Zebra DNA
By Rob Armstrong | August 26, 2021

Ever Wonder Why Zebra Mobile Computers, Scanners or Printers are Just Easier to Deploy, Manage and Use Than Others? Or Why They Last Longer?

It’s because app developers, IT teams, front-line workers, and operations managers can easily unlock Zebra DNA, a unique suite of software capabilities engineered into every Zebra device to keep them in their prime through every stage of life.

Behind every great piece of hardware is an even better set of software tools. At least here at Zebra.

That's why the average Zebra rugged mobile computer, tablet or scanner will live with its original owner at least five-to-seven years – and why printers tend to hang around for twice that long. (Especially thermal printers.) It’s also why customers have been able to implement new Zebra-powered mobility, scanning or printing solutions in healthcare, retail, supply chain, manufacturing, and field environments in a matter of days – and workers have felt comfortable using them on day one.

They all have Zebra DNA: a set of software applications, utilities and tools that make great mobile devices, printers and scanners best-in-class solutions.

In fact, I don’t know if we would have been able to help our partners and public healthcare officials in Europe set up a 4,000-bed emergency field hospital in just nine days in the first wave of the pandemic last summer without Zebra DNA!

And I know some of Zebra’s legacy Android™ handheld mobile computers are still running strong in warehouses, factories and retail stores around the world today because our customers were able to unlock Zebra DNA as needed to upgrade and secure them time and again. (Yes, I’m talking KitKat’s, Lollipops and Marshmallows that have had their desserts and lifecycles extended and still haven’t reached retirement.)

If it seems hard to fathom that a device’s software “DNA” is the key to prolonged (data) security, continuous (workflow) growth, and a long, productive (device) life, I get it. Many customers will tell us they feel like they’re having to replace devices from other consumer or enterprise device manufacturers every year or two to keep up with business demands – or that it can sometimes take that long to get their core solutions fully onboarded and optimized. Some find that devices are never fully utilized because they’re just too hard to figure out. So, if all of these issues can be averted just by improving the software, you would think they wouldn’t be issues at all.

But it’s not that simple. It takes a lot of time and a strong commitment to fully unlock one’s DNA. It has taken us 50+ years to get Zebra DNA where it is today, and we’re still introducing new tools (and improving upon the existing ones) that will help you get the most out of your device investment through every stage of its lifecycle. But every bit of time and money spent on developing Zebra DNA is worth it because we know it’s this software that makes Zebra devices best in class. If you are looking for a software application you can trust to help you manage your inventory, dispatch service tickets, track pick-up and delivery operations in the field, streamline the collection of specimens in a medical facility, or fulfill online orders from your store, we have an unmatched solution partner and ISV partner ecosystem to meet those needs.  But if you are wondering if the hardware you are going to deploy these software applications on is going to be “up to the task” and able to adapt, sustain and evolve as your business grows and your needs evolve in the future, that’s where Zebra DNA has you covered.

The Software Giving Your Hardware a Second (or Third) Life

When we say Zebra rugged mobile computers, tablets, barcode scanners and printers are built to last, we mean it. Not just because the devices are extremely resilient or equipped with features that give your workflows room to grow. The software driving those devices – Zebra DNA – has also been designed to keep them running like they were brand new, throughout every stage of the device’s lifecycle, even as they age or find a new purpose in life.

We have committed decades to researching and developing Zebra DNA. We’ve run thousands of simulations and studied even more real-world use cases to understand the journey each Zebra device will take once it leaves our manufacturing facilities and warehouses. Each time we sit down to create a new piece of hardware, we want to know:

  • how it will be integrated and used in your factories or warehouses.
  • what its life will look like if spent in the field, an office or a vehicle. 
  • what it could experience if employed in a retail store or restaurant where several different people will come into contact with it each day.
  • how hard it will need to work to be truly valued.
  • whether it will need to be good at one thing or many to fulfill its purpose in life.
  • how your team’s interactions will change with the hardware over time, and what type of software you might want to add at some point.
  • what threats it could face both from a physical and digital perspective.
  • how we can better prepare it to adapt to a changing world.
  • what it will take to keep it fully energized.

That’s why we’re constantly calling to find out what life is like in your world – why we spend days shadowing your front-line teams (virtually, if we have to). We know the devices we’re building are a lifeline for your business and you’ll increasingly depend on them to keep up with customer demand, especially as your business is pushed past its limits. We believe in our core that every modern hardware purchase is a software decision in disguise.

The mobile device, printer or scanner hardware alone is not the solution to your business challenges. It is part of the solution. A device doesn’t tell you what’s happening in your business and why, or what you need to do about it. Nor does it tell you step-by-step how to fix something. The software running on that device does. It’s how your front-line teams connect to back-end systems to maintain a two-way flow of information. Software is what helps workers be self-sufficient and productive so they can make customers happier and find greater satisfaction in what they do.

That’s where Zebra DNA comes in.

