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FBI Certifies AMREL’s Latest Android Rugged Biometric Tablet

AMREL announced the FBI’s certification of Flexpedient® AT80B Rugged Biometric Tablet.  It is now on the exclusive FBI’s Certified Products Listing.

“The FBI has certified that the AT80B is in compliance with the CJIS Division’s Next Generation Identification System Image Quality Specifications (IQS): EBTS Mobile ID FAP 45 Appendix F Specifications,” explains Richard Lane, AMREL Vice President of Strategic Business Development. “It meets or exceeds the criteria for for Single & Dual Finger Flat & Rolled Print which means it can access the FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) database.”

AMREL developed the AT80B in cooperation with Integrated Biometrics. Fingerprints are captured by the industry-leading Sherlock, an Integrated Biometrics module which utilizes a state-of-the-art Light Emitting Sensor.  This sensor is fully rugged, uses little power, needs less maintenance than traditional methods, and captures FAP-45 quality images.

“Integrated Biometrics is proud that our LES technology is part of the Flexpedient® AT80B Rugged Biometric Tablet, a rugged device serving mobile identity needs in any environment,” said Mike Grimes, President of Integrated Biometrics.

This rugged tablet is designed to meet MIL-STD 810G and boasts an unusually durable IP67 rating. Built from the ground-up to be rugged, it is far tougher than a commercial tablet in a hardened case.

“The Flexpedient® AT80B Biometric Tablet is built on the AT80 platform,” explains Kalvin Chen, AMREL’s VP of Operations. “AT80’s unique channel design enables true off-the-shelf customization in a short period of time. The two-finger biometric sensor was added in less than a week.

AMREL plans to leverage AT80B’s customization capabilities in order to serve the Law Enforcement community. For example, a smart card reader can be easily and quickly integrated into the AT80B platform. AMREL is exploring adding an iris camera.

When asked about this biometric device, Assistant Chief William ‘Bill’ Leist (Ret) California Highway Patrol replied, “The AT80B is designed to fit the needs of modern law enforcement. The enrollment capability for high quality fingerprint capture will save officers from making unnecessary trips to booking stations. Furthermore, its exceptional ruggedness will ensure it will not break down at critical times.”

Although special measures were taken to assist the Public Safety community, the AT80B is designed for use in a variety of situations. For example, this biometric tablet is being used by professional sports franchises to fast track VIP admissions at games. Another example is the Youth Detention Authority in South Africa, which has piloted the AT80B to verify visitors and track residents at facilities across the country.

Standard features include Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean), 8” 10-point multi-touch capacitive touchscreen display, front/back 5 MP cameras, 802.11 b/g/n, GPS, and Bluetooth®.

Learn more at: computers.amrel.com/at80b

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New Ultra Bright, Ultra Thin, Ultra Rugged Tablet

AMREL has announced the launch of APEX PX5, a 10.1” fully rugged, sunlight readable tablet with one of the brightest and sharpest displays on the market.

“What sets the APEX PX5 apart is the crisp image quality,” explained Kalvin Chen, AMREL’s Vice President of Operations. “Its visual excellence is a result of more than the 1000 nits rating. It also has a bright backlight, anti-reflective coatings, WUXGA 1920 x 1200 resolution, and directly bonded LCD layers. Very simply, the APEX PX5 has one of the best displays on any rugged tablet in the world.”

Built into the APEX PX5 is AMREL’s 30 years of expertise of supplying fully rugged computers to the frontline warfighters as well as Public Safety officers. In addition to its enviable IP65 rating, it complies with MIL-STD 810G, the military’s premier ruggedness standard.

“With scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass 3, tough magnesium chassis, and a durable ABS plastic cover, you can have complete confidence in the APEX PX5 Tablet no matter where you take it,” declares Mr. Chen.  “In spite of all this ruggedness, the lightweight APEX PX5 is less than an inch thick.”

The APEX PX5 is built to meet modern demands. Boasting a speedy 4th generation Intel® Haswell Core ™ i5 processor, the APEX PX5 Tablet is ideal for graphic and other data-intensive applications. Its capacitive multi-touch supports glove touch, and a digitizer option. Other options include snap-on modules for magnetic stripe reader, smart card (CAC), NFC, as well as 2D barcode. To complete the tablet’s offering, it has a vehicle dock, desktop dock, VESA mount bracket, 2-bay battery charger, and dual capacity battery pack for extended use. The APEX PX5 supports Public Safety, industrial, field service, and commercial applications.

