Microsoft’s decision a few years ago to phase out support for Windows CE and Windows Mobile or “shut down” by 2020 doesn’t mean the migration to upgrade PCs with alternatives like Android is complete.
Retired Windows operating systems have been so widely used in lift trucks that some organizations are still making the transition and have issues to be aware of as they transition to new hardware, says Edwin Ringel, senior solutions consultant for Peak Technologies, one of the world’s largest companies. In the country consolidation and value-added resellers of mobile devices and mobility solutions.
“It’s been a few years now. [since the sunset]And while some companies have moved to the newer devices, many others haven’t yet, whether that’s because of budget constraints or this kind of pandemic slowing down the migration process,” says Ringel. “In fact, we’re seeing migration efforts. It is continuing in our customer base, and we expect this to continue through the end of 2022 and into 2023.”
Running an unsupported operating system, Ringle adds, poses an IT security risk, since security patches and functional updates aren’t available for older Windows operating systems. The best course is to upgrade to the latest hardware on a supported operating system. Fortunately, makers of powerful lift truck laptops have various options for Android, including the form factor of conventional Vehicle Mount Units (VMU) and powerful Android tablets.
For companies still considering this migration, key considerations include whether to use a tablet versus a VMU, with task flexibility being the main attraction for Android tablets on lift trucks, Ringle says.
“As part of the migration effort that continues today, we are seeing a shift among some customers to using tablets in their lift trucks,” Ringle says. “Some customers, rather than using a dedicated VMU, look at tablets with a quick release feature on the rack so operators can easily detach the device from the truck and use it for other purposes outside the truck such as calculating cycles. Some tablets are offered with barcode scanners. built for this purpose.
Analyst firm VDC Research estimated last August that the truck-mounted PC market, valued at $172 million in 2020, would grow to $203 million in 2025, at a compound annual growth rate of 2.8%.
VDC also sees two major Android variants – VMUs and more traditional tablets – with tablet growth expected to outpace overall market growth. VDC noted that after sales slowed in 2020, lift truck computer sales surged in 2021, led by activity in the Asian and European markets.
While rugged tablets excel when it comes to flexibility out of the truck and do well with cellular services, one issue to consider with tablets is the effects of vibration, Ringle says, especially when it comes to a stand that provides a reliable, vibration-resistant connection with the tablet while Driving a lift truck.
Ringle advises that if the company wants to take a look at Android tablets with a quick release, the stand should have a rugged design that withstands vibrations. However, Android tablets can be an attractive option for lift trucks that involve repetitive tasks such as handling exceptions or calculating the cycle that may require the operator to get off the truck.
With either option—the Android-powered VMU or the rugged Android tablet—more companies are choosing ring or wrist-mounted scanners to allow more freedom of movement and hands-free operation, Ringle says.
Ringel adds that some connectivity considerations come into play as companies continue to migrate. For one thing, newer computers may not be compatible with older Wi-Fi systems or security protocols that some sites still run. Ringle says that in some cases, it may be necessary to upgrade Wi-Fi to support newer Android devices.
Another option, Ringle adds, is to consider enterprise-grade cellular service as the wireless infrastructure for mobile devices on lift trucks, rather than Wi-Fi. Additionally, with any operating system or mobile devices, it is important for large fleets or operations to have a mobile device management (MDM) solution or a solution provider to allow centralized update and management of devices.
There are many MDMs on the market, Ringle adds, including some free ones, but when it comes to truck computing it’s critical that MDM uses APIs for all aspects of the hardware so that the barcode scanning engine and keyboards can be supported with MDM, as well as to security and operating system updates.
Those companies that have moved to Android devices for lift trucks like platform speed and reliability point to Ringle, along with its GUI and OS look and feel, which many young workers have grown up using on mobile phones.
“These powerful Android devices work — they’re very reliable,” says Ringle. “Overall, they offer a good user experience, due to the GUI capability, and the navigation that many workers know because of smartphones. When a younger worker picks up an Android tablet, many will already know how it works, because of that familiarity.”
Finally, a touch-only device is not always practical for scenarios such as cold storage where operators need to wear gloves. In cases where gloves are worn, the Android VMU works better with a keyboard or tablet and is mounted with a physical keyboard, Ringel says, better than a touch screen.
About the author
Roberto Michele, Senior Editor at Modern, has covered manufacturing and supply chain management trends since 1996, primarily as a former staff editor and former contributor to Manufacturing Business Technology. He has been a contributor to Modern since 2004. He has worked for several dailies, including ProMat, the North American Material Handling Logistics Show, and National Manufacturing Week. You can contact him at: [email protected]