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MobileDemand Tablet PC xMount and printer system

The proper way of mounting hardware in a truck
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

MobileDemand is a company specializing in the beer wholesale market where they have over a thousand rugged Tablet PC computers deployed at over a hundred wholesalers nationwide. Anheuser-Busch, the nation's largest beer company, certified MobileDemand's rugged computers for route sales functions for all their wholesalers, and MobileDemand has generally been at the forefront of making rugged mobile computing solutions available to the industry (see our detailed review of the MobileDemand xTablet T8600).

Making available good computers and integrating them with good software, however, is only part of the deal. These are after all not computers that will spend their lives sitting on desktops, with only an occasional excursion to a meeting room or perhaps a brief business trip. These are machines that are being used out there in the field day after day, often in adverse conditions. They must be able to handle the bumps and vibration of being in a truck most of the time, of being used as the tools they are without falling apart, and of being able to always be handy and available to the fieldworkers.

How to create a rugged mobile office

What that means is that there must a way to carry the computer along without just popping it on the passenger seat where it can fall off during a stop, or, worse, get stolen. It means it must be securely mounted inside the truck, in a way that essentially converts a delivery truck into a mobile office. That means the computer must be mounted so that it can be seen from the driver's seat; that it can be easily placed into the mounting system and removed from it; that the mounting system is designed for the computer being used; that it is strong enough to hold up and protect the computer; that it secures the computer so it cannot be stolen; that it can provide power and facilitate communications capabilities; that it is flexible enough so it can easily and comfortably be used by a field worker; and that it can also accommodate peripherals such as printers.

In the picture below you can see one such solution, the MobileDemand xMount and printer system:

As you can see, the system conveniently mounts the slate computer on the passenger side of a delivery truck. And it also contains a mount for a heavy-duty printer and a full box of fanfold paper so that even lengthy customer reports can be printed on the spot. The picture below shows the full system by itself and in more detail. Note how nicely integrated the bin for the box of standard size report paper is. The computer shown is the rugged xTablet T8400 Tablet PC with its optionally available numeric keypad. The printer is an industrial-strength O'Neil product.

Heavy duty construction

Even the above picture doesn't really do the xMount justice. At Pen Computing Magazine and over the years we've come across many vehicle mount systems and few were as meticulously engineered and as sturdy as MobileDemand's. We're talking solid metal construction, all 1/8-inch and practically indestructible. In our experience, such systems often require some fairly elaborate modifications to the inside of a vehicle. MobileDemand apparently knew that customers might want to remove the system to make room for a passenger, or simply have additional flexibility. As a result, the xMount simply rests on the center seat of the truck bench or on a pedestal mount if the truck has individual bucket seats. The xMount is secured by the seatbelt and a stabilizing rod to the floor. Easy as that.

The arm that holds the pedestal and the computer in place is ingenious on its own, using the patented RAM ball and socket technology that provides unsurpassed flexibility and ease of use. And, as you can see on the rear-view picture to the right, it is simplicity itself, consisting of two large and extra-hard rubber balls and a spring-loaded clamp. Position the computer just right, then simply turn the hand-screw until everything is nice and tight. Adjustments are virtually infinite, and the heavy-duty rubber balls absorb shock and vibration.

What if you don't need a printer and just want a simple, easy-to-remove mount for the computer? That can be done as well. The picture below shows an xMount that's anchored on the firewall of the truck. You can again see the no-nonsense, industrial-quality construction of the xMount.

As you can also see above, the computer mount can easily be locked so the computer cannot be removed. If the driver needs to take the slate into a customer's facility, it can be left unlocked in which case the spring-loaded clamp securing the computer onto the pedestal mount can easily be opened and closed.

As far as power goes, no need to rely on battery alone. Use either a car charger, or the xMount can be directly wired into the fuse box via a cable that offers extra protection with its own additional inline fuse.

It's easy to see the benefits of the xMount and its peripherals. It enhances driver productivity by providing instant access to customer data on the Tablet PC and, if needed, a high capacity paper supply for report printing. Connectivity to the printer can be via USB cable, serial connection or even wireless. Everything is fully integrated. And everything is built to withstand vehicle shock and vibration. The picture below shows a driver using his "mobile office."

For a detailed look at the xMount system at MobileDemand's website click here. -- Conrad H. Blickenstorfer