“We’re proud of the flexibility of the operating systems,” states Mr. Chen. “You can choose to use either full Windows 7, or Windows Professional or Embedded 8.1. You even have an option to install Windows 10 Internet of Things Enterprise.”

Learn more at computers.amrel.com/apex-px5

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Is your smartphone more reliable than your desktop?

I have encountered an interesting prejudice. Some people have confidently informed me that the smaller the form factor, the more reliable it is.  Laptops are more reliable than desktops, but less reliable than tablets, which aren’t as rugged as handhelds.

To be clear, whatever rugged platform AMREL sells you – tablet, laptop, or handheld – it has been built for the utmost reliability.   We build our computing solutions as if lives depend on them, because a lot of the times lives do depend on them.

If you have never heard of the “smaller is more dependable” myth, don’t worry about it; most of the experts that I talked to never heard of it either.  In fact, for reasons, which will be explained, it doesn’t make sense on multiple levels.

Still, I wondered why some people might think their smaller platforms are more dependable. Here are few theories.

The problem is not the hardware, but the operating system (OS). Most desktops still use Windows, while many smaller form factors do not.  Some point to Windows as the culprit behind the “bigger is more unreliable” myth. Windows has a number of issues which could contribute to more frequent breakdowns.

For one thing, the Windows OS on your desktop has a lot of updates, whereas the Android OS on your smartphone may be frozen.  Frequent updates create more points of failure and more “bloated” software. Furthermore, Windows seeks updates during the boot process, which can overload the CPU, leading to a significantly slower starting time.

Legacy issues are another cause of “bloated” software.  Your brand new Windows OS has to accommodate programs that were written when floppy discs were still considered an exciting new innovation. This leads to complications, more resources being used, and just more problems. Also, developers for the newer Android OS can learn from the mistakes that Windows has made previously.

Some claim that Windows is more susceptible to malware and viruses than the OS typically used on smartphones.  This makes sense considering how much older and widespread Windows OS are.

In addition to the Windows OS, some point the finger at poorly written applications. Apple is notoriously strict about the apps than can run on its equipment. Windows less so.

Nope, hardware is the problem. Supposedly, hardware used in laptops and desktops are much more varied than those found in tablets and smartphones. This is more challenging for their OS, and a more diverse supply chain contributes to quality issues.  I am not sure this is true, but some folks believe it.

More flexibility means less rigidity, which means less reliability. You have a lot more options on your desktop than your smartphone. A simpler, locked-in, frozen device has less ways of fouling up.  It is more likely that your machine gun will jam than your sword will break.

The simplicity of the smaller form factors means they’re easier to upgrade. All computer companies constantly improve their platforms. However, smartphone manufacturers have an easier time of fixing problems, because of the more limited nature of their solutions. Again, I am not sure I totally buy this explanation, but it is an argument that I have heard.

Actually, smartphones are not more reliable than desktops. We throw away broken smartphones. We repair desktops. We mentally compartmentalize the two tasks differently, so we think never think about debugging smartphones, whereas we remember the frequent annoying calls to tech support for our desktops.  Think of how often you buy a smartphone as compared to how often you buy a laptop or desktop.

The “smaller is more reliable” myth is really, stupid and reflects a fundamental misunderstanding about technology. By far and away, this was the sentiment that I heard expressed the most by AMREL’s engineers.

“Compared to a smartphone, a desktop is a large truck,” explained Magnus Pyk, AMREL’s Director of Engineering. “It has more power, more torque, and just more room for more stuff. You can put an entire recording studio on a desktop, far more than what a tablet or smartphone is capable of. Smaller form factors are lowered powered, simpler systems. This is worse than comparing apples to oranges.”

In other words, you can’t compare the different platforms, because they are not comparable. They are built for entirely different range of capabilities. A compact car might get better gas mileage than a tank, but if I had to go into battle, I know which vehicle I would want.

