What is Rugged Computer?
A rugged (or ruggedized, but also ruggedised) computer is a computer specifically designed to operate reliably in harsh usage environments and conditions, such as strong vibrations, extreme temperatures and wet or dusty conditions. They are designed from inception for the type of rough use typified by these conditions, not just in the external housing but in the internal components and cooling arrangements as well. In general, ruggedized and hardened computers share the same design robustness and frequently these terms are interchangeable.
Typical end-user environments for rugged laptops, tablet PCs and PDAs are public safety, field sales, field service, manufacturing, retail, healthcare, transportation/distribution and the military. They are used in the agricultural industries and by individuals for recreational activities, as well, such as hunting or geocaching.
Virtually all rugged computers share an underlying design philosophy of providing a controlled environment for the installed electronics. The electronic components themselves may be selected for their ability to withstand higher and lower operating temperatures than typical commercial components.
They incorporate features such as fully sealed keyboards to protect against intrusion by dust or liquids, and scratch-resistant screens that are readable in direct sunlight.
Rugged units are more expensive in terms of annualized hardware costs. However, one research study found that in environments where rugged computers are commonly used, total cost of ownership was 36 percent lower for rugged notebooks and 33 percent less for handhelds and PDAs, compared to conventional non-rugged versions. The lower overall cost is due to lower failure rates, the related impact on productivity, and other factors.
Wireless capability is a key requirement for most enterprise mobility applications, and it has been reported that wireless-transmission failure rates are three times higher for non-rugged notebooks compared to rugged units. This difference is attributed to the greater experience of rugged-notebook vendors at integrating multiple radios into their products. Each transmission failure leads to five to ten minutes in lost productivity as the user has to re-login to the network through a VPN.
Since enterprises are turning to cellular networks to enable full-time connectivity for their users, major vendors of rugged computers offer both built-in wireless LAN and wireless WAN capabilities, and partner with cellular carriers as part of their offerings. During the handoff between the various wireless LAN and wireless WAN connections, a mobile VPN allows the connection to persist, creating an always-connected infrastructure that is simpler for the user and eliminates application crashes and data loss.