28 January 2020

A new year is a great time to reflect on our industry and consider how far we’ve come. While undoubtedly built to take hard knocks, at one point opting for a rugged mobile device meant sacrificing considerably on performance, whereas today’s rugged devices are as operationally efficient and user friendly as they are tough.

This rapid functional improvement shows no sign of slowing, and the coming year is already hinting at several exciting new rugged mobile capabilities. Let’s take a look at the rugged device market in 2020.

New levels of environmental responsiveness

Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), it’s already possible to make industrial environments ‘smart’, with sensors installed in certain areas to monitor and flag inconsistencies in key variables like temperature, particularly useful for cold chain storage.  

We may start to see this kind of smart responsiveness baked into rugged devices themselves before too long. A rugged device with a built-in moisture sensor could alert an operative to potentially harmful humidity levels in a dry store, for example, or perhaps an ATEX certified rugged device with a substance detection sensor could automatically signal a change of atmosphere in hazardous settings.

Augmented reality (AR)

Like a smartphone application that overlays a moving animation over your face on selfie mode, augmented reality (AR) enables device users to point the camera at an object to instantly receive operational data and documentation about it on the screen.

In the context of rugged mobile devices, AR functionality could be used via the device camera to scan and identify malfunctioning equipment. For example, in order to bring up a diagnostic guide, service history and highlighting any particular parts that need looking at, all overlaid on the view of the equipment on screen.

5G connectivity

Could 2020 be the year when we finally welcome 5G? Fifth generation wireless technology has been on the horizon for years, tantalisingly close yet still some distance from fruition. Roll outs across various mobile networks will be in stages – in fact, a few areas of the UK have had access to 5G connectivity on EE, Three and Vodafone since 2019 – but the whole country is expected to be 5G-ready in 2022.

There’s been a lack of 5G-enabled mobile devices up until now (rugged and otherwise), but we expect to see an influx hit the market over the next couple of years as 5G networks really begin to expand. In terms of rugged devices, 5G’s extra speed and low latency should mean that even data-hungry applications (such as AR) run seamlessly from any location covered by the network, as well as supporting up to a million IoT sensors of the type we mentioned above.

It seems likely that these developments in rugged device technology will all be interlinked to some extent; 5G will enable more advanced IoT and AR-based applications, and these will need 5G to work consistently.

Harness the power of rugged devices now

Whatever the future looks like in the rugged device market, there’s no need to wait until then to take advantage of what improvements rugged mobile devices could bring to your business. We supply an extensive range of our own rugged devices as well as those from selected specialist partners, each with a set of features and functions that could revolutionise your operation.

Our expert team is on hand to help you explore the options and find the rugged mobile solution for you, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.  


Peter joined TouchStar (formally Belgravium) in a sales manager role in 2001.  Prior to joining the company, Peter held Partner and National Sales Manager roles within the parcel and logistics industries.  

In 2011 Peter was promoted to Sales Director and is now actively involved in promoting the value of TouchStar’s Rugged Mobile Computing solutions to the warehouse, logistics, manufacturing and field service industries. When not involved in the business, Peter is a keen and enthusiastic football and cricket fan.

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