Rugged Tablets: A perfect fit for foresters

I have given presentations at several forestry conferences across the country in the last year about forestry related mobile apps for smartphones and tablets. The presentations typically lead to a discussion about hardware and whether we need rugged devices for field use. There are several case options including Otterbox and LifeProof that will help protect your device from accidental drops, water, or other elements that may cause damage. I contend that I would rather buy 10  Google Nexus 7 tablets at $250 each than buy one rugged device for $2,500. Most rugged data collection devices, up until now, have been one dimensional and run on outdated operating systems. Panasonic now offers two rugged Android tablets and one that runs Windows 8 that may be a great fit for foresters and other natural resource professionals. 

Earlier this month, Panasonic introduced a new tablet to its Toughpad line at the Consumer Electronic Show 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The newest offering is the JT-B1, a 7 inch Android 4.0 tablet. The new tablet has a Texas Instrament 1.5GHz Dual core, 16GB ROM, 1GB RAM, and a microSD slot. The battery should last about 8 hours and is replaceable with a spare for extended use. Other features include front and rear facing cameras, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and optional 4G LTE + 3G. The display is daylight viewable with a resolution of 1024 x 600. All of Panasonic's Toughpad tablets are designed to meet MIL-STD-810G durability certifications and IP-65 specifications for dust and water ingress protection. The JT-B1 will be available in February, starting at $1,199.
These devices are impressive but are lacking the apps or software we need in the field. We need companies like ESRI, Trimble, Garmin, or others to step up and create full featured GIS, GPS, and data collection apps for these devices...and fast! If they don't, others like Plot Hound, GIS Kit (currently only on iOS), WolfGIS (currently only on iOS), or MapItFast, to name a few, may step up and take away some of the market share from the big guys in the industry.  
You can find out more about the Toughpad line of tablets in the video below.



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