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IP Ratings: Does the Ruggedness of Your Devices Matter?

Factories, warehouses and field usage are challenging environments for technology. Mobile devices used in these types of applications should be rugged enough to withstand the extreme temperatures, shock, and exposure to dirt and moisture they will likely encounter.

A truly rugged mobile device has had its durability tested and certified by the manufacturer and, preferably, an independent third party. For the types of mobile devices found in warehouses or in field service applications, the most common measure of that ruggedness is the Ingress Protection or IP rating.

The IP rating classifies the degree of protection the device has against intrusion of solid objects (like dust particles) or liquid. The two-digit number expresses this ruggedization by combining the two ratings.

The first digit indicates the level of protection against solid foreign objects, and ranges from 0 (no protection) to 6 (dust-tight; no ingress). The second digit indicates the protection the enclosure has against water, and ranges from 0 (no protection) to 7 (immersion up to 1m) or 8 (immersion beyond 1m).

The types of rugged computers used in enterprise applications typically have an IP rating ranging from IP64 to IP67. While there are IP68 rated devices available, it’s important to ask the manufacture the depth and length of time of the liquid immersion the device is protected against. Because the standard is not specific, the level of water protection for these devices can vary.

In addition to the IP testing, rugged devices are typically tested to withstand being dropped to concrete, shock, vibration, and other environmental factors. Some devices are built to operate in freezer environments, for example, or to safely operate in explosive environments.

For enterprise applications, particularly line-of-business solutions in the warehouse, factory or in the field, having a device that is rugged enough to withstand the wear and tear of the environment and use case is critical. You need a device that has been designed from inside and out to be reliable even in the harshest environments.   Simply having a case is not enough especially for the internal components.

Because they are built for enterprise applications, these devices can have a greater return on investment (ROI) than cheaper consumer-grade devices, even though they cost more. That’s because:

  • These rugged computers and mobile printers have much lower failure rates than consumer-grade devices. That means they last longer (in some use cases, many years), which reduces the replacement cost and ultimately lowers the total cost of ownership (TCO) for the devices.
  • Rugged devices require less frequent repair and replacement, so they have a greater up-time and can improve end user productivity.
  • It takes longer to repair commercial/consumer-grade devices than it does to fix rugged devices, which means rugged computers and printers have shorter downtime even when they do fail.

In fact, an often-cited study by VDC Research found that companies using commercial-grade devices experienced failure rates that were almost double those of rugged device users. Nearly 35 percent of commercial devices were replaced within two years, compared to just two percent of rugged devices.

If you need mobile computers and printers for a mission-critical application – manufacturing, inventory management, field service, delivery, etc. – then those devices have to be built to last. Rugged devices that meet the required IP ratings and other environmental specifications can provide a faster ROI, increased productivity, and (long-term) lower costs than consumer devices. And they will do so for years to come.

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