Words: Uma Basso
Photos: Getac, Panasonic, Sonim
If you have been working in the construction industry, no doubt that you’ve had your share of rugged technology. Phones and other devices of yesterday were not much more than a big machine with a protective case that was painfully slow. Fast-forward to today, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the innovative products on the market. Sleek, quick, and built to last – rugged technology takes its place as an essential tool to masons, contractors, and workers on the jobsite.
WHAT’S NEW IN RUGGED TECHNOLOGY?
Traditionally, workplace technology has been designed for people who work in the office. Yet when you are on the job, your tech needs are vastly different. Over the years, rugged technology has made leaps and bounds for masons and contractors. If you are looking to upgrade your devices with the newest technology, you’ll quickly find that:
IT’S QUICK – Construction sites are often in remote or enclosed areas. Without easy access to infrastructure, a jobsite’s location could severely limit the ability to pick up a strong signal. The lack of signal can interfere with internet access or your ability to make and receive phone calls.
Many of today’s devices are designed to use the latest cellular wireless technology, including 5G and Bluetooth. A strong signal improves the speed and quality of communication.
IT’S DURABLE – Beyond just a protective case, today’s devices are made to work in the most treacherous conditions. Mike McMahon, President of USA Getac Technology, recently shared that today’s field devices “have to be fast, rugged, withstand extreme temperatures, and be able to see the screen in direct sunlight.” With that in mind, rugged technology continues to advance where laptops, tablets, and other devices can take on extreme heat or the frigid cold without missing a beat. If you keep your phone, tablet, or laptop in your work truck when the temperature is soaring outside, it will still work when you need it.
Rugged devices are built to last. While they may not withstand being run over by a dump truck, they can handle being dropped on the ground. You don’t want to submerge your phone or tablet in water for an extended period, but most are hearty enough to resist damage from leaking water, spilled liquids, and even chemicals that are common on the job site.
IT’S USEFUL – What a hassle it can be to take off your work gloves to answer a call! Many phones today are glove-friendly, allowing you to navigate many features without taking them off. Some have push-button capability using Wi-Fi or cellular technology. Many communication devices offer remote speaker microphones where you don’t need to hold that phone to talk. Finally, screens that workers can see in the bright sunlight or touchscreens that still work in the rain are some of the useful options that rugged technology can offer.
IT’S EFFICIENT – If you regularly fill out forms, access schematics on the job, or need to get a customer’s approval on a change order, there is no need to wait until you get back to the office. There are a variety of durable laptops and tablets that have large screens and work with your software, which lets you work on administrative tasks while on the job. According to Bob Woodward, Senior Partner Manager at Zebra Technologies, one of the biggest trends impacting rugged technology is the “constant need for real-time data.” Digitizing and submitting data when it is first acquired helps to improve the efficiency of operations and workers. And, being able to do much of the same work on the job site instead of running to the office saves you time. Finally, since many of today’s devices are similar to those that a worker would use in personal life, it takes less time to learn how to use a new phone, tablet, or laptop.
HOW MUCH DOES RUGGED TECHNOLOGY COST?
While devices designed with masons and contractors in mind have been pricey in the past, improvements in technology have made many options far more affordable. The average lifespan of a rugged technology phone can run between 3 to 5 years, which is far greater than if you were to buy a standard consumer cell phone. Phone batteries now stay charged longer and can be easily switched out, helping you stay connected all day.
The VDC Research Firm found that choosing a consumer-driven phone, instead of a rugged technology purpose-driven phone, could ultimately cost you up to 51% more, according to Bob Woodward at Zebra Technologies. That’s primarily because purpose-driven devices are designed to run the applications that a contractor or mason would typically use, but consumer-driven ones are not.
WHAT’S ON THE MARKET TODAY?
There is a wide variety of rugged technology devices available today. From durable phones, easy-to-use tablets and laptops, and wearable technology, your masonry or contracting company can improve your efficiency and communication using the latest devices. Below are some examples of rugged technology available today;
TOUGHBOOK – For about 25 years, Panasonic has made rugged technology devices used by police and firefighters, contractors, and manufacturers. Their line of TOUGHBOOK products is designed with the construction site in mind.
The TOUGHBOOK A3 was released in June and offers some great features for masons and contractors. It is an Android 10.1-inch tablet that is versatile and tough. The touchscreen works in the rain or snow and can be easily used if you are wearing thick or thin work gloves. The A3 is a durable device that can withstand poor weather and has a decent 5-foot drop rating. The screen is glare-proof, which is an excellent feature if you work outdoors.
Panasonic’s TOUGHBOOK 55 is also used in the construction space due to its durability and reliability. The TOUGHBOOK 55 is a 14” semi-rugged laptop that has a color-selectable backlit keyboard and a night mode in the efforts to reduce eye strain. It also has a 40-hour battery life and powerful speakers, which can answer the needs of construction workers.
Sonim Technologies features a line of durable mobile phones and accessories designed for workers in the field. These products leverage the latest cellular technology to provide clear and reliable communication. Their range of XP phones is built to withstand extreme weather conditions, accidents, and just about anything else thrown their way.
They have a line of four rugged phones, including flip phones, handsets, and smartphones.
The XP5s model is made to handle harsh weather conditions. This handheld phone has large buttons that are easy to use when wearing gloves. The XP5s, along with the other phones in Sonim’s lineup, is waterproof and drop-proof. The audio and speakers are amplified so that you can hear on a noisy job site. Sonim products also come with multi-shift batteries to give the phone power all day.
Are you looking for a smartphone? The XP8 is a powerful device with an Android Operating System.
Sonim also features a variety of phone accessories that are useful for the mason or contractor. The Klein VALOR Remote Speaker Microphone connects to Sonim’s XP5s and XP8 phones. This remote speaker has the push-button capability and can easily connect an injured worker to 911 in the event of an emergency.
Zebra Technologies has a wide array of rugged technology products, including handheld mobile computers and tablets.
TC26 TOUCH COMPUTER: Their newest TC26 Touch Computer is a durable handheld computer that is just about the size of a phone. This handheld device connects with Wi-Fi or cellular technology. It is powered by an Android 10 operating system and has a 5-inch HD screen.
GETAC B300: Wrapping up the list of rugged technology devices is the Getac B300. This is a durable laptop designed to withstand damage from drops, harsh weather, shocks, and dust. It is built with an Intel i5 or i7 processor, giving it the incredible speed and crisp graphics. With its 13.3-inch anti-glare screen, you can easily use it outdoors. Choose its single robust battery for 15 hours of life or go with the double battery for 30 hours.
WHAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE WITH RUGGED TECHNOLOGY?
Investing in rugged technology can pay off in so many ways. These products are designed with the mason or general contractor in mind. They are built to be dropped and endure extreme weather. Whether you go with the hands-free phone or stick to the glove-touch keypad, you won’t miss a beat staying in touch with clients or your workers.
Laptops and tablets made for the job site improve productivity. No longer do you have to run back to the office to send out emails, approve change orders, or review plans. These can quickly be done on the job. With their durable design and cases, these devices can withstand just about any kind of accident. Drop it in water or spill a little liquid on the keyboard, it’s all good.
Long-lasting batteries, large buttons, anti-reflective screens, and powerful processors are just a few things that make rugged technology a great investment for the mason. They improve efficiency and mold how a mason works.