Migrating to next-generation platforms is essential, but it can also be a tricky process. In this guide, we outline our tried-and-tested approach for getting the job done on time and on budget – so you can deliver an upgrade that will help give your business an edge for years to come.
Learn how to transition your apps in our step-by-step guide – and find out how you can get started now.
Selecting an operating system for business devices is something you want to get right the first time. There’s a lot riding on your decision, in terms of the initial investment, ongoing maintenance costs, and the benefits you’ll enjoy from your new tech. However, once you’ve examined the options available, we believe it’s actually a simple decision to make. In fact, by the time you finish this article, we’re convinced you’ll agree with us that there’s one obvious choice.
A few years ago Microsoft was the key player for mobile business devices, with Windows CE and Windows mobile devices dominating the enterprise mobility market. However, the rise of iOS and Android has left Microsoft far behind, and with most enterprise manufacturers switching to Android, Microsoft is phasing out support for much of its mobile device software.
That leaves two options for businesses investing in a new device fleet or migrating from Microsoft: iOS and Android. There’s a good chance that you have a preference for Apple devices: its iconic products are stylish, sleek and contained in a seamless closed system. However, the iOS features that are virtues for consumers do not translate as benefits for enterprise users – quite the contrary, in fact, as you’ll discover below. Our experience in building mobile business software and deploying fleets of devices shows that Android is far more adaptable to the rigours of the enterprise market and is usually the right operating system for business users.
Here’s why you should choose Android over iOS
Android is responsible for an explosion in affordable smart devices. As manufacturers continue to push the envelope at the premium end of the market, the trickle-down effect of technology has resulted in good quality and inexpensive smartphones for every budget. However purchase cost is only one part of the equation, you also need to consider the total cost of ownership over the projected life of your device fleet, factoring in the serviceable life of the devices and the cost of damaged, lost and stolen devices.
2. Support and Maintenance
When choosing any device, you should always look at the support period for security updates. All manufacturers will eventually stop publishing security updates for their devices, leaving them vulnerable to failure and attack thereafter. Apple is very good at supporting older devices, with most devices being supported for 5-6 years before the operating system stops receiving updates, but they do not guarantee the period over which devices bought now will be supported. Consumer Android devices typically receive 3 years support before being abandoned. However, the Android Enterprise Recommended programme defines the minimum support length for rugged devices as 5 years, and the best enterprise Android devices on the market now have support lifecycles guaranteed for 10 years.
It’s also important to consider how the performance of devices will degrade over the support period. Apple devices have fixed batteries which can’t be replaced, which means that the performance will gradually deteriorate and may lead to your workers not being able to complete a shift before they have to recharge the device. Apple is notorious for reducing the processing power of older devices in an attempt to mitigate this problem, so the device you buy now may not be able to run your business apps effectively for the entire life of the device. Conversely, rugged Android devices usually have removable batteries, so they can be replaced before battery degradation becomes a problem.
iOS runs only on Apple devices. You are limited to iPhones, iPads and a few peripherals such as smartwatches, all of which are inherently designed for the consumer market and as such not suited for many workplace environments.
Android devices come in all shapes and sizes, with varying battery life, durability, aesthetics, reliability, performance, storage capacity and other specialist features. From rugged and waterproof tough phones suitable for use in any outdoor and demanding environment, to high-end tablets for sales teams, there is an Android device suited to every job role. Android also has specialist devices for specific applications, such as devices with high-performance barcode scanners, wearabledevices and devices built for use in hazardous areas.
4. Industrial features
As little as 10 years ago, if you were going to deploy a fleet tracking or logistics solution you would be looking at industrial mobile options which, at the time, was pretty much the exclusive domain of Windows Mobile (CE) ruggedised devices. Times have changed and mainstream manufacturers like Motorola, Intermec, Panasonic and Zebra Technologies have standardised their new offerings on Android. These products can integrate laser barcode scanners, NFC, have great battery life, docking chargers and hot swappable batteries.
