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Turning big ships? Panasonic tough technology is up to the task

There are few environments which are more punishing than that experienced when working at sea. That’s why Auckland-based Navicom Dynamics prefers Panasonic Toughbooks as an integral component of its precision docking systems, created in New Zealand and used around the world.

Peter Selwyn, Navicom GM, explains what his company does: "We use portable piloting units to put large ships into small places."
Used around the world, the Navicom portable piloting unit consists of a GPS receiver and antenna, with software installed on a notebook PC. Marine pilots board vessels coming into port and assist the captain to dock the ship. Because commercial vessels are enormous and space is limited in port, precision guidance is necessary to ensure the ships are accurately placed to avoid any damage to vessel or docking facilities.
Selwyn explains why Toughbooks are his top choice: "In theory any laptop could do the job; indeed, on occasion, we have supplied our technology in combination with laptops from other manufacturers where customers have requested it."
However, over the course of nearly a decade, he says only Toughbooks have proven their mettle consistently in the most trying of circumstances.

"Salt spray, rain, fog, bright sunshine, baking heat or freezing cold - when a ship is in harbour, regardless of the weather, it has to be docked. The pilot climbs on to the bridge of the ship, places his Navicom GPS receiver and antenna on a suitable location, and goes to work; where ever the pilot goes, the laptop goes with him." Only Toughbooks have consistently met the widest range of circumstances around the world that marine pilots encounter, Selwyn says.

Bright screens, powerful Bluetooth
Aside from ingress protection which keeps sea spray out and the legendary Toughbook casing which handles knocks and bumps, he has special regard for the brightness of the screens. "When working in sunshine, you have to be able to see the data. With most laptops, you can't. The Toughbook CF19 Mk 5, with a 6000 NIT screen, is probably the best we've ever seen."

 Even at its dimmest setting, Selwyn says it is still visible in sunlight. "The technology that Panasonic has put into the screen means the sunlight actually enhances visibility," he adds.
He also points to the Bluetooth technology in Toughbooks: "Not many people consider that there are two types of Bluetooth - one is more powerful with a far greater range. A machine designed to operate outdoors and in unusual circumstances undoubtedly needs the stronger Bluetooth; that's an example of the level of detail Panasonic has gone into to deliver suitable solutions for outdoor computing."
Comworth product manager Rachel McBeth says only Toughbook offers solutions to suit any computing circumstances. "Whether on the ocean, in the bush or underground operations, Panasonic has designed mobile computing solutions capable of reliability and performance in the most demanding environments. Attention to detail means every component is scrutinized and optimized for reliability in conditions which are very different from those in which standard laptops are used."

Fully rugged, semi-rugged, tablet or laptop: A full range of solutions
The availability of a full range of Panasonic ruggedised computers means Navicom is able to meet the many needs of pilots around the world. "Marine pilots are individuals who have diverse requirements. Some don't want to carry a heavier machine;  fully-rugged devices do have some mass. For them, there are Toughbook tablets which are quite up to the task. Others might not want to invest in the price of a fully-rugged machine, so there are lower-priced semi-rugged machines available," he says.
However, Selwyn is adamant that his top recommendation is always the CF19.

"Not only is this machine virtually bulletproof, but it also converts to a tablet, offering the best of both worlds. And the CF19s can handle everything  the marine environment throws at them."

With well over 100 Toughbooks supplied to Navicom clients around the world, Selwyn says he has only ever had two failures. "One was crushed between a ship and a tug; however, even though it was irreparably damaged, we were still able to retrieve the hard drive and all the information on it." The other was something of a 'man overboard' situation and was drowned.
"To put it in perspective, I've met the Comworth service manager a few times, but hardly ever had to send him any work.  In terms of things going wrong, that's something I could count on the fingers of one hand and I'd even struggle to do that," Selwyn concludes.