April 07, 2003
Ruggedized Computers, Part 1
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Message from the Editor

Welcome to GISWeekly! This week's GISWeekly will feature the first story in a series on Ruggedized Computers. These computers are playing a vital role in many industries such as military, utilities, public safety, construction, transportation and distribution - anywhere a computer can be subjected to extreme climate conditions or vibration.

GISWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Alliances/Acquisitions, Announcements, Awards, Appointments, New Products, Featured Downloads, Around the Web, and Calendar.

GISWeekly welcomes letters and feedback from readers, so let us know what you think. Send your comments to me at

Best wishes,

Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

Ruggedized Computers, Part 1

GISWeekly is publishing a special series on manufacturers of ruggedized computers for the next couple of weeks. Many of these computers are being used by the military in the War in Iraq and GIS industries such as utilities, public safety, construction, transportation and distribution.

During the GITA conference, it became apparent that ruggedized computers were playing a vital role in the GIS industry. On almost every aisle in the exhibit hall was a display of a ruggedized handheld or laptop submerged in water.

This week we will feature WalkAbout Computers and Juniper Systems.

WalkAbout Computers has been manufacturing ruggedized mobile tablet PCs since 1989. Hammerhead XRTs (eXtremely Rugged Tablet) are extremely rugged mobile Tablet PCs built rugged from the inside out. They are a fully sealed housing milled from very hard, light aluminum. They meet MIL-STD-810F specifications and are rated IP67. They are sealed from rain and dust, operate in a wide range of temperatures and can survive a three-foot drop. In test studies a truck has been run over a Hammerhead, and it still works. Obviously they are sought by those who work in harsh environments,
which include
utilities, EMS/public safety, GIS, military, construction, transportation and distribution. Batteries are hot-swappable in the field with no down time.

Hammerhead XRT

Hammerheads have the same functionality as a laptop and more and use Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, so users can run full Windows-based applications. But they also have the benefits of XP Tablet PC Edition such as pen-based functionality, speech recognition, conversion of handwritten notes to text, etc.

David Grainger, CEO, WalkAbout Computers has this to say about the product: "WalkAbout Computers was founded on the concept of an outdoor ruggedized form factor that supports all Windows applications. The obvious choice was the Tablet PC for true mobility in applications such as GIS. Our fifth generation and newest Tablet PC, the Hammerhead XRT, is impervious to heat and cold, water and other harsh conditions. With an IP67 rating, the Hammerhead XRT is of interest for military applications such as for paratroopers jumping out of airplanes and in rugged terrain where a PC screen must be sunlight readable.

The Tablet PC form factor is ideal for rugged applications because there are no hinges to break like on a laptop, notebook or convertible. A Tablet PC is completely self-contained and easy to hold and use while sitting, standing and walking. Bill Gates gave up his personal laptop in favor of a Tablet PC and predicts that 20% of laptop users annually will switch to Tablet PCs, resulting in projected annual sales of 10 million Tablet PCs."

Juniper Systems serves three core markets with applications and market expertise with their ruggedized handheld computer, the Allegro CE. These markets include natural resources, particularly forestry and forest products, agriculture, and mobile GIS. The Allegro CE also serves the markets of land survey, corrosion protection, gas electric and water meter reading, geophysical and others through a complement of OEM businesses.

Features that set the field PCs apart from the competition are as follows:

a)Ergonomic design - The Allegro shape and smooth edges make it easy to hold in either hand and use in the field. The Allegro CE weighs only 1.7 lbs and the battery and PC card compartments are easily accessed.

b)Effiicient Keyboard Layout - The Allegro features a full size keyboard with large keys that can be used with gloved hands. The more commonly used numeric keys are located near the display. The 12 function keys enable you to access hot keys for specialty function within an application.

c)Tough and Rugged- The Allegro meets tough environmental specifications. The case is rugged, shock resistant, dust proof and water proof. The Allegro CE operates in temperatures ranging from -22 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. User Accessible PC Card slot - The PC Card Slot allows you to add data storage and input/output options including bluetooth through the user accessible PC card slot. It is also compatible with compact flash cards.

d)Long Battery Life - A rechargeable NiMH battery pack provides up to 16 hours of battery life on a charge. The battery is user replaceable and it is a standard camcorder battery.

Expansion Pods Provide Sensor Integration - The Allegro CE has optional expansion pods for the integration of external sensors. Currently the Trimble Lassen GPS receiver is available so you can combine GPS positions with your data collection applications. Upcoming expansion pods available in the summer of 2003 include integrated bar code scanner and 802.11 radio.

The Allegro CE, a handheld computer, does not have the same functionality of a laptop computer. Rather, it compliments the laptop or desktop computer and provides reliable data collection in harsh environments. The features that differentiate a handheld computer from a laptop are the smaller form factor, smaller display, more compact keyboard, longer battery life, and secure data storage that is not dependent on battery or AC power. Allegro CE users collect data on the handheld computer because they can use it all day long, easily carry and use it in field for long periods (typically there are no desks in the field), and depend on absolute security of the data that is collected. Laptops
even if they are rugged; cannot fulfill these unique needs.

Allegro CE is sold to land survey companies, and the company is working on some future expansion pods that will be used in the testing of aircraft for the military.

Juniper Systems has been designing, manufacturing and marketing rugged handheld computers since 1983 for their core markets in natural resources and agriculture. Of course the products have evolved over the years, but their Polycorders (then marketed under the name of Omnidata) were the early pioneers for rugged, portable electronic data recorders. These products were integrated with analog and digital sensors for automatic data acquisition along with handkey data collection.


ESRI and Citrix Systems, Inc. (Nasdaq:CTXS) announced that the two companies have entered into a business relationship as part of the Citrix Independent Software Vendor (ISV) program and ESRI's Corporate Alliance Program. Under the terms of the agreement, ESRI can sell the Citrix(R) MetaFrame XP(TM) Presentation Server and other components of the recently-announced Citrix MetaFrame(R) Access Suite with its own leading GIS software throughout the United States. This solution provides GIS customers with improved performance, reliability and security.

Fastrax Ltd., a developer of GPS receivers for optimal utilization of the Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), and SAVOX Communications Ltd. designer and manufacturer of hands-free and positioning solutions for demanding use, introduced a new GPS accessory for TETRA terminals.

Nikon Instruments Inc. (NII) announced that its parent company, Nikon Corporation, has reached an agreement to form a strategic joint venture with Trimble Navigation Ltd. for production and worldwide distribution of surveying instruments. The alliance will merge Nikon Corp.'s subsidiary, Nikon Geotecs Co., Ltd., with Trimble in an equal ownership company named Nikon-Trimble Co., Ltd. The joint venture is expected to begin operating on June 1, 2003 and will be headquartered in Tokyo, Japan.

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-- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.


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