Finding True Value in Rugged Mobile Printing Devices

Value. Every purchase we make involving a comparison of any kind always comes down to value. We want the most for our money but we don’t want to pay for features we don’t need. We look at how we plan on using that product today and how we might use it tomorrow. Not to mention that we ask ourselves how long we plan on using it. When we address those issues we determine value.

The same is true in mobile computing.

There is price and there is total cost of ownership. Psion Teklogix recently published a great white paper on the comparison of rugged vs. commercial handheld devices. The paper cites a VDC’s report on Total Cost of Ownership that concludes that rugged devices significantly reduce productivity loss while also achieving lower device failure rates and wireless transmission failures. You can check out the entire report here.

One of the most compelling takeaways from the paper was the ROI loss due to device downtime. And this is measured not only by what the mobile worker can’t do, but what other businessRW420PS lcd medium II
functions are affected by the worker’s inactivity. So while things like rescheduled service calls, mailed out or hand-written receipts and missed sales opportunities are the obvious productivity killers, the VDC report found that multiple areas of an organization will be indirectly affected such as IT to fix the device, shipping to take of a returned unit, administrative staff to reschedule appointments and others. VDC found that IT support requirements can be as much as 44% higher for commercial device deployments than rugged ones.

The simple takeaway is this: there is price comparison and then there is TOTAL price comparison. Taking a long and broader look at the impact your mobile device will have on your entire organization will better help you determine that value you are looking for.

You can see a number of mobile printing resources such as our white papers on how mobile printers can drive efficiency and increase customer satisfaction here.


Handheld Market Projected to Grow 8% in 2010. Printers Hope to Tag Along

The rugged handheld market took a nice 8 % uptick in the first quarter of 2010 compared to the first quarter of last year according to VDC Research. The report detailed the grim realities of 2009 which showed  the retail sector took a 40% drop in growth. The increase comes as welcomed news that the outlook for 2010 is much better than most analysts were predicting.

The report appears in an InformationWeek article that came out this week.

The report also cites retail companies reporting promising results in the first six months of this year and some companies reporting as much as 30% increase in sales versus 2009. With this encouraging data, VDC is predicting that the rugged handheld computing market will grow by as much as 8.6% or $2.1 billion globally. Looking at average unit prices that comes to about 2.6 million handhelds.

Dang that’s a lot of statistics.

You know what works great with a handheld? Mobile printers. (but you saw that one coming)

With the sidelined project spending opening up, the opportunity for mobile printing to support the newhandhelds makes obvious sense. And while most people will simply add to their existing stock, here is something to consider: Zebra’s Development Services has developed an Alternate Programming Language (APL) software solution that is resident in Zebra printers. This enables a Zebra printer to be a drop-in replacement for a competitive printer.

So if you are looking to add a printer with that handheld this year and are already looking at one of Zebra’s rugged mobile printers, that’s great. Seriously, thanks for thinking of us. But, if you are looking at an O’Neil printer because you don’t want to deal with trying to integrate a new printer into your mix, perhaps this APL is just the thing to sway you.

You can learn more about printer customization, which includes hardware, electrical and firmware, go to

Bar Codes Tread New Tracking Ground

Running shoe company Brooks Sports is treading on new ground in mobile marketing. This month they launched a cool new mobile campaign to promote the new Ghost 3 running shoe. The campaign includes direct mail, interactive barcodes and a sweepstakes.

It should be no surprise that the barcode inclusion caught our eye. Brooks tapped Jagtag, an interactive barcode maker as well as the marketing agency of Marden Kane and retailer Finish Line to pull together a complete end-to-end promotion.

The 2-D barcodes will appear on direct mail sent out to a database of 10,000 Finish Line customers as well as the shirts worn by the retailer’s sales associates. Customers or even visitors who e-mail photos of the barcode will be entered to win prizes but the real purpose is to help engage current and potential customers as well as get better tracking on the direct mail campaign by measuring the video views and visitors to

Better tracking. Now we’re talking.

The campaign is not only a cool example of a new way to use barcode for tracking, but it is also a great way to use tracking technology to lead customers to more information. From do-it-yourself stores, full feature kiosks to self-checkout lanes, it seems like a new self service option appear every week. And with the proliferation of smartphone use, it seems like a perfect opportunity to provide deeper product information or customized  multimedia to shoppers while they are engaged with brands. User reviews, short videos and even product configurators can be instantly accessed with the camera scan of a barcode.

Click here for a basic overview of barcodes.

RFID to the Rescue at Chaotic Construction Sites

RFID helps to track and manage people, materials and tools

Researchers at Germany’s University of Wuppertal have combined several RFID applications into a single “control center” designed to monitor and document personnel and materials as they enter and exit construction sites. The Logistics Control Center combines RFID hardware, software and related computer systems within a freight container designed to be placed at the entrances and exits of construction sites. 