The most significant difference between iOS and Android in this regard is the availability of rugged devices. These are devices which have been designed and tested to withstand vibration, shock, dirt, dust, moisture and chemicals. They are also built for the rugged environment: as an example, many models have much higher maximum volume than an iPhone, which may not be heard even at full volume in a noisy warehouse.
By comparison, an iPhone may look great, but is simply not built for challenging enterprise environments.One company proved this by comparing an enterprise model with an iPhone in a simulated rugged environment. After 26 drops at four feet, the rugged device was fully operational. The iPhone, meanwhile, saw pieces break off, volume button failure, charging problems and rattling noises, to name just some of the failures.
Some businesses try to circumvent this issue with rugged cases, but these only solve part of the problem. They may offer some external protection against drops, but internal components are still prone to damage from sudden shock. Also, fogging and condensation behind the case are frequently a problem.
In the early days of smartphone technology, iOS was the clear leader in terms of security. From launch, they supported business grade features to ensure that data was not compromised on mobile devices, such as encryption and VPN support. It took Android a long time to catch up with Apple on this front, and there is still a prevailing superstition that iOS is better than Android when it comes to security. However, this is simply not the case any more. Android Enterprise has regularly scored higher than iOS in recent years in the Gartner security reports and continues to make strides with both hardware and software security.
One common misconception when it comes to security is that iOS is more secure than Android because it is closed source. In reality, the opposite of this is true. Because Android is open source, anyone in the world can look for and find bugs and vulnerabilities in the operating system, often before new versions of the OS are released. This might seem like a bad thing, but because Google pays up to a million dollars for reporting a vulnerability, there is an army of developers worldwide looking for and reporting exploits in the operating system.
The open source nature of Android also means that manufacturers have the ability to add additional security features above and beyond what the operating system provides. Good examples of this are Samsung Knox and Zebra Mobility Extensions, which both add extra configurable features which help businesses to reduce their potential for attack.
We’ve mentioned this point in aprevious blog post, but it deserves mentioning again.84.8% of mobile users have Android phones and this familiarity is a powerful factor when choosing an operating system for business devices. Android is the most dominant mobile operating system by far, and it's likely that most of your employees are already using an Android device. This means that they will get up to speed with your new devices more quickly, which one report suggests can cut training time down from days to hours when compared to less familiar systems. A new generation of digitally proficient workers are entering the workplace who will expect the same high quality of digital tools they already use in their personal life. By empowering your employees with the right tools for the job, and tools that they already understand, they will be more productive.
Customisation has been a core feature of Android since its inception, and one that has only recently been introduced to iOS at any meaningful level. Both operating systems now have the ability to achieve simple customisation steps, such as replacing the wallpaper with your company logo, putting a standard set of company apps on the homescreen, and banishing unwanted or little used apps to a folder in their app drawer.
However Android’s deep support for customisation gives businesses much more control over the information and functionality that is available to their users. On Android it is possible to completely change the user’s home screen to present whatever you want it to display, and make it a hub for your business’s operations, rather than it simply be a launcher with which to access other applications. It is possible to replace or remove most parts of the operating system’s user interface, and to replace core parts of the operating system such as the keyboard. This gives you complete control over what your users can do on their devices, as well as opening up more options for users with diverse needs. You can also control exactly what notifications and settings the user is able to see and interact with, and which peripherals the user is able to connect to the device, allowing you to minimise distractions and enhance productivity as well as keeping your data and devices secure.
8. Storage expansion
This is a simple difference, but a very important one in a business context. Most Android handsets offer expandable storage using inexpensive microSD cards allowing you to carry more data or install more apps without upgrading the entire handset. We find this particularly useful for users who need to load significant quantities of reference data on the device, or who frequently take photos and videos on the go. On iOS this is not possible, and devices’ storage cannot be expanded beyond the original specification.
9. Batteries and charging
As previously mentioned, it is not possible to change the battery on an iOS device. As well as limiting the effective lifespan of the device, this has an impact in day to day use. Many enterprise grade Android devices have the ability to change the battery on the go. Some devices even support being able to swap the battery without turning off the device, known as hot-swapping. This means that if the device runs out of battery in the middle of a shift, the user can simply change the battery and carry on working, meaning that the devices can be run continuously. With an iOS device, the user would be forced to charge the device, meaning that either more devices are needed to support continuous work, or that they must spend part of their day tethered to a charger.
