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.

Kyocera’s Rugged Mobility for the Connected Truck Driver on Display at the Great American Trucking Show

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Trucking and transportation professionals share a passion for being on the road—all 3.5 million of them in the United States alone. That’s a lot of drivers, a lot of hours and a lot of miles, all requiring a lot of focus from the trucking community. While our primary mission at Kyocera is to provide these drivers with the best rugged mobile devices on the market, it is equally important for us to help ensure their safety by minimizing distractions, providing easy and simple communication links with dispatch, and enabling the ability to stay connected with family on long hauls. Road safety is critical to delivering on this goal, and Kyocera is committed to making life as safe as possible for the “Connected Truck Driver.”

It is for these very reasons you’ll find Kyocera at The Great American Trucking Show (GATS) August 24-26, 2017, at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas, Texas. GATS is an interactive and all-encompassing public convention of trucking professionals that attracts more than 500 exhibitors, representing truck, trailer, engine, component and parts manufacturers, among many others. It exists to create an interactive, energizing environment entirely focused on improving the trucking industry—a perfect fit for the Kyocera rugged phone lineup.

During GATS, Kyocera will be exhibiting (booth #11047) and showcasing our rugged lineup, proven to continuously operate in harsh environments where truckers may experience extreme heat and cold, rain, dust or continuous vibration while on the road. Our latest rugged Android device, the Kyocera DuraForce PRO, can perform as the device hub for meeting the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate by downloading a compliant “Hours of Service” application from the Google Play store. At the same time, using compatible hands-free accessories will help with continuous connectivity without distraction and provide safety for drivers. Kyocera is working particularly closely with two partners during the show, including AdvanceTec – a global leader in the design and manufacturing of communications products and solutions for the wireless telecom, two-way radio industry – and TA/Petro Travel Centers, which will also be selling Kyocera’s DuraForce PRO and DuraXV+ (a rugged flip phone) from its booth (#15022) on the show floor.

Showcased in Kyocera’s booth will be AdvanceTec’s Pro-Installed Hands-Free Car Kit and a demonstration of a remote, low-energy Bluetooth Push-to-Talk (PTT) button that can mount on a steering wheel or dashboard to facilitate easy two-way radio communication. Push-to-Talk is a service option for cellular phone networks that enables subscribers to use their phones like walkie-talkies between individuals or groups, all with virtually unlimited range, which is necessary when driving the distance. Meanwhile, the AdvanceTec kit includes a wireless charging cradle, an external speaker that improves sound quality, and, with an optional Palm Mic, allows drivers to use PTT like they use CB radios.

If you plan on attending the show, please stop by our booth (#11047), where Kyocera will be offering special discounts on all of our Connected Truck Driver accessories. Our rugged device lineup is now available in all major cellular carriers. For more information about Kyocera, please visit http://www.kyoceramobile.com/business/ or follow us on our social-media channels (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube).

From Futuristic to Functional: A Look at the Top Trends from CES 2017

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The 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was as crazy as you might have imagined it to be, with more than 165,000 attendees in the technology industry converging on Sin City all at once. While I am still trying to catch my breath from all of the meetings, announcements and new products, this year’s CES did not disappoint in terms of highlighting some really cool technology. All sorts of “things,” from refrigerators to hairbrushes to cars, are getting connected to the Internet. And as part of the wireless industry, I couldn’t help but notice that mobile devices are at the core of most of these connections.

After taking a look at the myriad product introductions at CES 2017, there were several trends that stood above the “noise” of the show, including the Internet of Things (IoT), wearables, AR/VR, connected cars and robotics. While many of these trends were also front and center last year, they are now becoming more consumer-friendly, cost-efficient, and ready (or much closer to ready) for primetime and mass adoption.

Here are some of the major takeaways from our time at CES 2017:

