Xplore Technologies has launched its first rugged Android tablet that combines a large storage capacity, a rugged outdoor viewable display, several communications options, and IP65 and MIL-STD 810G ratings at a starting price of $1,349. The lightweight RangerX 10.1-inch tablet is aimed at field service applications in industries such as utilities, energy, warehousing, logistics, transportation, military and public safety.
The RangerX looks more like a contemporary tablet than a traditional rugged device. The tablet, which weighs 2.2 pounds, offers a battery life up to 10 hours, enabling field technicians to work a full shift on one charge, which maximizes their time in the field while boosting productivity. The tablet's outdoor viewable, multi-touch display (rugged IPS 1366 by 768 resolution) allows for a seamless transition from indoors to outdoors, said Xplore.
The genesis of the RangerX tablet was driven by the ultra-rugged space being such a small portion of the growing market, and a "converging market with the new onslaught of consumer technology moving in with protective cases and gear," said Jim Plas, vice president of marketing for Xplore.
Customers don't want to spend $3,000 or $4,000 on a tablet, and they want to outfit their entire field service force, said Plas. "What they want is a consumer-like experience and a product that is closer in cost to a consumer product without having to replace it every six to nine months."
"They've attempted to deploy iPads and Galaxy tablets, and other devices, by buying all the protective equipment, but they aren't getting exactly what they want because the tablets aren't really waterproof or can't take the drops even though they're in a nice case," said Plas. "Technicians drop them all the time; throw them in a truck and put them in tool bags so we are still seeing failures with all that protective gear."
According to a 2012 VDC Research report, tablet failure rates are increasing as more non-rugged mobile devices, including tablets, notebooks and smartphones are deployed to support line-of-business applications.
A unique feature of the RangerX is its optional integrated module with Gigabit Ethernet and HDMI-In (High Definition Multimedia Interface-In) connections, which makes it suitable for satellite, cable, broadband and telecommunication providers. The optional HDMI-In and RJ-45 features allow telecommunications and cable workers to consolidate all equipment into a single device. Xplore said it's the only rugged Android tablet to provide this option.
"Our telco and cable satellite customers said their techs are carrying around multiple tools in the field—diagnostics tools for broadband, diagnostics tools for videos, and a tablet or laptop for productivity management," said Plas. "We've been able to build modules that integrate RJ45 Gigibit Ethernet and HDMI-In that allows the technician to both diagnose and validate broadband performance and troubleshoot issues. Now they can use this one device, so it's a big TCO [total cost of ownership] advantage."
The tablet features a dual-core ARM Cortex A9 processor, 32GB of storage (expandable to 192GB of RAM) and Google Android 4.0.4. It offers a full communications suite, including Bluetooth 4.0.4, GPS and WiFi (802.11 a/b/g/n), and several inputs/outputs including 5MP rear and 1.2MP 720P front cameras, HDMI-Out, USB ports, and an integrated NFC/RFID reader.
The integrated radio-frequency identification (RFID) and near-field communication (NFC) capabilities are standard in the RangerX, which helps increase operational efficiency and accuracy in distribution centers, warehousing, logistics and transportation industries, said Xplore. The rugged tablet also is compatible with all major Bluetooth and USB barcode scanners. In addition, the common access card (CAC) reader option and FIPS 140-2 compliancy make the device suitable for government and military operations.
"Although the military doesn't really deploy Android, Xplore is starting to see a lot of interest in this tablet by special forces for mission-control applications," said Plas. "There are number of Android applications that have been designed for that particular usage model, and we've had a number of trials with different special forces units."
The RangerX complements Xplore's iX104C ultra-rugged product line that is designed to operate in extreme conditions and hazardous environments.
The RangerX tablet is available through Xplore channel partners. The device is Verizon 4G-certified, and offers modules for AT&T and Sprint.