I’m often asked for recommendations on mobile devices for proof of delivery applications and handheld data collection. If you’re looking at Motorola devices, most people need help choosing between MC55, MC75 and MC9090 devices.
This article will explain what you should consider when choosing mobile devices and will highlight real-life customer examples for field data capture and proof of delivery applications.
Before we start with criteria, it is important to understand what features you need today as well as in the future. With rugged devices, once you purchase the device, you cannot go back and add hardware options like a camera, GPS or Bluetooth. The devices we will discuss are:
- MC9090 (MC909x) – these are the largest and most rugged of the 3 models. They are supported on all carrriers (Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile) and have the broadest range of hardware options. These are the most expensive devices.
- MC75 – these are mid-sized devices that Motorola targets for proof of delivery, field data capture and barcode solutions.
- MC55 – this is the newest member of the family, has a slightly lower level of rugged design and size than MC75’s. It is the least expensive.
Questions and Criteria
You should narrow your hardware choice by asking the following questions.
Do you need cellular data? If so, what cellular carrier do you use and do you know what the data coverage is in your territories?
- The reason for this is simple – some territories like the North East are completely owned by a carrier (Verizon). If someone wants T-Mobile or AT&T coverage, they need to check or consider changing carriers.
- The MC55 is not currently supported on Verizon, so the choice is between an MC75 and MC9000. All devices support GSM networks (e.g. T-Mobile and AT&T).
- Do you want want device to cover international or outside of North America? If so, you will need to only consider GSM.
If you need cellular data, are you going to do anything that requires 3G/3.5G or faster networking?
- Most customers don’t know the answer to this but the question becomes more clear if you are:
- Taking pictures – picture size can be adjusted on the mobile device, but a reasonable quality color picture would be approximately 1Mb or larger.
- Downloading large files, such as site plans, MSDS sheets or merchandising plan-o-grams for proof of delivery apps.
- The more pictures and files, the more you should consider a 3G device such as the MC75. Occasional picture takers could get by with a 2.5G connection on an MC55.
Do you need to take pictures? If so, do you need high quality color pictures or can they be black and white?
- This might seem like an odd question, but someone who delivers furniture or cabinets would want a higher quality color camera so they could take pictures that capture the details of a scratch. Technicians doing utility meter installations need to take pictures of meters to confirm the initial meter reading. These can be black and white and therefore can be done with the 2D imager (scanner) versus a separate camera. Smaller black and white photos are good quality on the 2D imager and are usually about 30kb in size. The 2D imager is NOT an autofocus camera though. If you need to take longer range pictures such as a utility pole, you would need a separate camera.
- Using the 2D imager for pictures is okay; however if you need pictures we are recommending getting a device with a separate scanner AND camera versus using the scanner for pictures. A separate camera keeps your options open – once you purchase a mobile device you cannot change the configuration (such as adding a camera). For close up pictures the 2D imager is okay, but not for higher quality or long range.
- If you need pictures, you could use either the MC55 or MC75 as they both have the option to have a separate barcode scanner AND camera. The MC70 and MC9000x models do not not have this option.
Do you need GPS?
- GPS is typically used to:
- Mark where a delivery was made for Proof of Delivery. This can be done behind the scenes and is important when delivering to larger retailers like Home Depot, Wal-Mart or Lowes. Mapping tools geocode at the street address; however, deliveries are usually made at the back of the store which can be many hundred yards away. If you want to know when a driver breaks a geofence and arrived at the delivery point, you would want to get the GPS the mobile device to geocode the customer. Another example is deliveries to new subdivisions – these are not yet on maps and navigating by GPS is easier for subsequent trips.
- For GPS tracking and navigation. Many customers use truck mounted GPS systems, but these don’t provide graphical navigation. Handheld devices have multiple tracking and navigation options so delivery drivers can have their list of orders on the handheld and tap the order to get on-screen navigation.
- For meter installations or other field device installations such as oil field equipment, you may need to capture GPS coordinates at the point of service. Note that if you need sub-meter accuracy, you will need to get an external GPS unit or do post-processing.
- We recommend getting GPS on devices even if you don’t need it now. One company purchased 250 devices without GPS – they did not want the additional expense with their purchase. When they picked up a new line of business, it required them to dispatch the closest driver, so they had to add an external GPS solution which was more expensive than purchasing GPS on the device.
- Both the MC55 and MC75 have GPS as an option. MC9000 devices generally don’t have GPS except through external adapters.
Do you need serial port connections on the device or in the vehicle mount?