Whatever form factor you do decide on, you may want to check out AMREL’s complete list of offerings.  No matter what size platform you choose, we have one that you will absolutely, positively be able to depend on.

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You Can Virtually Become a Rugged Tablet Manufacturer

Sometimes it takes an outsider to state the obvious. AMREL built the Flexpedient® AT80 Android Tablet to be an infinitely configurable computer platform that could be customized quickly and simply. Still we were surprised when Conrad Blickenstorfer, Editor in Chief of Rugged PC review began his analysis of the AT80 tablet with the headline, “Your company, too, can be a virtual rugged tablet manufacturer with this eminently sensible, customizable, personalizable 8-inch Android device.”

While AMREL saw the AT80 as a practical way to speed product development through customized off-the-shelf platforms, we hadn’t really thought of it as an opportunity for white labeling rugged tablets. Now that Conrad has said it, it seems obvious. As he writes in his review:

“Does that mean it’s like going on Dell’s or Apple’s online store and click all the options you want? Yes, but it goes beyond that. Customers — and we’re really talking enterprise and government customers here — aren’t limited to just picking a few options; they can specify very detailed configuration requests, whatever they may be, and then select from no fewer than ten different colors and add their own logo and brand to the tablet. AT80 customers, in other words, become virtual manufacturers….

“…All of this makes this AMREL tablet far more than just a tablet with a bunch of options. For customers, it’s more like specifying their very own tablet, either for their own use, for resale, or for packaging with specialized software.”

Conrad was impressed with the AT80’s toughness (“We put the tablet through its paces in ice and snow, and it never missed a beat”), as well as its light weight and thinness (less than an inch). He also praised the quality of the back and front cameras, which is impressive to those who follow Conrad’s work; one of his pet peeves is the poor quality of cameras on rugged computers.

Conrad wrote:

“When the AMREL AT80 first came into our lab, we didn’t quite know what to make of it. It was just so different from AMREL’s (or anyone else’s) rugged tablets. But the more we examined it and used it, the more we liked it. If the AT80 were a vehicle, it’d be a Jeep. Basic, tough, sensible, indestructible. But whereas Jeeps have always been bare-bones and not terribly refined, the AT80 feels very high-tech despite its basic construction, and it operates as smoothly and responsively as any consumer smartphone or tablet.”

Download AT80’s datasheet from AT80.amrel.com and ask about our current promotion.

The AT80 is just the latest platform that AMREL has developed for quick and easy customization. One of AMREL’s mottos is “We don’t just sell rugged computers. We sell rugged customized solutions.” See a sample of our customized solutions at computers.amrel.com/custom-solutions. To speak to one of AMREL’s Customized Solution Engineers, call 800-882-6735 or email cdinfo@amrel.com

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Ten Ways Mobile Business Solutions Succeed and Fail

When offices first went digital, a large number of businesses failed to successfully integrate computers. One story that I heard more than once was “We bought computers six months ago. Now they sit on the shelf in a closet where they are a very expensive way of gathering dust.”

Something like this is currently happening with mobile solutions. An estimated 100 million workers use mobile devices for business purposes. However, a surprisingly large number of mobile business solutions have failed. Here, at AMREL, we hear a lot about them, because we have reputation for technical support, i.e. we get many calls about problems affecting other companies solutions, because the end users are so frustrated with the original supplier that they try contacting us.

Before you buy a mobile communication solution, here are a few of things to look for:

1) Lack of user buy in. This is probably the number one cause of failure, and many of the examples given here are really just a variation of this problem. The end-user (field personnel, maintenance worker, salesman, warfighter, warehouse worker, etc.) simply doesn’t want to use the shiny, new mobile device. Pen and pencil worked fine all this time. Why should he invest energy in making a change?

Before one deploys a communication solution, survey the end user. What are their needs? Their challenges? After the system is rolled out, survey them again and again. Are they having problems with the new solution? What changes do they recommend? Be prepared for a lot of tweaking even after the system is deployed. Remember: You don’t get decide when you are done with the solution deployment. It may never end.

2) Overlooking back-end and software functionality. This was much more of a problem in the past than it is now. The older generation viewed software as an afterthought, while hardware was the “real” heart of the solution.

