Tactical Advice

Review: Motorola Enterprise Digital Assistant

This multipurpose mobile device stands up to abuse in the field.

The Motorola MC75A Premium 3.5G Worldwide Enterprise Digital Assistant is a rugged mobile device primarily targeted at field workers who expect reliable access and durability from the technology they use.

The turbocharged MC75A addresses business critical mobility needs by maximizing processing power, application flexibility, data capture capabilities, connectivity options, security and manageability — all in one device.

End-User Advantages

With an ever-increasing need to stay in constant contact, users want something fleet of foot and familiar. The Motorola MC75A boasts a Marvell PXA320 processor at 806 megahertz, with 256 megabytes of RAM and 1 gigabyte of flash memory on board and a microSD slot capable of an additional 32GB. That means it can respond quickly to your queries, and with Windows Mobile 6.5 as an operating system, it is familiar to most users.

All that processing and operating system talk is great, but what about the interface? The 640x480 pixel 3.5-inch LCD touchscreen is quite readable and responds very well to the touch. The natural font size is large, so it's easy to read and navigate.

Connectivity is also a snap, with more options than users may need. Standard Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g) is available for WLAN connectivity; Bluetooth v.2.1 with EDR for close-range peripherals; 3.5G HSDPA or CDMA EV-DO for cell voice and data connections; and IrDA for infrared networking (with medical imaging devices, for example).

The MC75A also has a number of ways to interact with its environment, starting with five different keypads: Numeric, QWERTY, DSD, AZERTY and QWERTZ. A 3.2-megapixel camera with autofocus and flash can be configured to act as a scanner for 1D and 2D barcodes (for instance, to mark evidence or assets).

Why It Works for IT

With users out in the field, the challenge of managing an enterprise digital assistant (EDA) is a steep one indeed. First and foremost is durability.

When I unpacked the MC75A, it was clear that this is a solid device. The product meets or exceeds all MIL-STD-810G military requirements for stress (drop) testing and is IP54 seal-rated against dust and rain. It survived several drops from five feet onto the solid concrete flooring in my basement — and a whole day with my 5-year-old, outside in the ice and snow.

Now that's durable, which means it will last longer, saving money on replacement costs. An optional three- or five-year full-replacement warranty guarantees that Motorola will replace the device for any reason.

The MC75A complies with FIPS 140-2 Level 1 security for advanced encryption and authentication algorithms. It also meets stringent industry regulations for PCI data and HIPAA requirements. IT administrators can centrally manage the device for software updates, and wipe it remotely should it become lost.

The manufacturer designed the product as part of its Motorola Platform Architecture (MPA), so existing applications written for other Motorola devices will work on the MC75A. With the MPA, you can rapidly deploy the devices or remotely diagnose issues. The MPA also assures that your specialized software will run on the MC75A or any new Motorola EDAs that become available in 2012 or beyond, giving you more bang for your development buck.

Disadvantages

Let's make one thing clear: While the MC75A has voice capabilities, it's not a cell phone replacement. It weighs in at 14 ounces and feels more like a walkie-talkie than a cell phone. However, Motorola included a backup voice channel to get information quickly to someone when they need it most, in places where cell phones don't work.

It should also be stressed that the MC75A is a technology enabler, part of a bigger solution that includes software and servers. I wouldn't just buy a few and hand them out; it should be part of an overall organizational initiative.

The centralized management software is also part of that solution and is not included with the purchase of the device. The good news is that Motorola has hundreds of partners that develop solutions for the MPA; you just need to hook yourself up with one to fully appreciate the investment.

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About the Author

Dr. Jeffrey Sheen

Dr. Jeffrey Sheen

Jeff is tasked with separating the “gee whiz” factor from the truly useful when it comes to the latest tech gadgets, and oh, he holds a Ph.D. in physics. He currently works as the supervisor of enterprise architecture services for Grange Mutual Casualty Group of Columbus, Ohio. His biggest challenge is being an avid Wolverine fan while living in the midst of Buckeye country.

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