 Site managers must oversee dozens or hundreds of people and supplies deliveries.  With the RFID enabled Control Center they can:

  • Provide access control for the site and restricted areas
  • Track work hours of employees
  • Track employee use of proper protective gear
  • Monitor delivery of materials
  • Track the tools workers use
  • Manage on site self-service kiosk that allows employees to purchase small amounts of needed supplies at the site.

To read full article by Rhea Wessel at RFID Journal

To learn more about benefits of RFID

RFID Printers

Doesn’t Everyone Win With Bar Codes?

We saw yesterday that ScanLife is running a “Crazy Code” photo contest to find the most brilliant, fresh and crazy place for a 2D bar code. The winner gets a new iPad. Just create a code, place it in your crazy place, snap a photo and send it in.

So in thinking about this, doesn’t everyone win when bar codes are used in new and interesting ways? Ok, that hurt just saying that.

But funny or not, the widespread acceptance of bar coding within industry over the past three decades has led to the development of numerous new applications that ensure easy asset identification and supply chain visibility that make every logistics manager a winner, right? Okay, okay no more.

So what are the benefits of barcoding? Here are a few:

Improved Data Accuracy

Improved data accuracy is the single most common motivation for implementing a bar code system. Often the backbone of operations, data entry enables a company to produce accurate reports and predictions about future needs and actions.

Efficiency Benefits

Besides providing near-perfect accuracy, bar coding also enables users to work faster, without sacrificing accuracy. When factoring in the time it takes to correct simple data entry errors, it is easy to see the improved efficiency that comes with bar coding. In addition, by providing computer systems the capability to “see” exactly what is happening within an organization, bar codes enable instant conversion from physical actions into digital transactions.


Bar coding, particularly in fast-paced industrial environments, enables consistent and predictable operations for enhanced product quality by combining data management functions and preventing bottlenecks at data entry stations. Auto ID systems usually operate at a defined pace, either self-determined by the printer’s maximum speed or triggered by the action of another device.

Improved Inventory and Asset Management

Bar coding can help any company get a handle on resources. Companies are routinely bar coding assets such as manufacturing equipment, computer hardware, office furniture, and tools in order to record the number of each item, as well as the condition, color, features, and designated user. Libraries around the world are starting to place bar codes on books to track borrowing history. Likewise, automotive fleet owners, public transportation agencies, and rental car companies have begun utilizing bar codes to track detailed maintenance records for each vehicle. Manufacturing companies have similar applications in place to track both resource and finished product inventories.

Don’t you feel like a winner already?

It is widely thought that most Auto ID systems pay for themselves in less than two years, but this figure is dependent on a company’s commitment to widespread implementation and acceptance of the bar coding technology. In addition to the savings, each of these areas also produces several hidden savings that must be considered during the cost analysis, though the answers may not surface until the implementation is complete.

Once the data entry on the production line is automated, can production be sped up? If we create unique bar codes for each product, can the company fulfill customized solutions? Once inventory is monitored in real time, can we trim warehousing costs? These are just a few examples of the hidden gains resulting from bar coding. Several other opportunities will emerge as the use of Auto ID gains synthesis with operations.

You can learn more about bar coding here.

How RFID Tags and QR Codes Can Speak Volumes About Resale Items’ History

We’ve explored both the use of apparel RFID tagging in retail, and the potential for QR codes. Now we’ve discovered a new use for both! Seems a charity shop in U.K. uses the two technologies to attach a personal story about each piece of clothing as told by the clothing’s donator. Shop visitors can listen to the audio clips via the shop’s RFID readers and audio speakers, or by reading the QR codes via their smart phones. The stories help enhance the value and appeal of the items for potential buyers. Thanks to for pointing us to the article.

Do you see a place for such a concept in other retail applications?

For more on RFID in retail, check out this white paper: Traceability in Retail—Reducing RFID Media Costs for Best Value.

Click here to learn more about RFID printing/encoding in general.

Have a Unique Printing Challenge? Check Out What Development Services Can Do

So maybe you have this weird little print challenge that no ordinary printer can handle. What to do, what to do.

Zebra’s development services group was put together to handle challenges just like this. The printer customization service provides access to manufacturer level product customization. Depending on the nature of your solution, you can purchase and modify standard configurations or have Zebra provide fee-based customized configurations.

Here are a few we’ve done:

Eliminating Printer Downtime

Learn how you can reduce or eliminate printing downtime

Protecting High-Value Media

We designed a secure, tamper-resistant G-series printer to protect high-value media such as drug prescriptions or event tickets.

Rapid Printer Deployment

With Rapid Deployment, Zebra’s Development Serviles Group can custom-configure the standard setting of a Zebra printer to meet the exact needs of a unique application.