Today, there are more than 50 different Zebra DNA tools and solutions embedded in your Zebra handheld mobile computers, tablets, wearables, scanners and printers – all ready to be unlocked whenever you need them. These tools are what make it easy for you to:

  • deploy, recover and update Zebra devices.
  • integrate new workflow-related software and apps.
  • reconfigure devices for new users and applications.
  • monitor devices, manage performance and maintain proper connections.
  • identify potential security vulnerabilities and lockdown devices using several different mechanisms.

Each is optimized for the devices in which they support, which is why you might hear them more commonly referred to as part of our Mobility DNA, Print DNA or DataCapture DNA. (And several of them are free!) Though I could probably write a novel about all the cool things you can do with these tools, I’ll keep it simpler today.

How Zebra DNA Makes Your Team’s Life a Lot Easier

App developers love to come up with new software solutions that make workers’ jobs easier. But they are tired of rewriting code for different mobile computing, printing and scanning devices. So, we’ve given them a way to write an app once and apply it across multiple device platforms. We’ve made it just as effortless to customize and integrate print apps.

Resolve app development challenges

IT teams, like app developers, are problem solvers. Yet, they can’t spend all day only troubleshooting issues. They must get new users up and running, make sure all devices in the field are working optimally, and keep both devices and networks secure. Any one of those things could be a full-time job. So, it’s our job to make it all more manageable. That’s where Zebra DNA tools come in. 

Alleviate IT headaches

Operations managers lean on technology to simplify new hire training, keep tabs on business performance and find out why things aren’t working like they should. So, we’ve given them Zebra DNA tools that will deliver fast answers to their most burning questions and ensure the right people make it to the right place at the right time to keep things running smoothly. 

Overcome operational challenges

Front-line workers may have to share devices, but they need to be able to personalize the user experience if they are to be truly productive. Zebra DNA makes that easy. It also makes it easier for workers to be self-sufficient as individuals and teams, so they don’t have to lean so heavily on IT or operations managers to resolve issues. 

Lift worker productivity

And, at the end of the day, everyone benefits from the safety and security provided by Zebra DNA. This intuitive software makes it easy to…

  • protect Zebra devices against cyber threats. With Zebra LifeGuard, you can extend operating system (OS) security updates in some cases for up to 10 years past their original expiration date. And Zebra’s PrintSecure solution lets you secure printer connections to protect your data and infrastructure.
  • protect worker productivity. There are literally dozens of different tools built into each mobile computer, printer and scanner to help your team move smarter, faster and more efficiently so they don’t have to work harder to meet deadlines and keep customers happy – even if the devices they’re using are five-plus years old.
  • protect your investment. By prolonging the life of your devices, Zebra DNA helps reduce the burden on every single person in your organization responsible for procuring, maintaining and (responsibly) disposing of devices when they reach end of life.

(If you were wondering how companies could feel comfortable using first generation Android devices today, this is it!)

We Want to Be Your Partner for Life

Your Zebra devices are primed to live a long life. However, they will have to undergo a lot of changes as time passes to fulfill their purpose. We may not know what that will be a year from now. But we do know that, on any given day, there are a hundred reasons why a Zebra device will need to be configured, connected, deployed, used, or maintained in a novel way. There are a million more reasons why your team might have to rush to get a new app built, turn on a new feature or get thousands of new workers onboarded in a matter of weeks to push through a seasonal demand surge.

We’re doing all we can to make sure the Mobility DNA, Print DNA and DataCapture DNA tools built into your Zebra devices enable you to keep up with business demands, stay ahead of bad actors, and do more good within your industry and community.


Editor’s Note:

If you’d like to learn more about how Zebra DNA tools can help you prepare your devices and team for the road ahead, visit our website or watch this video:

Energy and Utilities, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Warehouse and Distribution, Innovative Ideas, Transportation and Logistics, Inside Zebra Nation, Retail, Field Operations, Hospitality, Public Sector,
Rob Armstrong
Rob Armstrong

Robert (Rob) Armstrong became Chief Marketing Officer, Zebra Technologies in March 2023. Rob has nearly 20 years of experience in the B2B technology sector and joined Zebra in 2014. 

Throughout his career, he has held various go-to-market leadership roles, most recently serving as Zebra’s Senior Vice President of Integrated Marketing & Channels. In this role, Rob oversaw go-to-market strategy and downstream marketing execution for the full Zebra portfolio, inclusive of customer segment, product, and digital marketing; channel and brand strategies; media relations; pricing; and analytics. During this time, he led a diverse, high-performing team of marketing and channel professionals to drive preference globally and evolve the perception of the Zebra brand in over 100 countries in collaboration with more than 10,000 partners in Zebra’s growing channel ecosystem. 

Prior to joining Zebra, Rob held various global and regional roles across product development, business development, operations, and marketing at Motorola Solutions, including assignments in Asia Pacific and Europe. Rob has a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame, and he currently serves as a board member for Bernie’s Book Bank and FIRST Illinois Robotics.

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