Intermec CK71 Mobile Computer|
Ultra-rugged handheld terminal for warehousing, manufacturing, and similar applications
(by Conrad Blickenstorfer)
Note: On December 10, 2012, Intermec announced that it will be acquired by Honeywell. [See Intermec press release]
On January 11, 2011, Intermec announced the CN70 Series of ultra-rugged computers. The 70 Series initially includes four models, those being the CN70, the CN70e, the CK70, and the CK71 discussed in this article. The reason why Intermec offers four models addressing different applications and industries is what Intermec considers the advantages of a "common platform" approach: same architecture, same peripherals, same docks, same software builds, same technology. This can result in reduced complexity in deployment, updating, management, and also in lower total cost of ownership.
While the four models in the 70 Series address different markets and highlight different functionality, all share common core components:
- All are based on Microsoft Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 (see Microsoft's release on it), which is sort of a minor evolution of Windows Mobile 6.5.3.
- All use a 600MHz Texas Instruments OMAP 3530 processor, an ARM Cortex-A8 based chip that Intermec says provides 3X performance, but we're not sure compared to what.
- All have a 3.5-inch full-VGA 480x640 pixel touch display with LED backlight, light sensor, and Corning Gorilla Glass for vastly increased durability.
- All feature most impressive ruggedness specs, including a 6-foot drop spec, IP67 sealing, and a very wide -4 to 140 degree Fahrenheit operating temperature range.
- All include a 5-megapixel autofocus camera with flash, dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, advanced imaging options for just about any scanning application, accelerometer and digital compass, and VoIP and speech recognition support.
- Of note also a number of Intermec software management initiatives, such as INcontrol asset tracking, SmartSystem device health reporting, etc.
What's unique about the CK71?
The CK71 differs from the CN70/CN70e in using the larger handheld terminal form factor with larger keypads, and it differs from the CK70 (with which is shares the form factor) in available keypads and also in the availability of optional scanners for different types of scanning requirements. As such, the CK71 is designed for use in a variety of warehousing, manufacturing and similar environments.
Measuring 3.16 x 9.33 x 2.0 inches and weighing about 20 ounces, the CK71 can be ordered either the 59-key alpanumeric keypad with small, alpha keys, a separate numeric keypad and function keys (same as is available with the CK70), or a special 43-key keypad with a large numeric keypad and 12 function keys that can be programmed for rapid access to frequently used operations.
For scanning, the standard CK71 uses the EA30 high-performance motion-tolerant 2D Imager that features white LED illumination, a red laser aimer optimized for all lighting conditions, a 35 degree downward scan angle, and is capable of scanning all common 1D and 2D barcodes. However, it is also available with the EV12 1D imager that offers laser-like imaging with standard range (see EV12 spec page), and the EX25 Near/Far 2D imager with an extended scanning range of about half a foot all the way to 50 feet (see EX25 spec page).
There is also an integrated 5-megapixel auto-focus digital camera option with flash. When used with Intermec's eMDI software, the camera can capture standard paper documents and convert them into electronic files. There is also an embedded accelerometer used for screen rotation, system suspend, or developers can use it to provide input to custom apps.
On the wireless side, the CK71 has integrated Class II Bluetooth Version 2.1 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate), dual band 802.11a/b/g/n, and either UMTS/HSUPA or CDMA/EVDO Rev. A wireless WAN. There's also an integrated and network-independent 12-channel GPS.
The battery is a powerful 3.7 Volt/5,200 mAH (versus just 4,000 in the CN70/70e) Li-Ion rechargeable that, per Intermec, yields "the industry's longest battery life." Good thing, too, as VDC Research found that battery life ranks on top of features considered important by rugged handheld users.
It is not immediately clear what all the CK71 will replace in Intermec's product lineup. Judging by its specs, it seems to supercede the CK31ex and CK61ex and their variants, which are all roughly the same size and screen size, but are based on older processors and operating platforms, only have QVGA resolution, and are a bit less rugged. However, each of the older units may fill certain special purposes that have not yet been addressed by the new 70 Series. What is clear is that with the new CK71, Intermec has issued a technology refresh of the standard industrial compact handheld terminal, a device class where robust programmable keypad input matters more than smartphone-style interface technologies.