  • The IoT Revolution is Closer: Mobile is front and center of the Internet of Things (IoT), and many of the products and services showcased at CES this year proved that. While many companies are integrating connectivity and sensors into every day products to make them “smart,” the companies that do so in a way that is seamless, straightforward and provides clear value to consumers will ultimately be successful and drive IoT technologies forward to widespread use. One fun example we saw is Target, which is releasing a line of Bluetooth-connected lamps that use tunable white lights and are remarkably affordable.
  • Driving the Connected and Autonomous Car Forward: While fully autonomous driving is not a reality for 2017, more and more vehicles are implementing technologies such as self-parking and automatic braking that are getting us closer to that reality. Companies like Chrysler, Faraday Future and Honda made headlines at CES this year with impressive vehicle showcases. Chrysler featured the Chrysler Portal Concept car, which is fully autonomous and has face and voice recognition built in. While there is no specific plan for commercialization, some of the types of technologies used in the concept vehicle will be available in the not-too-distant future. Faraday Future was founded in 2014 and since then has developed two major concept cars, including the FF FFZero1, which debuted at CES last year, and the FF91, which debuted this year. The FF91 is a stealth-like luxury electric car that will offer many autonomous features such as self-driving and self-parking in addition to a 378-mile range. And for another really cool innovation, the Honda Riding Assist is a self-balancing concept motorcycle, designed to provide the thrill of riding a motorcycle while reducing the danger quotient. It keeps the rider upright, even at low speeds.
  • Robots Take to the Earth and Sky: Robotics was another popular category at CES this year, from inexpensive drones to robots that cost upwards of $10,000. One drone that caught the attention of many techies this year is UVify’s Draco. This drone is modular, easy to repair, and includes assisted flight modes for learning, making it an especially good option for racing. While it isn’t cheap at $499, its modularity allows for easy fixes if an arm or blade happens to break off from crashing into a tree. Another company, Elephant Robotics, showcased a $10,000 robotic arm launching next month that has integrated computer vision and can reduce the overall cost of machinery that’s used for loading/unloading, packaging and testing by 80 percent.
  • Rugged Holds Real Value: CES runs at a frantic pace, and gets more crowded every year. I can’t tell you how many people I saw drop their phones during the course of the show while trying to get from point A to point B. Most mobile devices announced at CES just don’t have the durability to survive through a major fall or a dunk in the pool. Rugged devices—ones that are durable, waterproof and don’t need additional expensive cases—continue to rise in popularity because of their reliability and cost-savings compared to traditional devices, without compromising on features or performance. While most major wireless-industry announcements will probably be made at Mobile World Congress next month in Barcelona, we came away from our time at CES confident that 2017 is full of opportunity for rugged devices.

Now that CES has come and gone, it’s always exciting to see how far the industry will evolve in the coming year. Regardless of what comes next, it is a sure-fire bet that IoT, automotive, robotics and rugged will all continue to be hot topics in 2017 and beyond.

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, concerts and sports teams. 

Kyocera Sheds Light on Mobile Innovation with the Solar-Powered Smartphone

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For the second year in a row, Kyocera captivated technology enthusiasts by demonstrating a prototype for a smartphone with a solar-power-generating display at the world’s largest trade show for the mobile industry, the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.

At last year’s MWC, Kyocera unveiled an early-stage version of the technology but it required two hours of sun exposure to generate only 15 minutes of talk time, leaving it far from the efficiency we considered necessary for commercial viability. What a difference a year makes. Together with partner Sunpartner Technologies, we made great strides in the evolution of the technology since that first demo. This year’s head-turning prototype was (forgive the pun) light-years ahead, requiring only three minutes of sun exposure to generate one minute of talk time. Response from the thousands of industry insiders and experts (and media) gathered at MWC was overwhelmingly positive.

Limited battery life is a leading cause of frustration among smartphone users, many of whom struggle to get through even a single day on a charge. This solar technology is not meant to replace batteries or charging; the best analogy may be hybrid cars. While hybrid cars still require gasoline, their electric motors greatly extend the lives of those tanks of gas. Similarly, augmenting a phone’s battery simply by exposing it to light will extend the phone’s battery life between charges. For hybrid-car owners, this means lower fuel costs, while for mobile-phone owners this means less non-mobile time tethered to a wall plug. Additionally, in the case of a natural disaster, blackout or simply the absence of a plug, the phone user could quickly generate enough power to make a call, send a text, post to social media, find/transmit GPS coordinates, etc.

While potentially a benefit to any phone user who spends time outside, this technology is even more ideally suited to Kyocera’s portfolio of rugged, waterproof devices. Whether used for business (e.g., a construction jobsite) or pleasure (e.g., mountain-biking), many of the ideal use-cases for a ruggedized device happen to be outdoors. Like Kyocera’s Smart Sonic Receiver, Glove & Wet Touchscreen Operation, Military Standard 810G certifications and other features, the solar-charging display is yet another Kyocera innovation designed to allow mobile devices to not just survive, but thrive in the most challenging environments.

For regular updates on Kyocera’s rugged lineup please follow us on Twitter (@kyoceramobile).

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.