Motorola HC1 Announced

October 22, 2012

Insert line from Aliens here

Motorola, those mobile computing mavens, have officially announced their headset computer, the Motorola HC1. It looks like it’d be a great option for hands-free picking/shipping software, first responders, or even military/police use.

And a bit of research and checking out Motorola Solution’s Twitter tells me that the announcement is tied in with the Association of the US Army’s tradeshow going on this week, so they’re definitely positioning this for military application. They also put out a press release that was picked up by Engadget, Gizmodo, and even Slashdot.

The HC1 follows in their great naming convention and is a headset computer. One. Kind of like how the MC line is mobile computers, MT is mobile terminals, and LS is linear scanner.

Anyway, from what I gathered from the press release and their product page, the HC1 runs Windows CE 6.0, so you can run the same software on it as most mobile computers out there. However, the HC1 lacks keyboards and touchscreens and all those other hallmarks of a mobile platform, opting for voice recognition as well as head tracking. Development tools are available so you can integrate this functionality into your own software, so that’s nice.

It’s built with a pretty powerful TI processor and 512 MB of RAM, so you shouldn’t see a whole lot of lag with most apps. Like their other products, it looks like you’ll get a standard or extended size battery. Not sure how long either will last yet, but I imagine you’ll get something akin to a work shift or more per charge.

Like Motorola’s other enterprise devices, the HC1 is built to take a beating. An IP65 seal protects the unit entirely from dust as well as low pressure water jets, holding up to the abuse you might see in rough & tumble environments like emergency services or the military. Or water balloon fights. Get an eye in the sky and you can know exactly where your enemy is via the HC1’s display.

Optional models include mounted camera, which in my mind increases the number of potential applications dramatically. Some of the examples I’ve heard tie into engineering and repair aspects, in both military and aerospace applications. Rather than go between schematics on a table and the device you’re working on, the schematics and tutorials can be displayed on the HC1, speeding up your task and hopefully cutting down repair time.

One of the other ideas I thought of was much more Robocop-ly, where the camera can be used to capture images of people, potentially at a crime scene or in a hostile environment, sent wirelessly and processed in real-time to determine persons of interest or potential threats. It’s a really weird & specific thing, but when I first saw the HC1 I definitely thought of Terminator, Robocop, and Aliens.

We managed to get our hands on some Motorola LI4278 barcode scanners, and we decided the best plan was to break one on video. Somehow we failed. Aside from some superficial (and some less than superficial) damage, the scanner kept on scanning.

So after dropping it from about 80-feet to asphalt, kicking it down a road, spiking it off a wall, hitting it with a plank, standing on it, hosing it down, and driving over it a few times, we could only scuff up the housing and crack the head of the scanner. But it still runs like a champ.

Durability Tested LI4278

For a retail-priced scanner, we were amazed at the amount of abuse it survived. We really don’t recommend actually doing this to your scanner, but if you have remarkably clumsy employees or like to throw stuff to people, this is a great fit.

What happens when you run over an LI4278 with a car

Motorola LI4278

January 16, 2012

Motorola LI4278 Barcode ScannerI’ve traditionally pegged Motorola (really Symbol) as the company that makes great laser scanners. Their LS2208 has been selling a ton since the beginning of time, and it’s a great choice for a lot of retailers. However, with their creation of the Blockbuster 2D imager, and now their linear imager, they’re distancing themselves from the pack as a premier data capture manufacturer. Their first entry into the linear imager market, the Motorola LI4278, has a list of specs that make it a fantastic choice for cordless scanning.

The LI4278 looks very much like their LS4278, and is a cordless 1D barcode scanner. I do believe it will be supplanting the LS4278 eventually, so the transition should look pretty seamless. And it’s compatible with the LS4278 cradles, so if you have an old LS4278 and you want to upgrade, you just need the scanner. That is great forward thinking on Motorola’s part. There are plenty of LS4278’s in the wild, and if the LI4278’s spec sheet is any indication, upgrading is a no-brainer.

In terms of scanning, the LI4278 is a fantastic device. For standard UPC barcodes, you can get a read from an inch to 31 inches out. Most linear imagers out there can get reads from 18 inches back, some of the higher end ones make it to about 25-30 inches, so a retail scanner getting reads from that distance is going to be a boon to many businesses. Especially places like Costco, where maybe you can’t reach the barcode way up on the second or third shelf. High volume scanning should be no sweat for the LI4278. A maximum scan speed of 547 scans per second hangs in with even some presentation scanners, and the barcode scanner’s motion tolerance of 25″ per sec (1.4 mph) is pretty solid for a linear imager.