Android devices also have better support for various types of charger, such as vehicle mounted cradles and independent battery chargers, which can charge batteries without them being connected to the device, all of which lead to devices being in service for longer periods of time, therefore representing better return on investment.
10. Customisable buttons
At the bottom of any Android device there are a trio of soft key navigation controls – back, home and multitasking. These keys, and particularly the back key, are one of Androids biggest differentiators from other operating systems providing a consistent navigation approach across the entire system. Whilst this may seem a minor detail, they are a very powerful feature of the intuitive Android experience.
Moreover some Android devices, particularly the ruggedised and industrial versions, have additional hard keys that can be configured for a variety of purposes such as shortcuts to apps, lone worker panic alarms or barcode scanners. Good examples of this type of products are the Panasonic FZ-B2 or the Zebra TC25.
11. Android Enterprise
Android Enterprise is Google’s programme that focuses on using Android devices in the workplace, and represents their commitment to best-of-class experience for enterprise mobility. Through the programme, they continuously add features designed specifically for business use. The ability to deploy an extensive range of policy controls on the device is extremely useful for managing employee devices in the field, and built in layers of security prevent intrusions so you can be confident your data is safe.
Android Enterprise offers multiple methods for deploying devices in your business, such as Work Profile which lets staff keep their personal and work lives securely separated on one device. Other features include the ability to rapidly set up hundreds of devices using an NFC tag to install a custom set of applications and settings, and the ability to use Mobile Device Management software to monitor the status of devices in the field, apply security policies remotely and ensure that devices are being used appropriately.
Also included under the Android Enterprise banner is the Android Enterprise Recommended programme, which identifies devices and services that meet a set of requirements that mean that they are suitable for use in a business environment. By choosing devices from this list, you can be certain that you are making a good choice for your business.
Nuffield Technologies offers a full solution – from consultancy to procurement and software development – for businesses looking to boost their performance with rugged technology. We have excellent relationships with leading suppliers and can help you find a cost-effective solution to upgrading your operations.
For many people, the phrase ‘wearable technology’ conjures up images of walkers and runners checking their wrists and logging steps. While it’s true that the fitness industry has seen a wearable devices revolution, it’s in the world of business – and particularly logistics – that the technology is at its most pioneering and transformative.
Rugged wearables such as scanners, headsets, arm-mounted computers and smart glasses are helping businesses speed up operations, use data more effectively, protect employees and even integrate human and robot labour.
Here’s three compelling ways wearable technology is benefitting logistics businesses.
1) Rugged wearables are increasing productivity
While much wearable tech appears pioneering or even futuristic, wearable barcode scanners have, in fact, been bringing efficiencies to warehouses for many years. They are available as wrist, ring, or glove-mounted models. Once paired with a wearable computer, they help logistics workers scan barcodes quickly. They also help workers pick or place items with an unprecedented level of accuracy, informing them if they have chosen the correct item or the right number of items, or placed an item correctly. Back in 2011, UPS used radio frequency-enabled ring scanners in its international supply chain operations and found packages travelled more efficiently and reliably through its network.
The key to improving efficiency in any organisation is to get the right information to the right workers at the right time, so they can take swift and accurate actions. Paired with arm-mounted computers, voice headsets provide real-time feedback to warehouse employees, giving them live instructions and helping them to log reports quickly (and without typing) as they complete actions.
One of the beauties of these technologies is the way they can free up employees to have both hands available to lift boxes, pack items etc, while receiving and providing information. When you compare this approach to traditional methods of repeatedly looking down at printed orders or picking up and putting down a handheld device, the benefits are obvious.
However, when using the above technologies, a worker still might need to look down at their wrist when they need to retrieve information about their next pick. In other words, they have to stop what they are doing. Wearable glasses solve this problem by providing information in front of a worker’s eyes; they never have to break off their job to check information – they can keep their eyes up and ahead at all times.
