Best friends of utility workers: what to look for in rugged computers


Without a doubt, ruggedized computers have improved the way utility field workers carry out their day-to-day responsibilities. In many organizations, ruggedized tablets not only reduce human error in data entry, but also allow the remote transmission of schedules, meter readings and other data.

We’ll use the term ruggedized computers throughout this article, but we’re referring to both rugged laptops and tablets. A rugged laptop is designed to perform reliably in dusty or humid environments and other harsh conditions. They have a thicker and more solid casing compared to a regular laptop. Rugged laptops are primarily used for industrial, construction, and military purposes, but can meet other essential requirements, such as high performance and government-level security. Rugged laptops are designed to be mobile and provide protection against vibration, shock, water, drops, and dust.

We have compiled a list of considerations for robust IT solutions that could help field workers work more safely, effectively, and efficiently.

Meter data collection

Rugged computers can be used to transmit and collect information in the field and send work order notices even when the worker is in the field. They are also useful for tracking repairs that have been made or providing the exact location of a meter that needs to be serviced. For added convenience, these rugged tablets can be installed in a vehicle to maintain contact between the field worker and a supervisor or dispatcher in the office.

Other meter data collection tools that are found in many rugged computers include an RFID reader, barcode reader, built-in GPS, wireless broadband, internet connectivity, and high definition cameras for documentation. All of this facilitates the work of the field agent even if he is able to carry out the work in more depth. Additionally, the use of advanced IoT and computing provided by these computers means that field data can be quickly sent and / or received from the utility’s data center / cloud.

Real-time communication

From service connection to disconnection requests, outages and disruption notices, ruggedized computers offer utility companies the ability to send clearer and faster communications, allowing for on-time updates. actual, status reports and work order submissions. These are all critical factors in this “must-be-done-now” world.

GIS mapping

Rugged computers help technicians to recognize, find and effectively manage resources in different contexts, whether in a busy city or in a desolate and remote location. A unit’s integrated Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping, rugged design, and easy handling make it possible to view and control point-to-point maps and visuals, even in the most remote areas.

With GIS technology installed on a rugged computer, utility field workers can easily track water and power assets and trends, engineering projects, stormwater drainage and transportation. public.

Improved work flow

Through the use of rugged computers, utility workers can work faster and with improved accuracy, eliminating errors, lost orders, notices and inefficiencies by eliminating the need to record data on paper. then enter them manually.

As mentioned earlier, rugged tablets often come with a desktop or vehicle docking station, which helps improve workflow as it provides a simple solution for workers who are constantly switching between office, vehicle ( on the go / on the road) and field tasks.

Worker safety

It goes without saying that worker safety is vital. Unfortunately, over the years, stories of workers seriously injured or killed while working in, on or around pipes filled with toxic gases are not uncommon.

Using a rugged computer with a RealSense 3D camera dramatically improves worker safety. This advanced combination makes it possible to perform inspections for water or gas leaks in a pipe using the technology instead of sending a human into an unfamiliar and potentially dangerous environment to inspect for maintenance needs.

An ANSI C1D2 (Class 1 Division 2) certification is one of the most important factors to consider when looking for a rugged computer to use in hazardous situations. Electronics must be C1D2 certified to prevent hazardous explosions if used in a potentially hazardous environment or near flammable hazards to ensure worker safety.

For companies in the oil, gas, mining and manufacturing industries, having C1D2 certified computers is essential. This means that if an explosive substance is abnormally present in the atmosphere, the computer will not create any kind of electric spark / arc that will ignite the substance.

Environments that may require this certification include mines, oil and gas plants, factories, refineries, and chemical manufacturing.

Designed to ensure the safety of workers in the field, rugged computers are sealed, rugged and operate at low temperatures.

Total cost of ownership

As a note on the benefits of a rugged computer, the topic of purchasing a computer. I want to briefly mention a business concept called total cost of ownership (TCO). While there are several ways to calculate the total cost, the idea is to know the total cost of owning an asset.

At a basic level, TCO simply adds the initial cost (I) plus the maintenance cost (M) plus the remaining costs (R). Where: I + M – R = TCO. The initial cost is what you pay for the item, the maintenance cost is the cost to ensure the item stays in working order, and the remaining cost is the estimated price of the item down the line (knowing that this helps to understand a possible devaluation when it is time to replace the item).

The second calculation is more detailed because it includes more variables. This is the initial cost (I) plus the operating cost (O) plus the maintenance cost (M) plus the shutdown cost (D) plus the production cost (P) plus the remaining value (R) . Or: I + O + M + D + P – R = TCO.

Long-lasting hot-swappable battery

A long-lasting hot-swappable battery delivers power and functionality without sacrificing anything. Providing non-stop operation for up to 24 hours with a single battery, a hot-swappable battery allows field workers to run non-stop when charging is not possible or avoid potential hazards while working in a hazardous area.

A bridge battery is related to a hot-swap battery in that it is specially designed for hot-swap situations as it allows a power source to be replaced without shutting down or shutting down the system. The bridge battery provides a few minutes (depending on capacity) to hot-swap batteries to achieve unlimited working performance.

  • Fanless Design: With fewer moving parts and internal connections, the absence of a fan minimizes the risk of internal problem. Fanless rugged computers are generally more rugged, making them more suitable for situations encountered by utility workers, such as being dropped or using in wet, hot / cold conditions. Fanless also means fewer openings for dust or moisture to enter the unit, making these units more durable. A rugged fanless computer is also quieter, smaller, and more energy efficient.
  • 11th Generation Intel Core Processors: Many ruggedized computers now include the power of an 11th Generation Intel Core processor, which enables utility field workers to produce, create, connect and collaborate from anywhere. never before.

Author: Tom Wang was instrumental in the development of the ruggedized computer product line for the Americas. He heads the Durabook business unit based in Fremont, Calif., As president. Mr. Wang’s career spans over 20 years and he previously worked with Getac in product development, product marketing and business development.

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