Polycom SpectraLink 8400 Handsets Bring Barcoding to Health Care

Polycom's SpectraLink 8400 handsets feature barcode scanning for medical, industrial and retail environments.

Unified communications player Polycom Sept. 21 introduced its SpectraLink 8400 series handsets, which offer barcoding capabilities geared toward mobile workers in the health care, industrial, retail and hospitality industries.

The SpectraLink 8400 is the first wireless handset to feature an integrated barcode scanner, according to Polycom. The 8450 comes with 1D scanning capabilities, and the 8452 features 2D scanning technology. Using the SpectraLink barcode reader, doctors and nurses can scan prescription barcodes and transfer the data to another device over WiFi using the QBC (Quick Barcode Connector).

Polycom expects the barcode reader to ensure accuracy when transferring medical data and reduce errors by more than 90 percent, Ben Guderian, the company's vice president of wireless solutions, told eWEEK.

In addition to scanning, the unit is suitable for patient monitoring with its graphics-rich interface, Guderian said.

The SpectraLink 8400 is also the only device in the industry that offers enterprise VOWiFi (voice over WiFi), according to Polycom. VOWiFi is the wireless version of VOIP (voice over IP) technology designed for mobile devices such as smartphones and laptops.

"Polycom is taking enterprise-grade VOWiFi to a higher level of functionality and performance with the introduction of the 8400 series handsets," Craig Mathias, principal of wireless-communications consulting company Farpoint Group, said in a statement. Mathias said the SpectraLink products' "thin-client approach" should appeal to enterprises.

Doctors and nurses can also communicate with colleagues over the Microsoft Office Communications Server IM (instant messaging) client and via push-to-talk functionality. In addition, the SpectraLink's "snap in, snap out" battery packs will work well in 24-hour operations such as hospitals, Guderian said.

Jim Kruger, Polycom's vice president of Solutions Product Marketing, described reliable communication as "mission-critical in environments like hospitals, manufacturing facilities and large retail stores."

The SpectraLink phones feature an open application platform that supports industry voice standards such as PBX and SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) and is interoperable with various enterprise networks, according to Polycom.

In addition, the unit's WebKit-based browser is suitable for developers and supports applications that allow users to make calls in medical facilities, monitor equipment in manufacturing plants and control inventory in retail businesses, particularly "big-box home improvement stores," Guderian said.

Polycom said the phones will also lower TCO by 33 percent compared with competing products, due to features such as two-way radios, pagers, barcode scanners and intercoms. The phones' noise-suppression technology could also appeal to workers in loud environments such as hospitals and factories. In addition, a rubberized surface over molding provides rugged durability, the company said.

"Polycom's reputation for building rugged, reliable products will put these new handsets on the short list across a huge range of applications," Mathias predicted.

On Sept. 15, Motorola also introduced a rugged mobile device for hospitals, the MC75A0-HC, and Motion Computing unveiled a similarly sturdy product, the J3500 tablet, on June 22.

Studies by organizations such as the Spyglass Consulting Group have shown that medical professionals are actively using wireless devices in hospitals, although connections have been spotty at times.

The Sept. 20 SpectraLink news came on the same day Polycom hired away Joseph Burton from Cisco Systems to be its new CTO and boost its unified communications business.

The new SpectraLink 8440 and 8450 (1D) phones will ship in the second quarter of 2011 and the 8452 (2D) in the following quarter. Polycom acquired the wireless telephony company SpectraLink in February 2007.