Tablet Computing on a Forklift
The tablet is one of the hottest and most rapidly developing technological devices in current times. After some research however, I have discovered that the tablet itself is not a new device but instead has become widespread in the general public through the efforts of the Apple iPad, Amazon Kindle, Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy and other recent models of tablets. It seems that every white-collar worker is substituting his laptop for a tablet of some kind and every child wants an iPad under the Christmas tree. There isn’t a day that goes by at university where I don’t see a student either following a lecture on a tablet or playing games on it when their interest starts to wane. However, from this we can already see that the modern tablet is a “one model fits all” machine in which programs are run, games are played, work is done and social pursuits are followed. In contrast, earlier tablets have very much been specialized devices that are designed to fit the needs of various companies and individuals. In particular, industries that require the use of a forklift have often utilized tablet PCs long before the iPad was ever heard of.
Through applying some common sense, it becomes quite clear that the tablets that have been used on forklifts for many years cannot simply be interchanged with a modern tablet despite the cost benefits it may bring. Firstly, as the tablet is mounted to a forklift the vibrations and bumps it must endure are much more severe than the normal tablet has to face. If we simply mounted a regular tablet onto the forklift it would not be able to withstand the vibrations as delicate components of the tablet will wear down and significantly reduce the lifespan of the tablet thus specialized tablets such as the Intermec Vehicle Mount Computers or the Honeywell/ LXE Thor VM2 are made to withstand the bumps that come with the job.
Secondly there is the problem of battery life. Most individuals I know complain that their iPhone or tablet doesn’t even last them a day if they are constantly being used. If being used in a warehouse this problem is amplified. The tablet would consistently have to be charged every few hours in order to be used on the forklift. For this reason, a rugged specialized tablet also known as a Vehicle Mounted Computer is used which can be connected to the forklifts battery supply through a DC-to-DC power converter and will never need to be put aside for charging.
Finally, these tablets need to be able to run programs that are specially designed to suit the needs of the company that is using the tablet. A simple app off the app store won’t cut it. These programs have to be able to access the ERP or warehouse management system of the company in order to enter information through scanning barcodes, voice control and RFID mechanisms. Many of these must be connected through the companies Wi-Fi in order to keep track of all the stock that is being moved through the warehouse. Despite the leaps forward the commercial tablet has made, it is not yet at this stage to run such sophisticated programs.
Whilst the improvements in tablet computing technology for the general public have come a long way, the fact is that tablet companies still put out a one model for all purposes tablet which simply doesn’t cut it when it comes to factories and other specialized areas requiring indoor and outdoor screens, cold storage, heated screens and other unique functions. Until we start to see the specialization and ability to customize tablets that are released to the public similar to that which we see when purchasing a brand new computer, we cannot replace the rugged tablet in the warehouse despite the financial lure this idea might bring.