Mobile computing has become ubiquitous over the past few decades, meaning many businesses are on the go in more ways than one. A generic term that describes our ability to access information while away from a desktop device, “mobile computing” allows you to process information while in motion and without the restriction of geographic location.
Personal computers, smartphones, and tablets are also mobile computers, but they’re not usually associated with the industry term. By contrast, mobile computers are independent devices with specific interfaces and software and rely on barcodes for data gathering.
Their primary use is in business across various industries. In this guide, we’ll take a deep dive into everything you should know about mobile computing and why it’s important.
What Is Mobile Computing?
We’ve touched on the definition of mobile computing a bit, and the concept may be somewhat self-explanatory. However, let’s take a closer look to define mobile computing precisely.
Another way to refer to mobile computing is “nomadic computing,” but that usually means equipment that can be moved but which remains stationary while used.
Instead, we’re talking about devices used on the go, an “untethered” technology.
Mobile computers can communicate via voice, text, or any other way without having a static or fixed access point to power or the internet. Mobile computing enables users to transmit data wherever they are. A permanent link is not necessary for the device to function effectively.
The Evolution of Mobile Computing
Mobile computing has taken the world by storm. Even people who have been around before the smartphone revolution may find it difficult to imagine the world as it was before mobile computing.
Modern mobile computers are a novel invention, but their development goes back further than you might expect. The first mentions of mobile computing can be found in the 1990s when the technology was incorporated into two-way radios.
The idea came from seeing police officers communicating this way by having large antennas over them. Later, the concept of personal digital assistants (PDAs) became very popular in the 1990s.
Modern smartphones evolved from the marriage of these two mobile devices as there was a growing need to communicate, as well as organize and retrieve personal and work-related information.
BlackBerry introduced the first smartphone that was also synonymous with mobile computing. Then in 2007, the first iPhone appeared on the market, and two years later, the first Android mobile device.
Mobile Computing vs. Wireless Networks
Both mobile and wireless technologies have become prevalent and, in many ways, they’re interchangeable. In fact, most smartphone users probably don’t notice when their device switches seamlessly from using one signal source to another.
But, of course, there’s an essential distinction between the two. Mobile computers rely on the cellular network to receive data.
By comparison, if a device is attached to a wireless network, the proximity of the wireless router determine its abilities. Perhaps the best way to illustrate it is to imagine taking the SIM card from your smartphone. You can still connect it to a wireless network but won’t have access to the cellular network.
Mobile Computing Architecture
There are three crucial aspects of mobile computing: architecture, scalability, security, and reliability.
Scalability is significant because mobile computing needs to be useful to a sole trader as well as a multinational corporation. On top of that, businesses grow or scale down, and mobile computing needs to be able to accommodate that.
The second factor revolves around strong encryption, which can provide users confidence when they’re sending and receiving data.
Finally, reliability is probably the most crucial factor. Mobile computers need to work effectively. If they don’t perform when required, why use them in the first place?
The mobile computing architecture also has a three-tier system. The front end or the presentation tier is what the user interacts with – the graphical interface.
The middle tier is the software that takes the information and processes it.
The third tier is where the data is stored, whether on a built-in storage system, a physical server, or a cloud.
Mobile Computing Across Various Industries
Mobile computing is essential for almost any organization because it keeps the employees connected and helps streamline tasks.
Think about the presence of mobile computing in transport, shopping, or hospitality – everything happens in real-time. Mobile computers allow companies to solve problems faster when they arise.
There are several big industries which rely heavily on the use of mobile computers. Let’s take a look at them.
Oil and Gas Industry
This is one of the world’s most decentralized industries as the companies operate in numerous locations worldwide. Having the ability to access databases and securely and while in motion is essential, especially when it comes to oil and gas transport.
Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Industry
QR codes have become more and more common in healthcare institutions such as hospitals and pharmacies. The joke about a physician’s bad handwriting on a prescription or diagnosis is sure to be a thing of the past.
Using mobile computers in the healthcare industry is a practical and often more cost-effective approach. Hospital workers can use a mobile computing device to scan a code and instantly receive a patient’s medical history. This can often mean the difference between life and death.
Transportation and Logistics
Most of us have packages delivered to our door occasionally. The courier service that delivers your packages relies extensively on a mobile computing system.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that they carry mobile computers that provide accurate data about packaging and delivery addresses. The company uses this technology to provide proof that those packages have been delivered safely and at a specific time.
Retail and Hospitality
The application of handheld mobile computing in the retail and hospitality industry is versatile. Managers can have the ability to stay mobile on the floor and at the same time have all the tools to help customers effectively.
Another way mobile computing enables and streamlines the way the modern world works is by making warehousing more efficient.
When the warehouse workers have the ability to immediately verify shipments and purchase orders, maximum accuracy is guaranteed. If you have a mounted mobile computer on a forklift or other vehicle, you get more immediate inventory visibility.
Lastly, it would be impossible to talk about mobile computing without pointing out its impact on education. Instructors and students used various mobile devices to communicate and perform tasks.
