5G: Will it come to rugged devices, and when?

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As the fifth generation technology for cellular networks, 5G is expected to replace 4G as as the worldwide standard. In a few years, most devices in the market will take advantage of the higher speed, lower latency and possibly reduced error rate. It looks like a bright future for us consumers – but what does it mean for professionally used devices in the enterprise environment?

Traditionally, the Auto ID industry is always a bit slower in adapting new trends and technology. When Android was already a big hit on consumer phones, enterprise devices were still running Windows Mobile operating systems, and it took another 2-3 years until the first rugged Android device saw the light of day. Up until now, there is still a surprising amount of Windows device being used, despite having no access to any kind of bugfixing or security patches. But why does it take so long much longer to use newer technology? In the enterprise field, often times apps (and even peripherals) are built for a specific type of device, running a specific type of software. Those customized apps run on hundreds or thousands of devices all over the place. When one of them fails, it will be replaced with the exact same type of device. This ensures the user needs no training for another device, software does not have to be changed, and accessory can keep being used. All in all, it is about saving money. That’s why companies rely on the same hardware platform for years until they are ready to deploy new devices. While consumer phones are typically replaced every two years, enterprises use their rugged devices for five to seven years and sometimes even longer.

5G is up to 100 times faster than 4G – but is it necessary for the Auto ID industry?

Great for consumers – not yet so great for professional use

We all know the incredible power of 5G: It is up to 100 times fast than 4G, offering data rates up to 10Gbp/s. There is a lower latency (only 1 millisecond compared to 4G’s 200 milliseconds), and it eventually brings better security. Downloading high quality videos will be done in minutes, streaming in 4K will be even faster. All in all, 5G will soon make our lives even more connected and comfortable.

So, 5G is mostly useful when loading huge files or using streaming services for videos or games. But looking at the enterprise sector, the typical data packages are rather small, sending mainly numbers and text in the background, and sometimes pictures for proof of delivery, for example. While 5G might open up great new opportunities in our industry, at this point there is simply no usage for that kind of transfer speed.

The biggest downside for using 5G in the Auto ID industry however is battery life: Operating a 5G chip will reduce battery life considerably, making users be more dependent on recharging devices or carrying replaceable batteries.

Point Mobile is testing prototype hardware with 5G

Even though adapting 5G for the mass market doesn’t seem to be something the Auto ID industry will do in the near future, we are testing the power and performance of 5G modules in some of our devices. The market has been slow on adapting trends in the past, but as the majority of professionally used Android devices is going through the roof, newer technologies seem to arrive in our sector faster than before. As a manufacturer for rugged mobile devices, we are preparing ourselves for the adaption of 5G, and will be ready with an updated line-up in time.

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