Pocket PC: Ruggedized Symbol Devices

In the July 11 edition of Mobile & Wireless UPDATE, Pocket PC Edition, I talked about why you might want to choose a ruggedized Pocket PC device for many kinds of mobile field applications. In this week's edition, I take a closer look at Symbol Technologies and its ruggedized Pocket PC 2002 devices.

Symbol Technologies has been around for many years. Symbol holds most of the patents for barcode scanning technology in the United States. When you're shopping and someone scans your product at the checkout counter, Symbol's technology is involved. Symbol probably even built the scanner. Recently, I was registering at a store for my upcoming wedding (my stress is high at the moment), and I noticed that the store uses Symbol devices that let you simply scan items and upload product information to the store wedding registry. In addition to legacy devices and scanners, Symbol has recently been making Pocket PC devices, which provide rich application possibilities with integrated peripherals.

Symbol groups its Pocket PC models into two classes: the 2800 series and the 8100 series. Both of these series are rugged and certified for a drop on cement from as high as 4 feet. Additionally, they are resistant to dust and water, making them suitable for field use. The model that's right for you depends on whether you need barcode-scanning functionality, integrated 802.11b wireless LAN (WLAN) or wireless WAN (WWAN) service—for example, Cellular Digital Pocket Data (CDPD) or General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)—or monochrome or color screens. These Pocket PC devices from Symbol contain the preloaded Pocket PC 0S and the necessary drivers for operating peripherals. The devices also come with preloaded demonstration applications that let you test the functionality of peripherals.

Developing applications to take advantage of peripherals involves leveraging the controls that Symbol has developed for the Pocket PC OS. You can download these controls from http://devzone.symbol.com . To focus development tasks on device peripherals, you can use eMbedded Visual Tools (eVB or eVC++) or Microsoft .NET Compact Framework. Developing applications that perform barcode scanning and printing are relatively straightforward; however, you can also use third-party utilities to visually design printouts and perform other tasks.

Symbol offers several peripherals that you can use in mobility solutions. These peripherals include snap-on keyboards, snap-on Global Positioning System (GPS) units, printers, magnetic-strip readers, and Smart Card readers that you can add directly to the handheld device. Symbol also provides a separate architecture, involving a truck-mounted mobile gateway, that you can use for deploying Symbol devices. This mobile gateway contains several features—for example, WWAN connectivity, GPS functionality—that you can easily interchange on the truck. The handheld device then uses an adhoc 802.11b connection to attach to the mobile gateway. This architecture reduces the number of capabilities that you need to add to the device, thereby increasing simplicity of use and decreasing support problems.

In the next edition of Mobile & Wireless UPDATE, Pocket PC Edition, I'll look at some other utilities for the Pocket PC. See you then.

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