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Why Rugged Tablet PCs Are Designed for Use in the Military

Of necessity, the military has long been in the forefront of new technology development. Whether mobile communications devices are carried by aircraft, ships, vehicles or foot soldiers, they have to provide the utmost agility and reliability, even when literally under fire. But efforts to boost functionality are often hampered by weight and size restrictions.

Watch the new xTablet T1200 get drenched by a garden hose!

Rugged tablet PCs have become a mainstay for military personnel, from the supply depot to the frontlines. They’re vital for transmitting critical real-time surveillance and mapping intelligence that guides command decisions and ensures troops on the ground can respond sharply to rapidly changing battlefield conditions.  

Why?

rugged tablet pc military public sectorFully rugged tablets can provide easy portability without sacrificing the levels of computing power and physical toughness required for military environments. They can  be a far cry from commercial off-the-shelf grade devices, integrating a wide range of functions and features in a single handheld device.

For military applications, true ruggedness addresses the most extreme conditions. Tablets must withstand extreme heat and cold, significant and prolonged shock and vibration. They must be sealed against water and dust. But they have to be lightweight.

And it’s not just the tablet computers. Controlling servers mounted in vehicles, aircraft or ships have to be ruggedized, too.

How do tablets become military-grade rugged?

Not every military application is equally demanding, so of course not every device has to be equally tough.

Sometimes commercial off-the-shelf devices can be sufficiently strengthened with beefed-up attachments and mountings. For certain less strenuous communications needs, standard smartphones can be fitted with heavy rubberized casings, making them more bump-resistant.

But often rugged tablets have to be designed from the inside out to meet grueling military performance standards as well as specific weight and size requirements.

Either way, ruggedness is achieved with:

  • Use of lightweight aluminum or magnesium.
  • Thicker, more rigid motherboards, with components not just soldered but glued or physically attached for greater stability.
  • Sealed ports.
  • Toughened glass or polycarbonate screens that can also be laminated to off-the-shelf screens to improve impact resistance. Commercial screens can also be strengthened with shock-absorbent metal framing and mounts.
  • Replacing keyboards – a high-risk point of entry for dust and moisture -- with touchscreen technology.
  • Integration of tiny hard-drive warmers that kick in when temperatures are below zero degrees Centigrade.
  • Specially-designed and toughened chassis and casing designs for servers, as well as shock-resistant mountings for internal components.

There is still work to be done.

Fully ruggedizing a tablet PC for the military requires some special considerations. For example, casings have to do double-duty as heat sinks, to eliminate standard cooling fans that can draw in dust particles or moisture. But as devices get smaller and  components more powerful, exactly how to dissipate heat adequately remains a conundrum.

There’s no question that rugged tablet PCs have revolutionized the way in which military personnel are able to perform their work, from the mundane to the mission-critical. And there’s no question that ruggedness itself will continue to evolve, helping drive even greater efficiency and effectiveness.

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