Motorola Introduces MC9500 Rugged Handheld with Customer FedEx

The Motorola MC9500 can face hail and high water, while offering high-end features for vertical markets. These include GPS, motion sensing, battery charge indicators and the ability to quickly switch between support for CDMA-EvDO and GSM HSDPA networks.

The MC9500 rugged handheld device is Motorola's newest enterprise offering. Packed with features and complemented by new accessories, it's likely to be a game-changer for industries such as retail, transportation, field service and, soon, delivery. At an event at New York's Museum of Arts and Design on Sept. 15, customer FedEx announced that it would be rolling out 100,000 of the devices over the next few years.
Gene Delaney, Motorola's president of enterprise mobility solutions, noted at the event that the keys to enterprise mobility are seamless connectivity and access to information, and said the MC9500 delivers both of these "into the hands of end users."
The device builds on Motorola's MC9000, and many of the updates are market firsts. For example, the MC9500 can switch between support for wireless broadband connectivity on GSM HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) or CDMA-EvDO (Code Division Multiple Access-Evolution Data Optimized) networks, via a feature called the MAX FlexWAN. Currently, companies will send devices to the manufacturer to have the radios changed out for use in a different geographic location, but an interface on the MC9500 can be changed in-house with just the removal of two screws.
A portfolio of swappable keyboards-full QWERTY, just numeric, etc.-are also available and can be changed to best accommodate the device's primary application.
Another innovation is IST (interactive sensor technology), which enables the screen to appropriately adjust from landscape to portrait mode. A delivery person with the device strapped to one hand and viewing an application horizontally, for example, can tip his or her hand toward a package's recipient for a signature, and the application will flip around to match the recipient's viewpoint.
Small efficiencies like this, according to FedEx executives, can shave seconds off of transactions that occur hundreds or thousands of times each day across a work force, offering a return of numerous man-hours.
The same technology also enables the device to detect when it's face-down and go into a sleep mode to save battery life. Waking the device is as simple as picking it up.
Also regarding battery life, the MC9500's batteries now have a charge indicator and also show when they're nearing the end of their life cycle-the first of which can warn a worker not to head into the field with an about-to-expire battery, and the latter of which can enable enterprises to reduce excesses of inventory.

To read about the growth of rugged laptop computing, click here.

The rugged MC9500 weighs 22 ounces with its battery, stylus, keypad and strap, and measures 9.2 by 3.5 by 2 inches. It includes WWAN (wireless WAN), WLAN (802.11 a/b/g) and GPS antennas and meets military specifications for drops, tumbles, sealing and other environmental parameters-a Motorola promotional video showed a worker scraping snow from his windshield with the MC9500. There's Bluetooth 2.1 on board, 1D and 2D bar-code scanning technology, a 3-megapixel camera with video capture, a speakerphone, microphone and receiver, and a 3.7-inch color, high-resolution VGA display with a digitizer and backlight.
The processor is a 806MHz Marvell XScale XA32, and the operating system is Windows Mobile 6.1. The MC9500 is the first device based on Motorola's Mobility Platform Architecture 2.0, and it comes in four versions, priced from $2,495 to $3,295.
With the launch of the MC9500, Motorola additionally introduced a new charging and racking system that it said offers a space-efficient, cable-minimizing way to store and charge the devices. The racking system will be compatible with future devices as well. According to Motorola, the savings of not having to rip out and reinstall such backroom equipment can save a midsize business approximately $200,000.
Over 10 years, as new devices are gradually phased in and old ones out, Motorola estimated that the racking system could reduce the required footprint for device storage and charging by 30 percent.
"Customers are looking for new revenue streams," said Ken Pasley, FedEx's IT director of wireless technologies, "and this opens up opportunities to them."