12 March, 2014
DPD to acquire 12,000 Honeywell handhelds
Express delivery group DPD is to issue drivers in six European countries new handheld computers from Honeywell in a deal that calls for no fewer than 12,000 units.
The Dolphin 99EX mobile computers will be issued to drivers in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg The Netherlands and Switzerland. DPD is also to use Honeywell’s Remote MasterMind device management software.
Key attractions of the handhelds identified by DPD include their motion, light and proximity sensors; their impressive battery life (up to 16 hours on a single charge); their 3.9G wireless technology for real-time voice and data communication; and the inclusion of Honeywell’s Adaptus Imaging Technology 6.0. The latter will allow drivers to read and decode linear and 2D barcodes and capture photos for proof of delivery.
The units have a high IP67 rating for dust and water resistance, and are tested for drops to concrete from 1.5 metres.
Masternaut re-launches its core telematics suite
Masternaut, the company that claims to be Europe’s biggest provider of telematics solutions, has given a complete re-launch to its core telematics and fleet management suite. It is calling the new version Masternaut Connect.
The company says the new product, which is fully cloud-based, took 18 months to write, and represents "a significant technology-leap" for the industry.
Whilst the basic tracking and location abilities remain the same, the company is putting special emphasis on the suite’s ability to integrate with other mainstream computer applications, and to reflect the latest trends in how users interact with such systems.
It is strong on real-time event processing, providing fleet managers with information as it happens, and also stores data for longer, allowing plenty of scope for analytics and compliance activity. Masternaut says there have also been advances in reporting capabilities, data security and configuration options.
Special mention is made of the suite’s ability to handle live customer data feeds, including job data and routing schedules. It is modular, giving users plenty of opportunity to expand on their implementation according to their needs.
Chairman and chief executive Martin Hiscox says: "The landscape has changed considerably since we introduced our first-generation telematics solutions. The growth of floating car data, advances in driver performance management, vehicle scheduling and data aggregation mean there is more intelligence available to acquire – and more opportunity to harness it."
Sleek Motorola handheld that looks like a smartphone
Motorola Solutions’ latest venture into the world of compact rugged handheld computers, the TC55, is arguably its most attractive to date – certainly from the user’s point of view. It’s an entirely touch-based computer that looks very like a smartphone, yet it sacrifices none of the toughness you’d expect for a working environment.
The first thing to say is that TC55 runs the Android operating system – version 4.1.2 (Jellybean), which Motorola says is its most popular incarnation. It has a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor (type not named), along with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of flash memory. There is also a user-accessible microSD slot supporting up to 32GB of memory.
The touch-screen display is a 4.3in WVGA transflective panel with Corning Gorilla Glass protection.
You get the usual EDGE/GPR S/GSM phone connectivity, plus Wi-Fi a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0. There is also Assisted GPS with GLONASS support. You get a 1D barcode scanner, with optional Bluetooth RS507 ring-style imager. The built-in camera has a generous 8 megapixel resolution, and supports 1D and 2D scanning. There is also NFC support.
Drop specification is quoted as 1.2 metre drops to plywood (MIL-STD 810G) in unprotected form, or to concrete with protective boot. The dust and water ingress rating is IP67.
Motorola says the battery life is the longest in its class – provided with a 2940 or optional 4410mAh li-ion battery.
TrakM8 to acquire BOX Telematics
Two long-established suppliers to the UK telematics market. TrakM8 of Shaftesbury and BOX Telematics of Birmingham, are being brought together through a takeover that could see TrakM8 emerging as a significant player in the market.
TrakM8 (it’s pronounced “track mate”) is acquiring BOX Telematics for an initial cash payment of £3.5 million, which is being funded from its existing reserves, supported by a £2.5 million debt facility and a new £720,000 subscription of ordinary shares. It is also planning a further issue to raise £1.3 million.
The two companies operate in broadly similar markets, and see benefits arising from cross-selling opportunities and economies of scale. According to TrakM8’s chief executive, John Watkins: “This will enable us to exploit the growing demand for vehicle telematics in a fragmented market place.”
The company points out that no player in the UK telematics market currently has a share of more than 15 per cent.