In 2017, DHL adopted pioneering augmented reality (AR) tech to smart glasses to introduce efficiencies to its supply chain. The glasses interact with barcodes to provide vital information for increasing accuracy and the timeliness of orders. The company reported worker productivity increased by 15% as a result.
2) Wearable devices are keeping employees safer
As well as providing employees with data, wearables play a useful role in tracking their movements and behaviours. Managers can see where staff are in a warehouse and use the information to direct the flow of labour and resources to where it is needed most.
This trackability also shows huge potential with regard to worker health and wellbeing. In 2013, BP America introduced a pioneering programme providing employees with FitBit bracelets that collected data relating to fitness, fatigue levels, sleep quality and location.
While not mainstream yet by any means, wellbeing tracking is being investigated by other organisations, particularly data around body temperature, heart rate and blood oxygen levels, which can help to monitor health and promote early intervention in cases of fatigue or anxiety.
Ergonomics, which aims to design workplace functions around a worker’s capabilities, can also be monitored more closely using wearable tech. For example, products are available that can track any irregular movements on the part of employees, to alert them to unsafe practices that could cause injury.
No discussion of wearable devices would be complete without looking at the COVID-19 pandemic. And there is good news here, in terms of innovations to keep employees safer. Many companies are already using proximity trackers, simple badge-sized devices that alert colleagues if they break any social distancing rules. Some can even log and report on ‘proximity events’, revealing where close contact is occurring most frequently, so changes can be made to keep people safer. Meanwhile, in late 2020 the BBC reported that an entrepreneur had developed a thin, disposable patch with an integrated biosensor to monitor a range of vital signs including respiration rate, skin temperature, blood pressure, posture and heart function. While the original intention was to help doctors measure patient health remotely, companies are showing a great deal of interest because the patch can monitor signs of a fever – one of the major indicators of COVID-19.
3) Rugged wearables are integrating human and robot labour
As consumers, many of us use voice recognition to ask Alexa or similar devices to play our favourite tunes or radio stations. The logistics world, meanwhile, is taking the potential of voice recognition and human/machine interaction to another level. Employees now use wearable headsets to issue verbal commands to autonomous mobile robot (AMR) assistants. For instance, a worker can leave a packed cart at the end of an aisle and use voice commands to tell a robot to shift it to another area or to deliver a fresh empty cart ready for packing.
These interactions are not confined to headsets and voice recognition. Wearable barcode scanners, those enduring wearable staples, are now also playing a part in significantly speeding up AMR workflows. Workers scan a barcode programmed with a pre-assigned workflow and the AMR gets to work. Multiple barcodes appear at the end of aisles and workers can manage and control several AMRs at once to carry out tasks.
So what next? Many believe AI will be the catalyst to future developments in wearable tech. Ed Thomas, principal analyst for technology thematic research at data analytics and consulting company GlobalData says, ‘Over the next few years, wearable devices will become smarter, as they incorporate technologies like artificial intelligence […] and so their relevance, particularly to enterprise users across industries, will only increase.’
Nuffield Technologies helps logistic clients source the right wearable devices, so they can optimise their operations and bring efficiencies and savings to their businesses. Get in touch to discuss your requirements and we will help to create a wearables strategy for you.
If migrating from Windows CE to Android is one of those jobs you’ve put off for another year, you are not alone. Many operations and IT managers realise that the end of support for Windows CE means there are compelling reasons why this migration needs to occur. But they also feel this job will be too big – and too disruptive to day-to-day operations.
We’ve helped many businesses make a seamless migration from Windows CE to Android. Along the way, we’ve compiled the most common questions people ask about the process. Our answers will reveal it isn’t nearly as difficult as you might think – and the benefits in terms of increased productivity and return on investment will encourage you to put this vital task to the top of your to-do list.
