Wireless Communications in Field Service

Mobile workers in field service work have an increasing need for wireless communications on their rugged mobile computers because of the benefits and boost in productivity associated with it. Workers on the road and out in the field can have access to corporate resources, accessing databases for additional information on products or services, as well as gain the ability to communicate in real-time with the head office. There are a number of different communication technologies available on mobile handheld computers like Bluetooth, Wireless Local Area Networks, Wireless Wide Area Networks, and GPS and each satisfies specific needs. Wireless Local Area Networks, or WLAN, and Bluetooth are most common in warehouse environments where a network access point or computer is usually close by. Wireless Wide Area Networks, or WWAN, and GPS are more useful for workers away from where Wi-Fi is available but they still require connectivity. WWAN uses cellular networks to provide connectivity and GPS is particularly useful in logistics and delivery applications. Knowing the differences and benefits from each of these wireless options will ensure that the right rugged mobile device is selected for your workers in the field and to get the most out of the investment.

For mobile workers who will be operating within the range of a Wi-Fi network, like in warehouse settings or on campuses, support for Wireless LAN is ideal. With WLAN communications built in to the mobile computer, workers can connect to wireless access points and achieve data transfer rates higher than standard cellular services, with 802.11n wireless reaching speeds of up to 300 Mbps. However, this type of communication can only function when the device is within range of a wireless access point. Workers moving in and out of range of the network will not be able to stay constantly connected, and to take advantage of WLAN, you need to have a Wi-Fi network already installed and operating.

Bluetooth communications are especially useful in mobile computers when the application calls for more than just accessing data or running programs. In this case, Bluetooth allows you to expand the functionality of the device by adding on wireless peripherals, like Bluetooth-enabled printers or barcode scanners. With this, your field workers can use their devices for applications like mobile point-of-sale or on-the-go label and receipt printing, and it all works without the limitations and mess of wires. Both Bluetooth and Wireless LAN are fairly common in mobile computers and tablets, and often, they are enough to get the job done. For applications where workers will be operating outside the range of the Wi-Fi, more advanced communications options are recommended.

Both GPS and Wireless Wide Area Network both operate on larger scales than WLAN and Bluetooth, and they provide connectivity no matter where your workers are in the field. WWAN allows your mobile computers and tablets to connect to 3G and 4G cellular networks, providing connectivity in nearly any location that your field workers may find themselves. This type of wireless communications is especially useful in applications where data needs to be transmitted in real-time, like for mobile point-of-sale and deliveries where it is particularly useful to be able to send data back to HQ at the time of transaction. Mobile computers with WWAN chips built-in allow corporate resources to be extended out to remote workers and improve productivity by providing network connectivity where there was none before.

GPS can be found in some mobile computers and tablets and it allows the device’s position to be pinpointed and tracked. It can provide your workers with directions to locations as well as plan the most efficient routes for delivery runs. A field service tablet computer that supports GPS helps to eliminate human error when your mobile workers need to get to specific remote locations – whether it’s for a service run or delivery of equipment.

All of these forms of wireless communications can help boost productivity for your field service workers by providing them with additional resources and tools that can expedite data collection, point of sale, and logistics tasks. Using the appropriate wireless technology, you can experience increased performance as well as a more streamlined workflow. The team at OCR Canada can work with you to select a mobile computer or tablet computer that best fits the needs of your application, and utilizing the latest line of rugged tablets, there is sure to be a rugged mobile computer that will fit perfectly in your mobile workforce.

4 Thoughts on “Wireless Communications in Field Service

  1. Alex B. on October 8, 2014 at 5:15 am said:

    Another thing I’ve found that helps productivity using mobile computers is when they incorporate RFID readers. This is a form of wireless communications that most certainly boosts productivity. We use it for reading utility meters. Thanks for sharing your article on the web!

  2. Webster D. on November 12, 2014 at 11:54 am said:

    Using a carrier for wireless wide area network access works well in any field service application but sometimes there is no coverage. It should be noted that using a mobile computer to store and forward information when coverage is available is an absolute must. Many times workers can be outside of coverage and still need to complete their work on a handheld computer. Just like GPS signals that could be weak and using the last known position will let workers continue to operate.

  3. A mobile computer that relies on a wireless network to be functional could be useless when the network goes down. It is best to always build a store-and-forward application for any business solution. This way your worker can continue to operate even when out of range of the wireless network. Wi-Fi networks are obviously more reliable but even on this type of wireless network a robust application will continue to operate even when there is interference or other wireless issues. Just ensure that the application is not totally dependent on 100% uptime.

  4. Magaret H. on November 25, 2014 at 5:16 pm said:

    Using mobile computers on a local area wireless network has got to be the greatest productivity booster for any business looking to track assets or inventory. I remember back in the batch days how much we praised our new inventory barcode system. Well, these days, a wireless system is exponentially better! It is so easy to use and quickly highlights any errors or issues with our stock. Best thing ever to come to the market.

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