Still this problem shows up even today. Is the application user-friendly? Does it enable the end-user to perform their most important tasks? Has the app been optimized for mobile devices? Is the back-end scalable so you can adjust it for future needs? Is the back-end off the shelf or specifically made for your enterprise? If it is unique, does that mean you’re locked into support by one vendor? These are questions that businesses have learned to ask the hard way.

3) End-to-end solutions. This is an example of a “back-end” problem mentioned above. End-to-end solutions can be great, but let me tell you an example in which they weren’t.

A big city police department needed a new in-vehicle solution. They replaced their mobile computers with a cheaper brand, which only worked with the manufacturer’s proprietary software. The department thought they were getting a great deal, because the initial price was lower than anything else on the market.

The software was a disaster. Officers didn’t get emergency messages quickly or sometimes not at all. The entire system (in-vehicle computers and software) was replaced in a year.

Several years ago, I attended a seminar in which large Public Safety departments described how they were going to meet FirstNet requirements. Several participants railed against end-to-end solutions. I don’t agree; some end-to-end systems work well. But I can’t say that I was surprised by the vehemence that was expressed.

4) End user literally can’t see the information on the screen. The screen is washed out by the sun or is too small to accurately display the information needed for the task. Seems obvious, but businesses have been known to overlook this.

5) No keyboard. Tablets work fine for checklists, but what about the comments section, which can be a critical part of a worker’s responsibilities? One company failed to get productivity gains for field personnel, because all waited to get back to the office before inputting data. Since they were going to sit down at their desktops anyway, why split the work of data entry into two tasks? Of course, you can always buy a tablet with a QWERTY keyboard, such as AMREL’s ROCKY DT10.

6) Politics and brand loyalty. Buy an iPad if it fits your enterprise’s needs. Don’t buy it to look cool. The Los Angeles Unified School District paid a very expensive price for this lesson.

7) Access to databases. Another version of the “back-end” problem. Some workers will not use their mobile devices if they can’t access databases, such as product catalog, CRM, and order entry systems. Lack of access prevented them from completing their tasks, so just like the field workers above, they waited until getting back to the office to input data. Don’t assume you know what info they need. Ask them.

8) Workers are scared to use mobile devices, because they are expensive. Some companies are especially punitive toward workers who damage their mobile devices, so they simply leave them in the box and never use them. Give your staff peace of mind, save money in the long run, and buy rugged computers.

9) Can’t physically carry the device. Supervisors assumed that warehouse workers would always have a free hand to use a mobile device. Turned out they were wrong. When strapped to belts, the devices always got in the way, and workers needed two hands for most tasks. Hate to sound repetitive, but, again, ask the end user.

10) Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). There are advantages and disadvantages to this popular policy. Read about it here.

The above is not meant to be complete, but rather a collection of anecdotes that we have heard over the years. Do you have your own mobile story? Send it to editor@amrel.com.

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ROCKY DT10 – Rugged, Sunlight-Readable Tablet with Keyboard

AMREL announces the release of the ROCKY DT10, an upgraded version of its sunlight readable, fully rugged tablet with a built-in keyboard.

“There are several significant upgrades,” explains Javier Camarillo, AMREL’s Senior Application Engineer. “Many will notice the bright 700 nits rating. Another visual upgrade is the display’s optical bonding, which is a special technique that reduces the refraction and reflection that occurs between the different layers of the display. This enhances sunlight readability, which is especially important since the DT tablet series is often used for outdoor applications.”

An additional major upgrade is its Intel® i7 processor. This gives ROCKY DT10 the power to process modern data-heavy applications, including ones that were once reserved solely for desktop use.

With its built-in QWERTY keyboard, the ROCKY DT10 is perfect for field and logistical applications. It gives you the mobility to go anywhere, and the ability to type reports once you’re there.

“We do a lot of customization,” stated Mr. Camarillo. “So we listen to what our customers want.  They told us they liked the portability of a tablet, but needed the functionality of a keyboard. Of course it had to be rugged, in order to operate in challenging environments.”

AMREL has been fielding rugged computers for over 30 years. As with any platform, our computers can be purchased as COTS or modified COTS to meet the specific requirements of your application.

