Rugged mobile devices facing tough times

Rugged mobile devices are essential for difficult work environments, such as manufacturing plants, oil and gas rigs or military battlefields. But rugged devices are facing increasing pressure from consumer-grade devices, which are gaining greater acceptance among mobile field workers.

As a result, the rugged mobile device market, which includes notebooks, tablets, handheld computers and forklift terminals, contracted by 6.1 percent last year, dropping to $4.1 billion, according to the latest stats from VDC Research.

Bucking the downward trend, the rugged tablet segment increased 22 percent year-over-year in 2013, growth that is expected to continue this year. In addition, greater availability of rugged Android devices along with first-generation rugged Windows 8.1 embedded handheld devices will create increased opportunities this year, judges VDC.

"The rugged mobile market is expected to continue to stabilize in 2014 and provide moderate to strong growth opportunities. We expect a stronger retail segment and improvements to investments in North America, which has recently lagged EMEA [Europe, Middle East and Africa] in performance," states Kathryn Nassberg, an analyst for VDC.

One sector that has long used rugged mobile devices is transportation/logistics, particularly purpose-built handheld devices. "The gadget with which the local courier takes your signature is evidence of that; the ability to track goods from their point of origin to the point of delivery provides security, dependability and convenience," comments Darryn Smith, Toughbook and mobility channel manager at rugged device distributor Comworth.

"Transportation and logistics managers are in the business of moving people and cargo quickly and accurately. By introducing flexible and capable rugged mobile devices, which include GPS, RFID, and barcode scanners, and which are resistant to spills, vibrations, shocks, and extreme temperature, a new opportunity exists for further improving productivity and performance," Smith concludes.

For more:
- check out the VDC release
- see the Comworth release

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