1. Can I keep using Windows CE?
All ‘mainstream support’ for Microsoft Windows CE 5.0, Windows Embedded CE 6.0, Windows Embedded Compact 7, and Windows Embedded Compact 13 has ended. This means you can’t raise tickets for assistance. Additionally, security patches are no longer available for Microsoft Windows CE 5.0 and Windows Embedded CE 6.0. While patches are available for Windows Embedded Compact 7 and Windows Embedded Compact 13, no further patches will be available from 13/04/21 and 10/10/23 respectively. To sum up, you can continue using these systems, but it isn’t a good idea. You will receive no support or upgrades, and security patches are either no longer available or will be phased out soon.
2. But my devices are working fine. Why should I migrate?
They may work right now, but as manufacturers run out of stock, it’s likely that parts, replacements and accessories won’t be available when devices need service or repairs. The situation will only get worse as time goes by. Look at it this way: when you are using legacy devices, the potential for disruption to your day-to-day operations grows year on year.
3. Are security breaches really a concern to my business?
Yes, this is a ‘clear and present’ danger. 98% of UK organisations surveyed by cybersecurity experts Carbon Black reported an increase in cyber attacks on their business in the last 12 months¹. Any business is a possible target, but devices running on legacy operating systems such as Windows CE are particularly vulnerable: they simply can’t withstand the complexity of today’s security threats.
4. What are the benefits of a Windows CE to Android migration?
This is a good question, because people often think only of the negatives – the inefficiencies of outdated systems and the threat of cyber attacks. But there are many, many positives. Customer expectations are growing– in this environment a fast, streamlined and easy-to-use new system will boost productivity and keep you competitive. Optimised devices are absolutely fundamental to keeping up with increasing demand, and produce a tangible return on investment.
5. Will migrating disrupt my everyday operations?
Probably far less than you think. Any disruption caused by migrating can be planned for and mitigated. You are in control of how fast you migrate and it can be achieved in an orderly, staged way. Conversely, unplanned disruptions as a result of using unsupported OS and mobile devices could be disastrous, posing far greater financial and reputational risk.
6. Will I have to retrain my workers?
Android is the world’s most popular OS for devices. Most of your team will be familiar with Android platforms already and so retraining will be a swift and fuss-free affair. Think of the benefits to employees too: providing them with modern technology on easy-to-use devices will take away common frustrations with technology and improve their working environment.
7. Will I need to reconfigure my backend systems?
This depends on how your mobile devices communicate with your backend systems. If you’re using a terminal emulation system, you may be able to modernise the user interface on your mobile devices while retaining the same backend systems. If you’re using a more modern client / server system then you should be able to switch out the mobile client as long as good
documentation is available for the backend systems. If in doubt, ask us for help and clarification.
8. How easy is it to upgrade our terminal emulation app to Android?
There are many terminal emulation client apps available for Android. They all provide slightly different feature sets, including the ability to build graphical user interfaces on top of your TE systems. However, while it may be easy to get the TE working on Android, bear in mind you will not be able to fully exploit the capabilities and speed of your Android devices.
9. Is it difficult for developers to create enterprise apps for Android devices?
Nuffield Technologies can build apps to your specifications, quickly and cost effectively. This is because we use a modular framework for building [line of business data capture applications]. This reduces the need for bespoke development work by up to two thirds and simplifies support. As CoreXam is based on Microsoft Xamarin, we can sometimes reuse significant portions of code from existing Windows CE applications. We’ll be more than happy to explain these details to you, so our process is completely clear.
10. How long will app development take?
Apps have traditionally taken 6-12 months to develop. However, our modular framework, CoreXam, enables us to develop your app within 1.5-3 months, depending on complexity. As migration can be achieved in a staged approach, it is down to you to decide how long you would like the migration process to take.
11. How much will migration cost?
This will depend on your exact requirements, such as the size of your device fleet, whether you need to buy new devices and what apps you need migrated. Our costs are scalable, meaning businesses with fewer devices will pay less, so it’s very likely we have a cost-effective solution for you.
Find out more about Windows CE to Android migration
For detailed insights into Windows CE to Android migration – and advice on how to begin the process for your business – download our white paper.