- The MC55 is targeted at basic route accounting users.The MC55 vehicle cradle does not have a built-in serial port. Examples of where this applies are: serial cable connection to the vehicle GPS or JBus (vehicle diagnostics), fuel delivery meters or external communication devices.
- The MC75 and MC9000 vehicle cradles have a built-in serial port. Their cradle is more expensive than the MC55 cradle by approximately $100-200.
Do you need barcode scanning?
- All devices support barcode scanning. The only decision is whether you need 1D/2D or long-range.
- 2D scanners can be helpful if you have barcodes that may get dirty or damaged. Examples of this include plant nurseries where 2D barcodes may be easier to read due to dirt on the barcode label.
- Long range scanners can scan barcodes up to 40′ away. Long range scanners are only available on the MC909x platform. Examples of long range scanning would be scanning the barcode at the top of a warehouse rack from a forklift.
Do you need RFID?
- If you need RFID, your only option is an MC9090. Note that RFID enabled devices are significantly more expensive.
Do you have specific ruggedness requirements? Will you be dealing with harsh environments?
- The MC9000 is the most rugged device. It has the best drop spec (6′ to concrete) and the best IP (intrusion protection) rating.
- The MC75 is plenty rugged and designed for field delivery applications (5′ to concrete).
- The MC55 is close to, but not as rugged as the MC75. It is designed for the field but not for harsh environments.
- Examples of harsher environments would be where you work outside in the rain or dirt – such as oil field services, agriculture or bulk product delivery such as fuel, lubes, chemicals or fertilizer to tanks outside.
What size keypad do you need? What type of input will the keypad be used for? Do you need a pistol grip?
- The MC55 and MC75 both have similar sized keypads. They are larger than a BlackBerry but the size of the device shell is fixed.
- The MC9000 comes in a short version (MC9090S), a long version (MC9090K) and a gun/pistol grip (MC9090G). The keypads on MC9000’s are larger than the MC75 or MC55. If drivers use gloves (such as fuel delivery) then it would be worth comparing the MC9000 to the MC75.
- If you perform a lot of scanning, you should consider a pistol grip, which is only available on the MC9000.
So which device is right for you? The following highlights examples of using each type of device.
MC9090 – Bulk bleach manufacturer with 8 plants in 5 states. This customer receives bleach in rail cars and then distributes to pool supply companies, municipal water treatment facilities, paper manufacturers, etc. The bleach is loaded at the plant and the driver starts their day by scanning a barcode label on the truck (tractor), trailer and delivery ticket. They weigh the truck on an industrial truck scale and wirelessly receive the truck weight to calculate the volume of product on the truck. The driver makes deliveries to a set of customers and scans the delivery ticket, product, etc and records product quantities in each tank. The customer signs the device for proof of delivery and then prints a receipt on mobile Zebra RW420 printers. When drivers return to the plant, the driver scans and weighs again to calculate remaining volume. Once at the plant, deliveries are sent wirelessly to the goRoam server for processing and export for invoicing.
- This customer selected MC9000’s because they needed the most rugged device, a large numeric keypad, a larger battery to power the wifi since they use wifi for roaming throughout the plant to load products, and because they wanted a larger device so it was easier for the driver to keep track of it.
MC75 – HazMat pickup and disposal for large retailers, oil change shops, car dealers, etc. across 30 states. These drivers receive routes/stops through cellular communications while on the road. The drivers go to each stop and pickup one or many HazMat containers (waste oil, paint, chemicals, etc.). They place a barcode on the container (by hazmat product type) and record the contents of each container. This can involve a reasonable amount of data capture through the touch-screen on the handheld device as they have to complete different mobile forms depending on the pickup. Once complete, the customer signs for electronic signature capture/proof of pickup.
- This customer selected the MC75 because they wanted a mid-sized device that would be easy for the driver to carry but would be rugged enough to be around hazardous materials and heavier equipment that might bang around or have the device dropped. They needed 3G network speeds to facilitate image capture. GPS is done on the vehicle but can also be captured on the handheld.
MC55 – Door-to-door surveys and canvassing on a large scale. This customer canvasses homeowners and businesses. They complete field data surveys that may contain 300-750 questions, although not all are required to be answered. When a homeowner or business needs a survey completed, the field personnel scan a barcode and take 1 or more high-quality pictures per site. They take a GPS reading and possibly make a drawing on the device to show the site. Once complete, the homeowner signs the device for proof of delivery/electronic signature capture and a receipt is automatically emailed.
- This customer evaluated the MC55 and MC75, but selected the MC55 because it was less expensive. They determined they did not need the ruggedness of the MC75 or the 3G network speed since the pictures would queue and sync in the background. They wanted the smallest/lightest device since the device would be carried all day by the field personnel.