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Rugged Computer Hardware Important in Military Applications

The military’s increasing need for smaller mobile computing and communications equipment makes it harder for manufacturers to fit required features into fully rugged devices, but they’re working to do just that. From hardware, networking equipment and power systems to computing tools such as a rugged tablet PC and companion peripheral devices, ruggedness is a top priority.

The Army nearly quadrupled the budget ceiling for its CHS-3 (common hardware systems) contract to $2.7 billion to accommodate expanding need for ruggedized devices, and the ceiling reportedly could be raised again before the 10-year contract ends next year.

rugged tablet pc military operationsAll branches of the military need smaller, lighter, more versatile devices. With the portability factor driving the newest changes, especially for battlefield operations, rugged tablet PCs are becoming more valuable than ever.

Not every military need is equally rugged.

Military organizations are going digital throughout their operations, not just in war zones, to streamline and improve all aspects of their work. They’re specifically looking for mobile computing devices described as:

  • Business-rugged
  • Semi-rugged
  • Fully rugged
  • Ultra rugged

From powerful laptops to smartphones, each device provides a different level of performance and ability to support common or proprietary applications and settings and meet varying military requirements for specific tactical environments. But laptops are often too large and heavy, and smartphones are too small to read in the field. And they’re too fragile.

Handheld rugged tablet PCs offer capabilities and benefits of both a laptop and a smartphone.

A rugged tablet PC combines the best traits of each, in a package tough enough to function reliably wherever it’s needed. Office workers and military managers making business as well as tactical decisions, personnel on ships, aircraft, in combat vehicles or the battlefield all can get exactly the performance and ruggedness they need, in a convenient handheld device.

A rugged tablet PC has the internal and external attributes to meet military standards at any level, for any use, serving as both a laptop and a tablet. It can provide:

  • Small size to fit in a uniform pocket.
  • Light weight for personal transport.
  • Handheld, vehicle-mounted or grab-and-go operation.
  • High-performance processing power and dedicated graphics processor and memory to support fast delivery of 3D video in the field.
  • Screens as small as 7 inches, readable in any light yet large enough to see maps and photos.
  • Dependability even under unrelentingly harsh conditions, able to withstand extreme shock, vibration and drops, resistant to water, dust and temperature extremes.
  • Expandability for future upgrades.

Size, weight, power and cost all matter.

Reliability can be traded for speed and lower cost, but the military is looking for all three. Nonetheless, somewhat reduced speed is still considered acceptable to ensure no-fail functionality in critical situations.

Since it’s mission-critical for the device itself, the hard drive is often the most vulnerable component. Increasing use of solid state technology ensures greater device safety and dependability under any conditions including extremely cold weather. And with costs falling, solid state components are becoming a cost-effective option for vital military operations.

The Army’s next purchasing round, CHS-4, is expected to be a 5-year contract, focusing on equipment that’s smaller yet more versatile and less expensive. Although higher processing performance typically requires more power, military field operations require extended battery life, so manufacturers are building processors that deliver stronger performance using little power, even in extreme operating temperatures. And Intel’s i7 and i5 processosr support critical, time-sensitive graphics and video applications while substantially increasing overall performance.

Component improvements like these will make a rugged tablet PC even more compact yet even more valuable for all aspects of military operations in the coming years.


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