Datalogic announced the Datalogic Elf in March of 2010 as a next-generation rugged PDA for applications in field service and sales, delivery, retail, logistics and similar markets that require a compact, lightweight and highly integrated data collection and communication device.
Datalogic put a lot of thinking into this device. They figured that since communication is key for field personnel, the Elf must handle communication both via voice (both cellular and VoIP) or via text (such as SMS, IM or email), and it must be able to connect wirelessly through multiple media.
Further goals were to provide voice connectivity that surpasses simple two-way radios and there had to be support of high-quality WPAN headset connectivity, i.e. connecting headsets via Bluetooth.
Data communication had to be fast and reliable while complying with corporate security directives. And there had to be integrated GPS for mapping, GIS, and a variety of location-based services.
On the data collection side, the device had to be able to provide either very fast 1D laser scanning for applications where speed is essential, or 1D/2D decoding if flexibility was foremost. And there had to be RFID support. Finally, the device had to have proper ergonomics and be as easy to use as possible.
So what did Datalogic come up with? That would be a fairly large but still handy professional PDA measuring 6.2 x 3.2 x 1.65 inches and weighing just under a pound. It has a 3.5-inch touchscreen display that supports both the older 240 x 320 pixel QVGA format as well as the newer high-res 480 x 640 pixel format. A built-in accelerometer handles display rotation and makes sure the Elf won't go to sleep when in motion. The device is powered by a 624MHz Marvell PXA320 processor and there's also an ARM7-based Cortex-M3 co-processor. On the storage side, there are 256MB each of processing RAM and Flash storage, and there is a microSDHC slot for additional storage.
The Elf comes in two different keyboard configurations. There is a 46-key "thumbtype" QWERTY layout for those who type and text a lot, and a 27-key numeric keypad version fo when rapid manual data entry matters most. Below you can see the two layouts. Both have standard directional and phone answer/hangup keys.
For scanning, customers have a choice between a high-speed laser scanner that can read and decode GS1 Databar, EAN/UPC, Code 11/39/93/128, 2/5 Codes, Plessey, Codabar, EAN128, and MSI with a depth of field of 2 to 25 inches, or a 1D/2D imager that can handle UPC A, UPC E, EAN 8, EAN 13, Interleaved 2 of 5, Code 39, Code 39 Full ASCII, Codabar, Code 128, EAN 128, Code 93, MSI, PDF417, Micro PDF, DataMatrix, QR, GS1 Databar, Aztec, Maxicode, POSTNET, PLANET, Japan Post, Australia Post, KIX Code, Royal Mail RM4SCC, USPS 4CB, and UPU FICS. Both types come with Datalogic's patented Green Spot technlogy that makes accurate reads easy.
The integrated 3-megapixel camera has autofocus as well as a flash. The idea here is not to replace a dedicated camera, but have the ability to quickly document proof of condition, signatures, or other visual support data.
The Elf's wireless communication capabilities include Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR and 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi with Cisco-certified security that allows access to all the advantages of the Cisco WLAN infrastructure. There is also a SIM card slot so the Elf can support UMTS HSDPA GSM/GPRS/EDGE voice and data communication.
Wired connectivity includes USB and 3-pin RS232 as well as Ethernet via cradle. Expansion is via a SD Card slot.
Like most Datalogic mobile computers, the Elf is tough and rugged. It is sealed to IP64 specifications, which means it is dust-proof and can handle water spray from all directions. It can also withstand drops from five feet to concrete, and operates within an wide range of 14 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Datalogic Elf is one of the first devices to use Windows Mobile 6.5, which offers a friendly, intuitive look and provides access to a variety of Microsoft, Datalogic and third party application software and utilities.
Update July 2014 -- Datalogic added the Elf Healthcare PDA, which clads the (otherwise apparently unchanged) Elf electronics into a chemically resistant plastic enclosure that won't get harmed by most major cleaning agents.