Socket SoMo 650rx Mobile Computer|
A Pocket PC designed specifically for healthcare applications
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
Socket Mobile, Inc., a longtime provider of mobile productivity solutions, has been selling the Somo 650 handheld computer for a couple of years now. It's a conventional, semi-rugged Pocket PC, the kind millions of people had before the telcos convinced us that every mobile device also needed to be a phone. Well, that is not the case, and Socket has been selling a good number of their 650 Series handheld computer. In April of 2009 they announced the availability of an additional version as part of its first antimicrobial suite of healthcare products for medical mobility that includes the Socket SoMo 650Rx and their line of barcode scanners with the Socket Bluetooth Cordless Hand Scanners CHS 7NRx and CHS 7XRx and the plug-in CompactFlash Scan Card 5XRx.
The antimicrobial products are encased in plastic that's been infused with antimicrobial materials that provide an extra layer of protection against the multiplication and spread of potentially harmful bacteria and microbes. The Socket Rx suite is geared toward healthcare providers who need durable and easily cleaned and disinfected products to use bedside point of care applications (BPOC), medication administration, e-prescribing, asset tracking and implementing electronic medical records (EMRs). With the current push towards establishing electronic patient records and a general shift to enforcing better care and counsel for patients, healthcare providers are seeking new mobile solutions that will help improve efficiencies in the gathering and accuracy of their data.
The new 650rx adds a layer of antimicrobial protection. Socket enlisted the services of Antimicrobial Test Laboratories, LLC to conduct the industry standard JIS Z 2801 test that quantitatively measures the ability of antimicrobial surfaces to kill or inhibit the growth of microorganisms. According to Socket, the tests showed that the antimicrobial casing reduced Staph bacteria on the surface by 99% over a 24 hour period. Used in conjuntion with Sani-Cloth, the antimicrobial properties are more than doubled. [Read the Antimicrobial Lab Test Report]
As far as the underlying platform goes, the Socket Mobile 650 is a "traditional" handheld computer that still looks like a PDA and not like a phone on steroids. It measures 5 x 2.95 x 1.0 inches and weighs just over seven ounces. It has a nice-sized 3.5-inch LCD display so you can actually read what is on the display. The body is made of tough plastic that's clinical-white instead of the dark plastics used for standard Somos. The overall design is rectangular, but corners are rounded and edges smoothed both for impact protection and ergonomic reasons. The sides are protected with seamlessly integrated light-gray rubber strips.
Taking a look from all sides, the front of the 650rx sports a 5-way navigation button flanked by two application bottons on each side -- Calendar and Messaging on the left and Contacts and Today on the right. At the bottom right is a small hole for the microphone (placed so that the 650 can be used as a VoIP communicator). The power bottom is on the right above the screen. On the upper left is a blue/green LED that shows Bluetooth and WiFi operation, and a red/green one that signals alarms and battery charging.
Turn the unit around and find a smooth backside with a large user-accessible compartment for the 650rx's extended 3.7 Volt/2,600mAH Li-Ion battery pack that adds about a fifth of an inch in thickness and an ounce of weight, but greatly increases battery life. To the right of it is the speaker, and that's it for the backside.
Along the left side, from top to bottom, you find a hands-free headset microphone connector, a programmable application button, a "hold" switch, and the DC power connector at the bottom. The right side is unadorned except for a single programmable application button.
On the bottom is the USB synchronization/host cable connector for the dock. On top there is a tight-fitting rubber cover below which you find a Compact Flash Type II slot and a SDIO card slot. To the right of the cover is the garage for the nicely integrated stylus.
Under the hood
The SoMo 650rx uses the fast 624MHz version of the Marvel PXA270 processor, comes with 128MB of SDRAM and 256MB of FLASH, and has Bluetooth and 802.11b/g wireless LAN capabilities. All these specs are generous for a device of this nature, and make for a powerful, competent platform that can get the job done.
WiFi and Bluetooth are available in many handhelds these days and so it is good to see exactly what kind of WiFi and Bluetooth implementations a device comes with. The 650rx comes with 802.11b/g WiFi, and the difference between a simple 802.11b and the much faster 802.11b/g is simply amazing. Web browsing used to be painful to impossible on a Pocket PC. With its fast processor and fast WiFi, the 650 loads pages quickly and makes browsing and the use of web-based applications productive rather than a frustrating waste of time. Bluetooth likewise is speedy. Socket used Version 2.0 with EDR, which stands for "Enhanced Data Rate." This is also a "fast roaming" device, which means it can switch fom service to service in less than two tenths of a second. That can be invaluable for dependable wireless communication and VoIP (Voice over IP) applications. The utility is quite powerful. Click on WiFi tools and you get a graphic real-time representation of all aspects of your wireless connection, down to packets sent and received, line quality, connection duration, security and more.
Software and utilities
On the software side, the 650rx comes with all the usual Windows Mobile applications (Mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Internet Explorer, a flexible mail client, and so on. There is also a slew of Socket-specific applications, including Mobile Connect!Agent, Mobile Wi-Fi Companion, Mobile SocketScan, Mobile Modem Utilities, Mobile Ethernet Utilities, and Mobile Serial I/O Utilities. Socket also offers special software development kits for data collection and wireless LAN applications.