose-built handheld phone, tablet and laptop solutions offered by specialty manufacturers. And while recent advancements in technology and mobile operating systems have vastly improved the usability of these hardened mobile devices, their historically steep price points have remained unchanged, often ranging from $1,000 – $2,000 or more per device.

Today, businesses seeking total enterprise mobility have new options for enabling field forces with devices that can withstand virtually any environment, any job and any application – and at a fraction of the cost. The availability of affordable, mass-market rugged devices that provide enterprise-grade durability is disrupting the field-force mobility market, providing business managers with carrier-subsidized alternatives for equipping their field-force teams and helping companies realize cost savings and lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

The Cost Advantages of Going Rugged

For industries like construction, healthcare, logistics, manufacturing and many more, the requirements for durable mobile devices are unique. These workers often spend their days in demanding, noisy and potentially dirty environments where consumer devices run high risk for jobsite failures that can directly impact performance and employee productivity. In addition, typical consumer devices often lack the enterprise-grade features required to securely interoperate within a business IT environment, a downfall that can have serious consequences for companies in highly regulated industries. For these reasons, consumer mobile devices have never represented a viable substitute to the ruggedized devices of the past, despite their more attractive price points.

While some businesses have been tempted to avoid steep investments in ruggedized solutions by turning to wireless service providers for consumer-grade alternatives, research shows that the upfront cost savings are mitigated over time when evaluating the true TCO. According to a study by VDC Research, TCO for rugged devices in business settings, which includes both the initial investment and the subsequent costs associated with failures and breakage, is significantly lower when compared to that of non-rugged devices. In fact, non-rugged consumer devices were found to fail more than three times as often as rugged devices, leading to worker downtime, increased support services and significant replacement costs. Based on VDC’s data, annual TCO for non-rugged devices (approximately $4,000) is actually almost double that of rugged devices (approximately $2,000), disproving the low-cost mindset that may initially attract businesses to consumer mobile devices.

The New Alternative for Enterprise Rugged Mobility

In 2012, Kyocera began leveraging its deep experience in designing durable, waterproof devices for the consumer market to create a line of enterprise-strength, ruggedized feature phones and smartphones aimed at meeting the needs of businesses and field-force workers. The devices, widely available at major wireless service providers in North America, are triggering a shift in enterprise mobility by offering a unique combination of enterprise-grade protection (e.g., Military Standard 810G and IP ratings) with off-the-shelf retail availability and consumer-tier pricing.

Having partnered with nearly all major carriers in North America, including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Bell Mobility and Telus (among others), Kyocera’s enterprise-ready rugged devices are typically available at subsidized prices (with contracts) in the neighborhood of $49 to $149. And with a robust ecosystem of software/application developers and hardware accessory manufacturers, Kyocera’s rugged devices can be customized into affordable, yet highly specialized systems that enhance the business-user’s experience, improve communication and data management, and increase overall employee productivity.

To learn more about enterprise-ready, affordable commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) rugged devices and field-force mobility solutions, check out our recently published white paper authored by Kyocera’s Dr. Muzibul Khan, titled: Carrier-Subsidized Rugged Devices Are a Game Changer for Field Force Mobility.

John 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, concerts and sports teams.