BOX’s manufacturing plant at Coleshill, opened in 2004, does third-party contract manufacturing of products such as printed circuit boards as well as producing its own telematics equipment. It also claims to be a leader in LED lighting solutions.
TrakM8 says it currently has 175,000 telematics units in use worldwide. We don’t have a figure for BOX Telematics, but in 2012 it turned over £8.4 million.
MioWORK Android tablets now available from Varlink
MioWORK tablet computers from Mitac have been added to the range of products offered by Varlink, the busy York-based mobile equipment distributor and reseller. Varlink sees a range of applications for the range, from healthcare and retail through to demanding outdoor operations.
MioWORK tablets are unusual in running range only the Android operating system, using either Android 2.3 or 4.0. One of Mitac’s selling points is the fact that the devices look good, and are therefore well suited to image-conscious public-facing organisations, yet also offer durability for those operating in harsher environments.
Models include the 6in screen Z100, whose features include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, camera, GPS and accelerometer. It has a 1GHz Samsung processor and 4GB of internal memory, and runs Android 2.3. Features include GPS and an accelerometer.
The A90 and A100/A105 tablets, which have a similar processor, are rated to IP54 for dust and water resistance and have a drop resistance rating to 1 metre, and come with a slightly smaller 5.88in screen. The A100/A105 versions have an integrated barcode scanner. These models run Android 4.0.
The R100 has similar IP and drop ratings, but is regarded as the tough model for harsher working environments such as utilities, field service and hospitality.
Windows sets down marker for future mobile OS – but which version?
The implications of Microsoft’s high-profile acquisition of the Nokia mobile phone business, although predicted months ago by some industry-watchers, have still to become clear.
One thing seems certain; Microsoft’s mobile phone operating system, already gaining ground steadily from its much bigger rivals Apple and Google Android, now looks certain to remain a key factor in the mobile mix for years to come.
That contrasts sharply with the situation at Research in Motion, whose BlackBerry operating system has been losing ground steadily, and whose future has been uncertain since this summer’s sharp drop in the company’s share value.
However, whilst Microsoft’s move will give confidence to business users thinking of adopting its mobile phone operating system in future, it will not necessarily dispel the confusion over the company’s current range of operating systems for the rugged mobile market.
Microsoft currently offers at least six operating systems that could be used on mobile devices of one sort or another – none of them totally compatible in all respects with the others. They are Windows Phone 8, its phone operating system; Windows Embedded 8 Handheld, the new-generation OS for industrial handhelds; Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5, the former (but still available) OS for handhelds; Windows CE , the long-serving family that is also suitable for handhelds; the current full Windows 8 for tablets and laptops; and the cut-down Windows 8 RT system for budget tablets (notably Microsoft’s own Surface device).
In addition, rugged tablets and laptops are still being offered with Windows 7 – which in fairness is of course highly compatible with Windows 8.
Apple impresses with next wave of iPhones
Apple impresses with next wave of iPhones
The launch of Apple’s iPhone 5S and 5C (a lower-price version) has generally impressed industry-watchers, though to some extent the advances are incremental rather than radical. The new model looks much the same as its iPhone 5 predecessor, albeit with some subtle cosmetic changes.
The iOS 7 operating system is an advance on its predecessor, moving from 32-bit to 64-bit technology for Apple’s A7 processor. Icons and many details of the functionality of supplied apps have been modified, though these are early days, and it’s not really clear yet where 64-bit operation will really shine.
Apple’s new Touch ID fingerprint-based unlocking system has generally been welcomed by reviewers. You can register up to five fingerprints (they don’t all have to belong to the same person), and using them requires little more than a tap, which means the user is barely aware that the phone is locked at all. The prints are stored locally on the phone, not on a server.
All in all, however, analysts are suggesting that competition from Android, along with growth in open-source smartphone operating systems such as Ubuntu and Firefox, could eventually undermine Apple’s position, and especially its premium pricing (even for the lower-cost 5C).
They seem to think this competition could help force the pace of the current gradual change from proprietary coding for apps to more generic HTML-based coding, even on the Apple platform.