Bluetooth powers the wireless radio on the LI4278, Bluetooth v2.1 Class 2 to be exact. Most manufacturers run with this radio, as it can send data pretty quickly, and data transmissions are encrypted. Why you don’t want prying eyes to know you just scanned a case of Mountain Dew is a little beyond me, but I guess it’s important when you’re scanning like drivers license or customer data. With this radio, you get 330 feet of effective range, way beyond most cordless scanners and their paltry 33 feet of radio range. The Bluetooth radio also allows you to connect the LI4278 to a mobile computer or laptop, maybe even your iPhone or Motorola ET1 tablet. It runs in HID mode, so scanned data will be sent as keyboard input, making it really easy to integrate into a lot of mobility applications.

The LI4278’s battery provides more than a shift’s worth of scanning, eliminating nagging fears that the scanner’s just going to stop partway through a day. The replaceable battery with “green sustainability” can run for 72 hours on a full charge, or up to 57,000 scans. I can see why they’d put an either or. At the max scan rate, you can hit 57,000 scans in a little under two minutes. Or if you stayed at that scan rate for 72 hours, you’d read 141.7 million barcodes.

Motorola built the LI4278 for retail and maybe light industrial applications, and the durability matches up with those needs pretty well. The scanner sports an IP54 seal, though it’s advertised as a “gasket seal to protect from dust and water sprays.” It’s also built to withstand 100 consecutive 5-foot drops to concrete, so even a really clumsy person should be okay to use it.

I’m trying to get one in house to really put it through its paces, but so far the LI4278 is poised to be a fantastic scanner and a great release to start 2012. The 330-foot range and advanced scanning capabilities ensure that it’ll exceed most business’s needs for quite some time. And personally I’d rather have a product that does a lot more than I need, rather than a lot less.

Motorola MC2100

December 15, 2011

MC2100 Mobile ComputerThe MC2100 is Motorola’s recently announced mobile computer, looking to place itself between the MC1000 and MC3000, and I think it’s a great choice for retailers needing powerful inventory management at an affordable price. The low end mobile computer market has a lot of options, but many run a proprietary OS or cut out key features & functionality in an effort to make the price point more appealing. Thankfully, the MC2100 fits well into this price range without cutting out needed functionality.

The MC2100 runs Microsoft Embedded CE 6.0, which I guess is the next step in Windows CE. There’s been a pretty solid naming shakeup since Windows Mobile split into Windows Embedded for handhelds and Windows Phone, but it seems like everything is settled by now. Anyway, Microsoft Embedded CE 6.0 gives you support for legacy Windows Mobile/Windows CE software packages.

Windows CE is powered by a 624 MHz Marvell PXA320 processor with 128 MB of RAM and 256 MB of Flash. While it’s not the biggest and fastest mobile computer on the market, the MC2100 is going to make short work of database management for most businesses. For additional storage, a microSD slot supports up to 32 GB cards, for big databases, preformatted files, or 10,000 copies of Rebecca Black’s “Friday” in mp3 form. If you’re into that sort of thing.

For barcode scanning, the MC2100 gives you your choice of 1D laser scanner, linear imager, and 2D imager. The linear imager is a new addition from Motorola, and is pretty beefy. From what I’ve heard, you can get an effective scan range of 30″ on regular UPC barcodes with the linear imager. It should definitely cut down on having to haul products off shelves during inventory audits. The laser scanner and 2D imager are the same fantastic scanners Motorola’s been building since the dawn of time, so no matter which model you pick, you’ll have no trouble scanning barcodes.

Motorola really designed the MC2100 for retail inventory management, asset tracking, and receiving, not necessarily for heavy industrial environments. But for the 95% of us who don’t work in torrential downpours, sandstorms, or the arctic tundra, the MC2100 is still a tough product. The body is sealed to IP54 standards, meaning windblown dust & splashes of water won’t get in and harm sensitive electronics. It can also survive drops of about 4-feet to concrete, so it should be fine if it accidentally is knocked off a table or out of a pocket, but I definitely wouldn’t want to throw it to a coworker.

It does come in two flavors: the MC2100 and the MC2180. The MC2100 is the batch scanning device, and lacks a touchscreen interface and 2D imager option. The MC2180 is the more full-featured of the two, giving you Bluetooth and 802.11b/g/n WiFi, a resistive touchscreen, and greater data capture with 2D scanning.

Both are great options and definitely have different applications. The MC2100 would be a great fit for smaller retailers needing batch inventory counts but not doing shipping/receiving, more like simple data entry and management. If you need a bit more functionality, like up-to-the-minute inventory updates, or you’re scanning shipping labels or the PDF barcode on a state ID, the MC2180 is the product for you.

Motorola ES400

June 1, 2011

Motorola Solutions have been trying to hit the mobile field sales/mobile manager crew for a while, with their last iteration being the MC35. Technology apparently didn’t meet their needs, because the 1 megapixel camera was woefully underpowered for good barcode scanning, and the device itself wasn’t exactly the fastest on the market. However, the fantastic price point and ability to freak out only a little after a whiskey spill made them a hot seller for us. Motorola’s new foray into this market, the ES400, is leaps and bounds above the MC35 and should be a great fit for mobile sales forces.