The ROCKY DT10 may be used as a stand-alone tablet or for in-vehicle applications. Its hard drive can be easily removed as the situation in the field requires.

Specifications include:

  • Windows 7/Windows 8.1 / Windows 10
  • 9.0” XGA LCD, 1280 x 768, LED 700 nits
  • Resistive single-touch panel, Optical Bonding, Anti-Glare & Anti-Reflective
  • Intel Sandy Bridge i7-2610UE
  • 8 GB, DDR-III 1333 MHz
  • Intel® HD Graphics 3000
  • Removable 500GB 2.5” SATA II HDD (Upgradeable)
  • Solid state hard drives (SSHD) available
  • Options: Wireless LAN, WAN, PAN, GPS, Built-in Bluetooth
  • MIL-STD 810G, MIL-STD 461F Compliant
  • IP-54 (Dust-protected; splashing water)

The ROCKY DT10 is ideal for applications that demand portability, capability and ruggedness, including Defense, Oil & Gas, Mining, Inventory control, Warehouse operations, Meter reading, Agriculture, Port Container Control, Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, and Geological /Scientific Field Research.

Learn more about the ROCKY DT10 at computers.amrel.com/dt10/

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AMREL in “The Martian”

If you have seen The Martian you may have noticed the appearance of our ROCKY DK10 rugged tablet. Using hexadecimal language, it’s Matt Damon’s only communication with Earth.

Although not rated for extraterrestrial use, the choice of the DK10 is not surprising.  The Hurt Locker, The Losers, Zero Dark Thirty, and other movies have all featured AMREL solutions.

Movie makers know what warfighters and Law Enforcement professionals know; when you need a product that will reliably operate in a challenging environment, choose AMREL.

DK10 Martian

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Windows 10 Tips & Tricks [VIDEO]

I looked at a number of videos that offer the best “tips and tricks” on the Microsoft’s latest operating system. I found that vast majority fell into 3 categories:

  • Ones that featured narrators who spoke with nearly indecipherable accents.
  • Ones that featured narrators that spoke so fast that I couldn’t figure out what they were saying.
  • My personal favorites: ones featured narrators who spoke too fast with nearly indecipherable accents.

After nearly loosing complete faith in the internet, I checked out my old standby CNET.  CNET has a number of videos with clear explanations for Windows 10 as well as narrators with spoke in an understandable manner.

The videos proclaim what you probably already have heard: Windows 10 fixes many of the problems found in earlier operating systems.  After hearing someone yell for the umpteenth time “The start menu is back!” with a level of enthusiasm usually reserved for transcendent sports moments, I grew a little suspicious.

Is it possible that Microsoft has deliberately screwed up some features, so that when they fix them later, people feel even more bonded to this OS? This is a classic technique used by domestic abusers and other grand manipulators.  President Lyndon Johnson used to berate subordinates unmercifully and then give them a car.  Of course, for this to be true, we would have to believe Microsoft to be pure evil.  I leave this to your own judgment.

Below are three videos that I found helpful.  You can also find more CNET videos in their How to webpage.

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5 mobile mistakes made by businesses

More and more enterprises are adopting mobile solutions. Mobile devices boost employee satisfaction, enhance productivity, increase efficiency, and improve communication.

They also cause headaches. BIG headaches.  In order to have a smile on your face, instead of pain in your head, take a quick look at some common business mobile mistakes that you want to avoid.

 

Bring Your Own Problem

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is very popular. Employees like doing work on their own devices, and not having to learn a new operating system. Employers like the fact that employees are paying for their own business equipment.

In fact, BYOD is a big success, except when it isn’t.  Some common problems enterprises run into are:

  • Support for cross-platform applications. Listen carefully, and you will hear the sound of IT support personnel all around the world pulling out their hair as they try to ensure that the latest program upgrade is compatible on Windows, Windows CE, Android, and Apple platforms. One of the big drawbacks of BYOD is that IT guys must become overnight experts on everything.
  • Information “walking away.” So you fired that one problem employee who made life miserable for everyone. Good for you! Did you notice that he walked off with a ton of proprietary information in his personal mobile phone? Didn’t you install a remote wipe function? Oops.
  • Industry specific problems. If you work in the medical field, you have to ensure all devices meet rigorous HIPPA standards. If you are working in the Defense industry, everything has to be encrypted. Making sure all your employees’ personal devices meet your specific industry requirements and work together with each other is not impossible. But it’s no fun either.

