Industrial Mobiles

symbol_logo.gifLast month, when commenting on the Qtopia Green Phone, I hinted that there’s an untapped market for rugged Smartphones for industrial use. So how big is this market?

As an indication, Motorola has just acquired Symbol for $3.9 Billion. The main synergy between Symbol and Motorola is that they both use Windows Mobile. While the $3.9 Billion obviously also includes non-Windows Mobile hardware, the fact that a mobile device OEM bought Symbol gives an indication of how important mobile phone based devices are becoming in the industrial market.

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I have worked on large rugged mobile device projects such as those used by Heathrow Express and the London Underground. They tend to use 100s to 1000s of devices not just for initial deployment but also for ongoing repair and replacement. This really is a large market.

The biggest problem with synchronising data via GPRS/3G is unreliability of network coverage. Extra software is usually required to cache data and perform sync re-tries. In the UK, some companies even go so far as to not use GPRS/3G at all and use proprietary national wireless networks which are actually more expensive (but more reliable). However, network operator data networks are improving all the time and I believe Motorola/Symbol will be in a very strong position.