Updated rugged multi-purpose mobile computer for data capture with voice and RFID support (by Conrad Blickenstorfer)
Note: On December 10, 2012, Intermec announced that it will be acquired by Honeywell. [See Intermec press release]
On October 29, 2012, Intermec announced what it called the Next Generation Series of the Intermec CK3 rugged mobile computer, consisting of the CK3X and CK3R. The CK3X is optimized for warehouse operations and is the natural migration option from the existing CK3B, while the CK3R is optimized for light industrial and retail front of store applications.
The original Intermec CK3 rugged mobile computer was announced in September of 2008 as an addition to Intermec's lineup of rugged CN and CK Series mobile computers. The CK3 platform was designed as a highly adaptable data and image capturing design with various capture methods and secure wireless communications capabilities. The device is was initially targeted at warehouse operations and retail, though it was suitable for tasks well beyond that.
Whereas many mobile computers are specifically designed for narrowly defined tasks, the CK3 platform combines a wide variety of capabilities and features into one device: barcode scanning, WiFi with Cisco CCX certification, Voice over IP support, speech recognition, integrated Bluetooth, RFID reader option, handheld or "gun" formats, remote device management, and support for various compatible Intermec mobile printers.
Built to survive fairly severe punishment and environmental conditions, the CK3 is a compact and handy machine with a footprint of 3.3 x 8.5 inches, a thickness of about an inch and a half, and a weight of around one pound. Size and weight differ a bit depending on whether you use the standard 7.4 watt-hour battery (standard on the CK3R) or the heftier 18.5 watt-hour battery (standard on the CK3X). No anticipated battery life is listed.
The devices run Microsoft Windows Embedded Handheld, which is built on Windows Mobile 6.5.3, and can also take advantage of Intermec's new HTML5 Browser that's available as a download. What has changed is the processor. The once ubiquitous Marvell PXA270 processor has been replaced with a 1GHz TI OMAP chip. RAM and ROM have been bumped up as well. There is still a microSD slot for memory expansion and a portrait-oriented 3.5-inch display that retains the old 240 x 320 pixel resolution for compatibility's sake, but it's now a transmissive insead of a transflective screen.
The new CK3s come with an integrated Class 2 Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR module as well as 802.11 WiFi, compatible with Cisco CCXv4 and cetrified for WPA and WPA2 security.
Scanning remains one of the CK3 Series' strongest sides. But whereas the original CK3 was available with one of three scanners, the new CK3R comes with the newly introduced EA31 imaging engine for 1D and 2D code scanning operations and support for omni-directional scanning, whereas the also new CK3X offers the choice of integrated area imagers for standard range (EA30) or near/far range (EX25) scanning.
What are the differences between the CK3X and the CK3R? Design and underlying technology are largely the same, but there are a number of spec differences, with the CK3X clearly being the high-end model. The 3X comes with the larger battery, twice the Flash (1GB vs. 512MB), dual-band WiFi instead of single band, audio support (VoIP, VoCollect Voice, Push-to-Talk), optional RFID, and it includes an accelerometer and an ambient light sensor.
Overall, the two new models represent technological updates to four-year-old platform that remains useful and did not need to be replaced with something totally new. The OMAP processors should provide a good deal of extra speed, and there's now a clear differentiation between the lower and the higher end model, which means that customers who do not need the advanced capabilities do not have to pay for them.
Below is an informational video on the Intermec CK3R and CK3X: