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m.logistics Magazine | On Track & On Target | Psion's extra-rugged handheld computer

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Digital Task Management




18 June 2012

Psion's extra-rugged handheld computer

Product evaluation

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Our impression

One of the challenges when you’re specifying rugged mobile computers is that while they may be fit for purpose and meet all your data-capture requirements when they are first deployed, the very fact that they are engineered for a long life span in tough conditions means that operational needs may change before the optimum device replacement time is reached.

But should you replace the devices early to drive further productivity enhancements? Pay for an expensive upgrade? Or delay achieving those benefits until the planned replacement cycle has run its course? Psion believes it has solved this conundrum by exploiting the modular nature of the Omnii platform on which the RT15 is based and which it shares with the XT15. Omnii is designed to make it easy to change data capture methods, keyboards and other components, so it could even extend the working life of the device. 

There’s more good news. Buyers who sign up to the Omnii Advantage service support package (and most customers do, says Psion) can swap a module during the life of the contract free of charge. You can choose from scanner, cellular radio, display, memory or keyboard modules; so, for example, you can start with a 2D barcode scanner, and in the third year replace that module with an RFID reader, or swap a numeric keyboard for a QWERTY one. Psion calculates that the Omnii platform can save companies up to 30 per cent in hardware costs over the life of the product. 

Advantage is a natural extension to the modular concept Psion has pioneered with its Open Source Mobility (OSM) business model, in which developers and end users share ideas, components and tools. For buyers, it means they can get highly-customised devices without the cost of a bespoke product. So the RT15 comes with a range of options with which to build your ideal device. 

The sleek looks of the RT15 disguise some impressive rugged credentials – as you'd expect from Psion. It comes with an IP65 dust-and-water ingress rating. Direct drops to 1.8 metres on to concrete are no problem, and corners, face and edges will cope with 1.5 metre drops. There’s an ultra-rugged touchscreen option (often the weakest part of a device) that can withstand a 1.25 joule impact with no effect on performance. It comes with PsionVU software to improve visibility in bright or poor light. 

Multi-task devices require processors that can cope, and the RT15 has Texas Instruments’ AM3715 Sitara 800 MHz ARM processor matched to Psion’s own ASIC architecture for faster CPI and read/write system speeds. 

The Omnii RT15 comes with the option of Windows CE 6.0 or Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 operating systems, plus a suite of embedded software to help you make the most of the functionality. 

Achieving a whole shift on a single charge should present no problems for the RT15. Psion says the 5000mAH high-capacity battery, working in conjunction with and smart software, delivers up to 20 hours’ running time, even when scanning and wireless usage is taken into account. 

The range includes imagers and laser scanners from Honeywell, Intermec and Motorola. Fuzzy logic, highly sensitive good/bad scan indicators and on-board imager control services (ICS) offer better performance in reading poorly printed and damaged barcode labels. A 3.2 megapixel camera is optional.

There is a choice of no fewer than six interchangeable keyboards, including alpha-numeric (55 or 59 key) and numeric (34 or 36 key). The keys are large enough to use with a gloved hand and there is positive feedback for users, with a 95dB keypad beeper and vibration feedback for noisy environment. 

The RT15 is designed so it is 13mm thinner in the grip area and ergonomically balanced. Our unit came with a pistol grip – ideal for intensive scanning tasks – which is held in place with just four screws, so is easily removable. 

There is a wide array of communications options, with 802.11b/g/n standard. The 3.8g HSPA broadband radio will deliver fast data transfer times, although 2.5G is also an option. The latest Sirf III GPS receiver helps speed location fixes. 

Our verdict 

If you are looking for a rugged device that will match your business needs for several years, it’s hard to fault the RT15. It has all the ruggedness you’d expect of a Psion device, but has the sleek looks now being demanded in customer-facing environments. The modular platform and array of options make it highly customisable, which in turn means you won’t pay for functions you don’t need. And the Advantage free-swap promise future-proofs it against changing needs.



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