Mobility is the Mantra

Mobile computing in the supply chain can extend from the port and marine terminals all the way to the storefront and everywhere in between, including the warehouse and distribution center. The never-ending need for timely information to respond to...


According to LXE’s publication, The Cold Hard Facts About Using Mobile Computers in Cold Storage Environments, industrial communication technologies such as Bluetooth and IEEE 802.11-standard wireless networks can be used in cold storage and freezer environments. However, some adjustments may be required to wireless LANs to ensure consistent, quality performance.

Furthermore, access points often need to be installed directly in refrigerated or frozen storage areas to provide coverage there, because thick walls and insulation can block signals from access points outside the cold zone.

The multipath effect is also a real concern for any insulated, cold, or damp environment, especially in cold storage facilities where all of these conditions exist. There are specialized antennas that can be used with common access points to correct for the multipath effect, according to LXE. These types of antennas are highly advantageous for providing wireless LAN connectivity to mobile computers used in cold storage environments.

 

Adapting to new business drivers

Several important business drivers are shaping the future development of the mobile computing segment. Specifically, they include increased compliance and regulatory requirements, as well as a new generation of technology.

In the food and beverage sector, the compliance and regulatory issues are largely focused on tracking and tracing in the food supply chain, says Lane, and it’s opening up new opportunities for mobile technology.

For instance, the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) is helping promote standardized traceability across the industry by using GS1 product identification standards. The aim of the voluntary industry association, whose members include grocers, transportation providers, and technology companies, is “supply chain-wide adoption of electronic traceability for every case of produce by the year 2012.”

Simply put, mobile technology will make it possible for case level tracking from the farm to the grocers’ shelves. It will help companies respond more quickly and accurately to recalls and product withdrawals and will enable real-time access to data from virtually any location.

For Psion, the future means modularity. According to Wills, the customer wants to protect their investment in mobile technology, especially because the devices are built to easily survive harsh environments for 6 to 8 years.

“The customer knows that he will be faced with changing regulations and new technologies over this same period, so they want to avoid a complete, wholesale ‘rip and replace’ that up until now has been the practice in the industry,” says Wills.

“Psion’s approach is that we’re going to give the customer options—a base device with all the capabilities, but a modular one that will be able to be manipulated to adapt to new demands.”

The Omnii was introduced earlier this year as part of Psion’s move towards modularity. The device can be flexibly configured for a wide variety of users, uses, and environments. It allows customers to buy what they need today with built-in flexibility to add as they go, which also removes the risk of obsolescence.

Wills adds that the modularity approach will be rolled out to Psion’s other product lines, including their vehicle mount terminal line.

“When companies ‘rip and replace’ with these types of products, it becomes very expensive. But, that’s avoidable now.” d

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