Industrial/military ultra-rugged PDA
(by Kirk Linsky)
The PWS-8101M is a rugged industrial/military PDA made by Advantech, a Taiwanese embedded and industrial computing conglomerate. Founded in 1983, Advantech provides web-based technology, computing platforms and customization services in three business groups (embedded & industrial computing, eServices & applied computing, and industrial automation). Advantech has almost 3,500 employees, and operates a sales, marketing and support network in 18 countries. The company sells directly or works with third parties to provide complete computing solutions for various industries. These include medical computing, vehicle mounts, panels, rugged handhelds, and the rugged industrial/militaryPDA shown here.
The PWS-8033M was designed to fill a niche that isn't being addressed by many vendors of rugged computing equipment, that of handheld data collection in extremely difficult environmental conditions. To facilitate that, the PWS-8033M essentially takes the guts and functionality of a consumer market Pocket PC and places it into a very tough housing that is impervious to the elements. This adds size and weight, of course, but the PWS-8033M remains fairly compact, measuring 6.1. x 3.8 x 1.65 inches. It also has a large 3.7-inch display with full VGA (480 x 640 pixel). Operation is via touch screen and a large navigation diamond, and the PWS-8033M also has four function keys and a special terminal key.
On the tech side, the device is powered by the 624MHz version of the tried-and-true Marvell PXA270 XScale processor. It comes with a generous 256MB of RAM and 256MB of Flash. There is a CF card expansion slot as well as a micro-SD slot. Connectivity is unusually complete for a Pocket PC device with two USB Type A and one USB Type B ports, an RJ45 LAN jack, an RS232 port and a RS232/422/485 port, audio in/out and a surface contact docking connector.
There is integrated 802.11b/g and Bluetooth Class 2 v2.0 + EDR, an internal GPRS module, and there is also an available GPS and GALILEO receiver module with built-in antenna.
The PWS-8033M (also available as the Ridgeline Q100 from Glacier Computer in the US in different configurations) looks tough and rugged, and it is. It can survive a five-foot drop, handle extreme operating temperatures between -4 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and is sealed to IP67 specifications, where the "6" means total sealing against dust and the "7" means the device can handle immersion into water down to a depth of about three feet. The thick rubber bumpers on all eight corners offer superior protection against impact and scratches.
For carrying and transportation, there is a sleev with handstrap as well as a RAM-Mount vehicle mount.
Advantech offers the PWS-8033M with either Windows CE 5.0 or Windows Mobile 6.1. The former is best for deployments where the unit will run custom applications or terminal emulation, the latter offers the full complement of consumer Pocket PC apps, such as mobile versions of the Microsoft Office apps and so on. Depending on configuration, the PWS-8033M is ideal for pesonnel in utility, marine, military, construction and a variety of industrial settings.