The use of mobile computing in education has been transformative. Various mobile tools such as smartboards and tablets make education systems more accessible for those who rely on visual and auditory learners.
Mobile Computing Solutions – Hardware
We’ve reached the point where we want to discuss the types of mobile computers available on the market today.
Most of us have smartphones, and they definitely have a place across businesses and industries. However, there are different and more common types of mobile computers available for businesses.
This is probably the most common type of mobile computer as it combines the functionality of a PX and a scanner. It’s usually small and lightweight, and exceptionally durable.
It comes in many shapes and sizes, as well as styles. As with any mobile computer, it has the main task of facilitating fast data transmission from almost any location and increasing everyday tasks’ efficiency.
A wearable mobile computer allows for a hands-free operation and maximizes worker’s productivity by letting them keep their eyes on the task. Wearables usually have sophisticated voice-directed applications and are easy to use.
This is another common type of mobile computer found across many industries, particularly transportation.
It comes with full PC functionality but has rugged construction for maximum endurance. These devices are usually lightweight and compact, allowing them to fit into tight-spaced vehicles.
Tablets and Smartphones
Specialized smartphones and tablets for commercial purposes are also an available option. These devices are usually highly customizable and offer high-speed Wi-Fi connectivity as well.
They have an always-on availability when it comes to enterprise applications, providing users with instant access to the latest information and critical data.
Mobile Computing Solutions – Software and Apps
Mobile computers use various operating systems. The simplest operating system is DOS which can only be found on the most basic portable computers. It’s usually only for basic inventory work, as it’s not connected to the internet.
For a long time, Windows mobile OS was the go-to software for many handheld mobile devices. However, the software was discontinued, and since March 2021, the platform doesn’t have a place in mobile computing.
Mobile computers can run on other OS as well, such as Linux, but the shift has primarily been directed towards Android. Businesses can install industry-specific apps that help workers perform better.
Benefits of Mobile Computing
We’ve already mentioned some ways mobile computing makes everyday life easier. But let’s highlight all the major advantages for a better understanding of the benefits.
It Provides Location Flexibility
The reason mobile computing was developed in the first place was the desire to be able to change locations while using the computer.
Having an established connection while also having the ability to roam opens limitless opportunities in the workforce. Here are just a few.
It Saves Time and Money
The number one benefit of location flexibility is the saved time. Think about all the time workers used to waste on traveling from one location, then trying to establish a location to another and how that has changed.
And while time is the ultimate currency, the additional incurred expenses have been decreased significantly by mobile computing as well.
It Leads to Enhanced Productivity
Better productivity is not about working harder or longer hours. That’s a common misconception. It’s about working efficiently and effectively.
Mobile computing has enabled real-time access to data, which means that executives can make better decisions in a relatively short amount of time. The only challenge is avoiding miscommunication.
Regardless of how you choose to utilize mobile computing, it allows for endless customization. If you think about how you might have adapted your smartphone, tablet, or laptop for your personal use, it’s perhaps more evident.
With that in mind, you can personalize and customize commercial mobile computers to best suit your needs, too. What’s important is to use high-quality devices optimized for the industry your business is part of.
Mobile Computing and Security
What is the number one thing a business owner will worry about in terms of mobile computing? The loss of valuable data, of course. As with other types of devices, mobile computers are susceptible to attacks due to software or hardware vulnerabilities.
It’s the reason why some businesses might be hesitant to employ mobile computing technology. As with any piece of technology, commercial mobile computers can be used nefariously or attacked by hackers.
However, the great news is that there are steps businesses can take to minimize any security risk. The best countermeasure to almost any security-related issue is to stay on top of updates. It might sound like an obvious idea, but many companies fail to follow through. You can also avoid hardware infections by never plugging the mobile computer into an unknown port.
Finally, anti-virus software is the ultimate precaution. Mobile computers available for personal and commercial use are indeed “smart,” but they’re not impenetrable. So much of how they benefit our lives is how “smart” we are about using them.
Some Disadvantages of Mobile Computing
Mobile computer technology is here to stay, and the benefits of incorporating these tools outweigh any downsides.
Still, it’s essential to mention some limitations of mobile computing to understand the technology fully. After all, knowing the limitations is the pathway to new improvements.
Probably the main hindrance to mobile computing is battery consumption. All mobile computers require regular charging. Many devices have excellent battery life, but it’s still something to monitor constantly.
Other issues revolve around connectivity as the cellular network can be inefficient in some locations. The same applies to the network’s stability.
Finally, as most of these devices are handheld, there are some physical protection constraints. That’s why the best mobile computers, such as the Sonim RS60, are rugged and incredibly durable.
Fully Embracing Mobile Computing in Business
Mobile computing is a fact of the present and a definite path to the future, due largely to the fact that mobile computing technology is always evolving.
If you’re a business owner trying to maximize worker productivity, save time, money, and create a better service, mobile computers are the way to go. Hopefully, this guide has given you all the information to help you make an informed decision.
Get in touch with Energy Electronics to learn more about which mobile computers can best suit your business needs. We can answer any questions you might have about our products and distribution.