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Panasonic’s Windows 8 Toughpad the only choice for Wanganui District Council

Long in the market for a rugged, full Windows tablet computer, the arrival of the Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1 couldn’t come too soon for Jason Simons, Information Services Manager at Wanganui District Council. With his approach of equipping staff with the best technology tools available to get the job done better, Panasonic’s compact Windows 8 devices are an ideal companion for field engineers, helping them get more done, with less hassle and greater efficiency.

Situation

Simons notes that a district council conducts a range of outdoors activities through its field staff. "Providing field engineers with the information they need to do their jobs has been a driver for the Council for the past five years. In the past, that information, whatever it was, was paper-based. That meant it was frequently out of date, difficult to read and a constant hassle when working collaboratively to know who had the most recent version," he says.

Wherever processes are paper-based, Simons agrees, inefficiency can be expected. "It's a classic problem faced by a lot of organisations," he notes.

The emergence of tablet computing was a boon, continues Simons, as it overcame many of the limitations of traditional computing. "Laptops aren't really ideal for field work as you need a flat surface, you need to start the machine and log on; you'd need 10 to 15 minutes before you can actually be productive," he notes.

The emergence of tablet computing was a boon, continues Simons, as it overcame many of the limitations of traditional computing. "Laptops aren't really ideal for field work as you need a flat surface, you need to start the machine and log on; you'd need 10 to 15 minutes before you can actually be productive," he notes.


Solution

 

With another part of Wanganui District Council using Toughbook laptops, Simons says he was well aware of developments in Panasonic's rugged technology lineup. "However, for our inspectors and other field staff, we 

specifically wanted tablets and we specifically wanted Windows-based machines."

So keen was the Council to get its hands on the Toughpad FZ-G1, a fully-rugged Windows 8 device that Simons says it was on a waiting list for trailing. "We'd seen demos and done considerable research. There was little doubt that this was the right device to equip our people to get their work done at a higher standard," he says.

Packed into a compact chassis with a 10.1-inch sunlight-viewable screen, the Toughpad FZ-G1 is based on an Intel Core i5 processor with 4GB RAM as standard. It is a complete Windows/Intel machine in tablet form-factor; while that's impressive in its own right, the device is also fully rugged, with impact and vibration resistance (it can be dropped from a height of 120cm without suffering any damage), certified water and dust ingress protection.

In terms of selecting the devices, "Panasonic has the top name in the market for rugged devices. We tested extensively, across the Android and Windows devices, before settling on the FZ-G1."

At roughly double the price of a standard laptop, he says the cost of the Toughpads is 

negligible to the value they add to the organisation. "The acquisition cost isn't at all high. For example, an iPad is a great consumer device, but it's not suitable for the field. When you're out working on sites, you need something that can take a knock and perform. With the Toughpad FZ-G1, we have a machine which has a fast processor, RAM, all the Windows features. It is, in effect, a complete desktop that you can carry into the field."

Results

 

Simons describes the impact of the Toughpad FZ-G1 as transformational. "We'd been waiting for a Windows 8 rugged tablet and now we have a device where the hardware is matched by the operating system. User experience is key and this package delivers," he says.

With users accustomed to the 'instant on' of tablets, the FZ-G1 has become an ideal companion for field workers. "Time is money and frustration. When you're trying to make a decision and need information to do it, shortening that time is a big advantage," says Simons.

The initial deployment of the FZ-G1s are targeted at field engineers, who use the devices to access a cloud-based Geographical Information System (GIS). "In many instances, these users are looking at assets which are buried under their feet. When contractors are doing work, they can access the GIS system while peering into excavations and update the information contained on the system right at the minute."

This is just one field use of the devices, but it is important. "Councils have billions of dollars of assets underground. Management of these assets is critical - and it is not often you get to inspect them, so every opportunity you get, you want to maximize."

Formerly a paper-based process, Simons says the availability of a complete Windows machine, with all the usual applications, completely changes the game. And when the engineers are back at their desks, the FZ-G1 goes into its docking station and operates as a standard desktop.

"The availability of devices like the Toughpads means we are able to accurately match IT equipment to how people and processes work. Our most valuable resource is people, and to limit their capabilities with poor equipment is not good management. With the FZ-G1, the result is greater efficiency, improved convenience and computing that meet the needs of the business," Simons adds.

While there hasn't been any opportunity to 'test the toughness' in the six months since the Toughpads went into the Council (our guys look after their equipment, says Simons), he does note that over the years there have been plenty of destroyed items. "Accidents happen and we have something of a tech museum of squashed iPhones and other devices," he quips.

And what do the staff members think? Simons is quick to provide insight. "They love their Toughpads, and wouldn't be without them," he concludes.