This is by far not a conclusive list. For a more details on the joys and tribulations of BYOD, see BYOD Pros & Cons [INFOGRAPHIC].

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Cheap is expensive

You decide BYOD is not for you. The next step is to buy the right mobile device for your staff. Of course, you want to save money, so you buy the cheapest decent mobile device you can find.

Turns out that the initial cost of a purchase is a minor part of the Total Cost of Ownership.  A study by VDC Research raised some eyebrows when they reported that for mobile computers, the expenses of repair, replacement, missing data, and lost productivity were far larger than the initial cost.

They recommended investing in “rugged” computers, which often have a higher purchase price than their commercial counterparts. These durable devices have been hardened to withstand shock, temperature extremes, dust, water, and other severe environmental factors. Popular with military and police, these tough computers are also being adopted by businesses in order to save money in the long term.

 

Don’t forget the connectors

Considering the myriad of details that one must evaluate during a mobile device purchase, it’s easy to overlook something a prosaic as connectors. However, humble connectors can have a surprising impact, especially when you are dealing with legacy or heterogeneous equipment. Field technicians may need to download information from remote sensors. Repairmen might require a mobile device that can interact with a testing machine. Warehouse workers may need a mobile platform that can directly connect to the company’s mainframe. All these tasks may necessitate specific kinds of connectors, or even customized ones. Be sure to check out the connectors before you purchase.

 

Ask for the moon

“What I really need is a mobile device that has an RFID reader, a Point of Sale device, and a fingerprint sensor. Of course, such a thing does not exist, and I can’t afford to build one from scratch.”

No matter how ridiculous you think your request is, ask. If you are reading this article, there is a good chance that you are not an expert in this field. You do not know what is possible, and there is a chance that a professional will know of a solution that would have never have occurred to you.

 

Think big. Buy small.

When you are dealing with a challenging purchase, there is a temptation to rely on the big well-known brands. The problem is that the larger a company, the less agile it is.

For example, you want the value of a Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) product, but you have specific needs that cannot be met by the standard offerings. Customization is expensive, and often requires unreasonably large orders.  Wouldn’t be great if you got the best of both COTS and customization?

There is such a thing and it is called “Customized COTS,” which has been embraced by some of the smaller mobile device manufacturers. Due to their smaller size, they are able to deliver products that have the value of COTS and the advantages of customization even for low value orders, often with minimal Non Recurring Engineering (NRE) fees.  Seek and you will find them.

Of course, there are many other considerations one must weigh before buying mobile devices for your enterprise.  If you have any questions please consult the experts at AMREL.  Call (800) 882–673, email cdinfo@amrel.com, or visit computers.amrel.com.

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Windows 10 is here. Resistance is futile. [VIDEO]

Should you upgrade to Windows 10?  You should if:

  1. You don’t have enough anxiety in your life. Nothing like learning a new operating system to  raise dangerously low levels of stress.
  2. You really, really hate Windows 8. Microsoft set out to fix the mistakes of its earlier OS (The Start menu is back! Yay!).  This is why Windows 10’s unofficial slogan is “Now, 67% less annoying than Windows 8!”
  3. You absolutely, positively must play Xbox games on your laptop. There is an export feature that allows you to do this, and evidently it’s pretty cool.
  4. You have too much privacy and want to received personalized ads. Sure you can opt out of Microsoft’s snooping, but as Alec Meer of the gaming site Rock, Paper, Shotgun notes: “….  despite chest-thumping, we’re-all-chums-here talk about how ‘real transparency starts with straightforward terms and policies that people can clearly understand.’ There is no world in which 45 pages of policy documents and opt-out settings split across 13 different Settings screens and an external website constitutes ‘real transparency.’”

The consensus seems to be that Windows 10 is here to stay, possibly for a long time.  So, if you are a PC user, you will be using Windows 10. Before you upgrade, you  may want to wait for awhile until some of the bugs shake out.

For a more comprehensive review with considerably less snark, watch the video below.

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