Xplore Launches Rugged Tablet PC Lineup for First Responders, Military

Xplore Technologies calls its new rugged tablet PCs an "iPad on steroids" and has designed them for heavy-duty field use by emergency medical technicians, police, firefighters, the military and manufacturing workers.

NEW YORK - Xplore Technologies, a leader in enterprise rugged tablet PCs for outdoor environments, has unveiled its iX104C5 family of tablets for enterprise users in emergency medical services, the pharmaceutical industry, the military and manufacturing.

In a presentation at the Harvard Club in New York, Xplore executives touted the fifth generation of the company's iX104 tablet line as the most rugged, powerful and sunlight-readable PCs.

Philip Sassower, Xplore's chairman and CEO, called the new tablets "an iPad on steroids." With computing power featuring Intel's Core i7 CPU, the iX104C5s hold juice greater than the popular Apple tablet, Sassower said.

"This is a full computer device," he said. "The iPad cannot compete with the full computing power of the C5 unit."

Xplore tablets are used in clean-room environments where companies such as Merck manufacture pharmaceutical products.

Among five units Xplore unveiled, the iX104C5 DMCR Xtreme Clean Room Tablet is marketed for use in the pharmaceutical and food industries. A clean room is used in manufacturing or scientific research to keep out dust, chemicals and other foreign materials.

First-responder vehicles such as fire engines, police cars and ambulances mount the tablets on a dock as they rush from one emergency to another.

At the May 9 announcement, the iX104C5 M Xtreme Military Tablet was mounted on a vibrating and rumbling dock to simulate the shock of a military vehicle. Another model was submerged in a fish tank. The tablets are rated IP-67, allowing them to be submerged in water.

A "Technology Tap-Out" video demonstrated how the tablets could be frozen solid, submerged in water or dropped from high shelves.

"This product is very good for EMS, ambulance, etc., because the product is waterproof, so you can wipe off any blood, any contamination, take a disinfected solution to it," Mark Holleran, Xplore's president, told eWEEK at the Harvard Club product announcement. "That's a very tough environment, where, let's face it, there's disaster, there's human life involved, people aren't looking to place down a computer; they're running."

Using the tablets on the run allows EMS workers to potentially access an EHR (electronic health record) to see what a patient might be allergic to, Holleran suggested. "This is a truly mobile device that you can [use to] access that data and save lives before the guy reaches the hospital and find out he's allergic to something," Holleran said.

The iX104C5 tablets are employed by workers in utilities, warehouse/logistics, route delivery and the military. Forklift operators and military servicemen use the Xplore tablets as they navigate rough terrain.

"Generally, it's been used a lot in ambulance-type situations because no matter what type of gel or blood or cuts, or if you have sticky hands, it can withstand those types of situations," Andrea Goren, managing director of the digital think tank Phoenix Group and an Xplore board member, told eWEEK.

In addition, the tablets conform to the MIL-STD-810G guidelines on rugged durability. Xplore tablets can withstand 7-foot drops to plywood over concrete and 4-foot drops directly to concrete. They can also survive falls to asphalt.

Xplore runs Windows 7 and features 802.11g, Bluetooth and wireless LAN, Holleran said. For the latest models, the company designed a high-gain antenna with support for 4G and 3G to reach remote areas.

It also added a tool-less removable dual SSD (solid-state drive) module and tool-less access to SIM and microSD ports. On the fly, users can replace input connectors, memory and wireless cards.

The tablets feature AllVue Xtreme LCD technology, hazardous-location certification and suitability for indoor and outdoor viewing.

The iX104C5 DM has a high-capacity lithium-ion battery, and the iX104C5 DML runs an Intel Celeron Dual-Core U3405 CPU to handle less-intensive tasks.

Although Xplore tablets to date have worked for first-response situations, such as ambulance runs, they're a bit heavy-at around 5 pounds-for a doctor to carry around in a hospital. The company is looking into smaller versions to fit in a lab coat or a soldier's pants pocket, Goren said.

In the meantime, doctors and clinicians in a hospital could transport the device on a cart, he said.