Zebra Launches Its First Android-Based Enterprise Wearable Computer

As Android has improved for enterprise use, Zebra Technologies is now moving to use the operating system on its enterprise wearables.

Zebra Technologies, enterprise wearables, wearables, wearable computers, headset, scanners, barcode scanner, Android

Zebra Technologies has introduced its first-ever Android-based enterprise wearable computer, offering customers an alternative to the long-standing Microsoft Windows operating systems that has been used on its products for two decades.

The new products include the WT6000 Industrial Wearable Computer, as well as an accessory RS6000 Wearable Ring Scanner and an HS3100 Rugged Headset that add flexibility for a wide range of enterprise users. The WT6000 runs on Android Lollipop 5.1, while the ring scanner and headset don't include their own operating systems.

The Zebra WT6000 Industrial Wearable Computer (pictured) can be worn on a wrist and includes a 3.2-inch WVGA (800 by 480 pixels) LCD In-Plane-Switching touch-screen display, a scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass 3 cover, quad-core 1GHz processor, 1GB of memory, 4GB of flash storage and a 3,350mAh Li-Ion battery. The Android Lollipop 5.1 operating system on the device includes Zebra Mobility Extensions (Mx) to customize it for enterprise users.

The ruggedized WT6000 is 4.7 inches wide, 3.5 inches high and 0.7 inches thick and weighs 8.7 ounces. It includes three user-programmable function keys as well as WiFi, Bluetooth and near-field communications (NFC) connectivity. The device has several options for data capture, including a variety of 1D/2D imaging scanners. It is dustproof and spray-proof, and can be operated in extreme heat of cold, such as in refrigerated warehouses or factories where hot ovens or smelters are used.

Using the Zebra Mobility Extensions, enterprise workers can use hands-free voice commands to pick orders, which can increase efficiency and accuracy, as well as increase worker comfort, according to Zebra.

The move to Android comes because the Microsoft Embedded operating system is reaching the end of its development life by the end of the decade and because Android has dramatically improved to fit the needs of enterprise users, Mike Petersen, a Zebra spokesman, told eWEEK.

"Five or six years ago, 98 percent of the buyers of enterprise wearables were on Microsoft Embedded," he said. Now with Microsoft's plans to drop that OS, "customers are going to need to make a decision about what's the next OS they are going to move to" for the devices.

Since Android now holds about 85 percent of the mobile consumer device market, the decision was made at Zebra to use the OS for its future devices. To ready Android for enterprise use, Zebra two years ago released a suite of products, which it called Mobility DNA, to help move Android from a consumer OS into an enterprise-ready OS. The Mobility DNA package introduced improvements for security, deep ties with needed scanner systems and needed utilities and tools to "augment Android to make it professional grade," said Petersen. "For so many years Microsoft was the only option, and now Android is a great option."

The WT6000 wearable computer and its RS6000 ring scanner and HS3100 rugged headset accessories are designed for use in inventory management and product management, picking and put-away applications in warehouse, manufacturing and retail environments, according to the company. The devices can also connect with Zebra Bluetooth-enabled printers for increased productivity.

Prices for the WT3000 start at $3,000. The products were announced on June 30.

The RS6000 ring scanner, which allows users to easily scan barcodes on packages and pallets from a distance, is worn on the back of a user's hand and features a button that can be operated with a thumb. Its small size reduces worker fatigue compared with larger handheld devices. The accessory HS3100 headset allows users to give voice commands to the ring scanner or wearable computer, which makes the devices "multi-modal," according to Petersen.

The RS6000 ring scanner includes a 3,350mAh Li-Ion battery, Bluetooth and NFC connectivity and is 2.9 inches long, 2.1 inches wide and 1.3 inches thick. It weighs 6.46 ounces.

The HS3100 headset is a cordless Bluetooth device that meets IP67 specifications for water resistance and dust resistance as well as for temperature extremes. It is also available in a model HS2100 corded version.