The first thing to note about the ES400 is that it’s just a little bigger than a Blackberry, so you can stuff it in a suit pocket and keep a smooth look. I feel my best when I look smooth, and I imagine I’d sell better if I looked smooth as well.

The ES400 is powered by a 600 MHz ARM 11 processor, with 256 MB of RAM and 1 GB of flash memory built in. If you need more storage, there’s a microSD slot that supports cards up to 32 GB. Slap some Foghat on that SD card and now you have tunes while you’re out on the road. You could also keep updated client data files, daily sales routes, and other assorted important data if you prefer.

Barcode scanning on the old MC35 was difficult for anything but standard UPC barcodes, and even then it was frustrating to find the sweet spot. The ES400 upgrades from a weak 1 megapixel imager to a 3.2 megapixel autofocus color camera, so reads are quick, reliable, and devoid of performance-based stress on part of the user. It also sports a user-adjustable red LED aiming beam, so you can get a better idea of the optimal reading area.

All models come with GPS, 802.11, and Bluetooth radios, as well as a soft-switch GSM and CDMA cell radio. So now rather than hauling a Garmin, work phone, and mobile computer, you can take the ES400 and have it in one small device. The soft-switch between GSM and CDMA is pretty rad; you get greater coverage than with just one of the networks, making it easier to get route updates on the road. Although I guess now you have no excuse for a midday nap when you’re “out of coverage”.

I’ve talked up a lot of what makes it great, but there are some sacrifices made. Unlike it’s burlier MC55/MC65/MC75 cousins, the ES400 is not durable enough to withstand really abusive behavior. But again, this is for a mobile sales force, not field service employees. The drop spec is a resistance to drops of 3 feet, so slipping out of a pocket isn’t too big a deal. It’s also not quite as well sealed, with just an IP42 seal specification. The odd splash here or there, or maybe a little dirt on the device could be okay, but I definitely wouldn’t use this in a car wash. Though I would like to see an advertising campaign involving high end durable products being used in extreme circumstances. Or a Moto rep trying to scan car VINs while they’re getting washed.

So if you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive way to capture data on the road, or even within your business, the Motorola ES400 is a smart choice. It comes with a one year warranty, and is a great step between consumer phones and heavy duty mobile computers.

Motorola Mobile Computers

February 4, 2011

In the past couple years, Motorola’s moved from the very different MC50 and MC70 mobile computers, now offering the MC55, MC65, and MC75. And while they look relatively similar, there’s a bigger difference between them than one being ten more than the other.

MC55: The MC55 is kind of the entry level mobile computer in terms of features, but is still a great fit for inventory management or data collection “within the four walls.” I’m really feeling comfortable with corporate jargon, so to translate, the MC55 has WiFi and Bluetooth communications capabilities, but lacks cell phone radios.

You also get the option of the laser barcode scanner or the 2D imager, so you can trim down costs by getting a unit that just has what you need and that’s it. There’s also an optional camera if you happen upon the ultimate there I fixed it situation and must capture it.

MC65: Of the three, the MC65 is the most versatile. You get the Bluetooth, you get the WiFi, but you also get a soft-switch cellular radio in there. So you can switch between CDMA or GSM networks without having to swap cards or reboot the mobile computer. Now even if you’re in the boonies, you have a good chance of getting enough bars to order a pizza.

The MC65 is a little stronger than the MC55 as well, able to survive bigger drops and dirtier environments. You also get a faster processor and more RAM, so loading apps or searching databases is a little snappier.

These units all come with the Blockbuster 2D imager, which I’ve mentioned as being the bee’s knees previously. It’s a fast scanner, I can see why it’s going into most of Motorola’s new products.

MC75: As the beastly big brother of the lineup, the MC75 beats out the other two in terms in of raw performing power. You can get a cell phone radio in the MC75, but unlike the MC65 you have to choose a single network.

Like the MC55, the MC75 comes with either a 1D laser barcode scanner or blockbuster 2D imager built in, and the option of a camera. The wide variety of MC75 options lets you pick the model that has the features you need & little else, saving you some cash.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the major differences between the product lines.

Product MC55 MC65 MC75
Durability IP54, 5′ Drops IP64, 6′ drops IP54, 5′ drops
Cell Network None GSM and CDMA GSM or CDMA
Scanner Laser or Imager Imager Laser or Imager
RAM 128 MB 256 MB 256 MB
Processor 520 MHz 600 MHz 800 MHz

So not only is the MC75 twenty better than the MC55, it’s better suited for high demand computing, field mobility, and applications that have very specific requirements. The MC65 is the one-size-fits-all option for mobile computing, and the MC55 fits at home within your business for data capture.

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