by John Hitch
In 2019, there will be 8. 3 billion actively connected Internet of Things devices, surpassing the number of people on the planet, according to recent Io T Analytics data. That’s an almost inconceivable amount of M2M communication—and data—that human workers are going to have to make sense of. This data arrives in real-time and from just about anywhere on
the map, so plant decision makers need a powerful, reliable and most importantly,
mobile interface at the ready 24/7.
“Everybody is on the move now, doing work wherever you are, so you want some-
thing flexible,” says Marco Nielsen, VP of Managed Mobility Services at Stratix.
Nielsen notes that more and more managers on the factory floor are turning
to tablets and 2-in- 1 computers, as opposed to laptops, to visualize equipment
performance, production status and all the other KPIs your business needs to
ensure profitability. Another important factor is that while batteries themselves
have not greatly advanced, manufacturers have found ways to reduce how much
energy the CPU and apps use, so these devices will spend more time on the floor and
less time charging in your office.
And this year manufacturers were gifted three great new mobile solutions from
which to choose: the Zebra Technologies XBOOK B10, the Microsoft Surface Pro 6,
and most recently, the iPad Pro.
Nielsen’s pick is the Surface Pro 6, as his Surface 3 has served him well on plane
trips. No two factories are alike, though, so there’s no clear best choice. Here are
some vital stats to help you choose right solution for you.
The factory floor is going
digital, and you need to stay
connected to it anywhere and
everywhere. A mobile computer
is probably your best bet, but
which is the right one?
iPAD PRO ( 11 in., 64 GB)
Released in October, Apple’s iPad Pro 11
takes the best features of the latest iPhones
and adds a powerful A12X Bionic processor
to create a serious rival to the Surface—as
long as you don’t need to run Windows. It’s
lighter, at 1. 4 lb., and can work like a 2-in- 1
tablet with the Smart Keyboard Folio ($179).
You can also upgrade to a 12.9-in., 1-TB version for $1,749.
The LTE connectivity provides the biggest
advantage, untethering a plant manager from
WiFi and allowing them to access ERP or other
systems data anywhere their cell coverage
allows: at home, in the airport or their favorite
mom and pop diner.
If everyone involved has iOS 12. 1, Group
Face Time can be an excellent way to quickly
video conference with the team (up to 32
members) to discuss integration plans or just
to check in. Users who have an older version
than iPhone 6 or early model iPad could still
join by audio.
If battery life is a sticking point, the iPad Pro
has the biggest advantage. Laptop Magazine
logged the iPad Pro ( 12.9-in.) at 13: 14 hours
of web-surfng on one charge, while the Surface
Pro 6 lasted 9: 20 hours, or 29% less.
Choosing the Right
Mobile Computer for 2019
2-in- 1 Tablet PC
(128 GB SSD)
If you think you have to sacrifce performance for
durability when using a rugged computer, you haven’t
used the XBOOK B10. At 2. 4 lb., it’s a little heavier than
the others listed here, and the 10.1-in. screen is smaller,
but makes up for it in downright toughness.
On the inside, like the Surface Pro 6, it has an Intel
Core 15 processor and runs Windows 10 Pro. The difference is that this versatile 2-in- 1 has a casing stronger
than steel (magnesium alloy), which can survive a 5-ft.
drop. Weather is not a problem either, as it holds up in
temperatures down to - 34°C.
And it’s easier to hold, thanks to a rotating ergonomic
Velcro strap on the back. Additional features include a
spill resistant keyboard and touchscreen that is still visible in direct sunlight and can be operated with gloves.
The ports are sealed against the elements as well, just
in case it’s caught in a storm or possibly a washdown.
If you wear a tie more often than not, a consumer
model might be more your speed. But if you live in the
manufacturing trenches, you’ll want this by your side. And
if price is a limiting factor, the total cost of ownership is
much less than a conventional $600 iPad.
“The total cost of ownership ends up being about half,”
notes Tom Kost, Zebra Technologies Sr. Product Manager.
SURFACE PRO 6
(128 GB SSD)
This newest generation of the popular 2-in- 1 tablet
offfers a 12.3-in. screen, 8 GB memory, and an Intel Core
i5 processor, packaged in a slim, 1.7-lb. form factor. Users
don’t have to sacrifce power making the switch from a
bulkier laptop, though. A 1-TB version is also available.
“It has a full-blown operating system, designed to be
used by fngers,” says Nielsen, so users don’t lose out if
they switch from a bigger laptop running Windows. It also
has the added beneft of a touchscreen to make accessing
Offce 365 all the easier.
Microsoft says the battery can play 13½ hours of video
before running out, so it should have plenty of life even on
those shifts that seem like they will never end.
Durability must also be considered in industrial settings,
and the Surface Pro 6 performs surprisingly well for such
a thin device. One “snap” test by YouTube tester Zack
Nelson of Jerry Rig Everything, where he pulled frmly
down on both ends, showed that the tablet may bend,
but won’t break. A similar test of the iPad Pro proved that
the ultra-thin Apple offering “folded like a piece of paper.”
“It’s pretty safe to say that the Surface Pro 6 can
handle quite a bit more abuse than the iPad Pro,”
That’s not to say the Surface should be expected to
survive harsh environments. Adding on a protective casing,
which start at around $50, would be a wise investment.