What Is Mobile Computing?

From a far distance, a warehouse employee scans a barcode on a pallet positioned at a great height using a Zebra mobile touch computer.

Mobile computers are strong, durable devices that can be taken anywhere. It is specially made to be tough so it can be used in all sorts of environments, indoors and outdoors. Mobile computing devices can be used by employees inside the enterprise or out on the road, mounted on a forklift or in a long-haul truck, worn on the arm of a warehouse worker and even tablets with large screens ideal for customer assistance roles.

Mobile computers are rugged and enterprise-class devices with extensive wireless communications options and advanced data capture capabilities that allow mobile, on-the-go workers to exchange real-time, business-critical information whenever and wherever it’s needed. These devices have built-in systems that let them connect to the internet or other devices wirelessly. They can use Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, which means they can send and receive data or information easily.

These devices can gather and process different types of data. For example, they can scan barcodes and read radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. This ability is particularly useful in many industries such as stores, warehouses, delivery services and hospitals where it's important to gather and send data quickly and efficiently.

Mobile computers are often called enterprise-class devices because they're made for big companies. They have strong processing power, a lot of memory and clear screens, which means they can run complex apps and tasks. They're also tougher than regular consumer devices, so they can handle rough conditions like dust, water and extreme heat or cold.

These devices are important because they allow workers to access and update important business information in real time, no matter where they are. This can lead to better decision-making, improved work efficiency and better customer service. In simple terms, mobile computers are like super-smartphones that can do a lot more and are made to be used anywhere, anytime for business purposes.

Enterprises of all sizes are embracing mobile solutions across almost all functions of their operations. They view mobility as a strategic benefit and are seeking broader applications across more functions.

What Are Mobile Computing Applications?

Mobile computing applications are generally specific to businesses and their pain points. Below are some examples of industries where mobility solutions can be used effectively.

Energy and Utilities

A mobility solution can be used to help a utility customer maintain their powerlines. Let's imagine a utility company that provides electricity to consumers. They have numerous power lines spread across a wide area. These power lines need regular maintenance and inspection. Traditionally, a worker would have to manually inspect each power line and then go back to the office to log the results. With a mobile computer, this process can be significantly streamlined. The worker can input the data directly into the mobile computing device while they're at the site. This data could include the condition of the power line, any necessary repairs, etc.

The mobile computer can be equipped with specific applications tailored for the utility industry. For example, it could have an application that helps workers identify potential issues with the power lines, such as wear and tear or damage from weather. It could also have a GPS application that helps workers navigate to the exact location of each power line. Also, because the device has internet connectivity, the data that the worker inputs can be immediately sent back to the office in real time. This allows for quicker decision-making. For instance, if a power line is found to be damaged, a repair team can be dispatched right away.

The mobile computer can also be used for communication. If the worker encounters a problem or needs assistance, they can quickly call or message their supervisor using the device. Mobile computers can help utility workers maintain powerlines by making the inspection and maintenance process more efficient, accurate and timely.


A manufacturer can gain visibility into their work in process and quality metrics in their factories.

  1. Real-Time Data Collection: Mobile computers can be used to collect data in real-time from various stages of the manufacturing process. This data can then be analyzed to provide insights into the efficiency and effectiveness of the production process. This can help manufacturers identify bottlenecks, inefficiencies, or issues that need to be addressed.

  2. Quality Control: These mobile computers come with built-in scanners that can be used to scan barcodes or QR codes on products or components. This can help in tracking the quality of the products at each stage of the manufacturing process. If a defect is identified, the manufacturer can quickly trace back to the stage where the defect occurred and take corrective action.

  3. Improved Efficiency: With a mobile computer, data can be captured and accessed quickly, reducing the time spent on manual data entry or searching for information. This can greatly improve the efficiency of the manufacturing process.

  4. Better Decision Making: The real-time data and insights provided by these mobile computers can help manufacturers make informed decisions. They can identify trends, track performance and make changes to their processes or strategies based on real, actionable data.

  5. Enhanced Communication: Mobile computers also facilitate better communication among the staff. They can be used to send and receive messages, assign tasks, update work status, etc., which can improve coordination and productivity.

Mobile computers can help manufacturers optimize their processes, improve quality control, make data-driven decisions and enhance communication among staff, resulting in increased productivity and profitability.

Transportation and Logistics

It can provide a postal company with an easy and reliable way of providing proof that packages have been delivered to the right address.

  1. Real-Time Tracking: The mobile computer can track the delivery status of packages in real time. It could be integrated with GPS technology, which allows the postal company to know exactly where the package is at any given time. This can help eliminate disputes about where a package is or when it was delivered.

  2. Signature Capture: When a package is delivered, the recipient can sign directly on the mobile computer's touchscreen. This digital signature is then stored and linked with the specific delivery record. This serves as proof that the package was indeed delivered to the right address and received by the right person.

  3. Barcode Scanning: Packages can be labeled with barcodes, which the mobile computer can scan upon delivery. This confirms that the correct package has been delivered to the correct address. The scanning process also automatically updates the package's status in the postal company's system as "delivered," providing an additional layer of proof.

  4. Data Synchronization: All the data collected by the mobile computer, including delivery time, GPS coordinates and signatures, can be synchronized with the postal company's central system. This allows for easy access and retrieval of delivery records whenever needed.

  5. Higher Efficiency: By automating the proof of delivery process, the mobile computer eliminates the need for paper records, which can be lost or damaged. This not only makes the process more efficient but also more accurate and reliable.

Mobile computers can offer a comprehensive solution for logistics companies to track their packages and provide indisputable proof of delivery.


It can help a retailer increase revenues by enabling their managers to be mobile in the store to help customers. In a retail setting, the traditional method of doing things involves customers finding items themselves and then waiting in line at a fixed point-of-sale (POS) terminal to make a purchase. This can often be time-consuming and less efficient, especially during peak hours.

Mobile computers can change this. Equipped with advanced barcode scanning, payment processing and strong computing capabilities, these devices allow retail managers and employees to move around the store freely. This mobility is beneficial in several ways:

  1. Improved Customer Service: Being able to carry the POS system in their hands, retail managers can assist customers right where they are. They can quickly scan items for price checks, check stock availability and even complete transactions on the spot. This personalized service can enhance the shopping experience, leading to customer satisfaction and loyalty.

  2. Increased Sales Opportunities: With mobile computers, managers can easily identify upselling or cross-selling opportunities. For example, while helping a customer with a purchase, they can suggest related products or services based on the customer's preferences or purchase history.

  3. Efficient Inventory Management: Mobile computers can help track inventory in real-time. Managers can scan items to update inventory records instantly, reducing the risk of stock-outs or overstocking. Accurate inventory data can also inform better purchasing decisions, leading to cost savings.

  4. Streamlined Operations: Mobile computers can help automate and speed up many store operations. For example, they can quickly process returns, exchanges and refunds, reducing wait times and improving customer service.

  5. Data Insight: These devices can also collect valuable data about customer behavior and store performance. Managers can use this data to identify trends, make informed decisions and implement strategies that can increase revenues.

Mobile computers can transform a retailer's operations, making them more efficient, customer-friendly and profitable.


It can help to reduce medical errors in hospitals and securely update medical records at the bedside.

  1. Real-Time Data Access: Mobile computers provide real-time access to data. This feature is crucial in a medical setting where immediate access to a patient's medical history, allergies, lab results, etc., can mean the difference between a correct or erroneous treatment decision.

  2. Barcode Scanning: These mobile computing devices come equipped with barcode scanning capabilities. In a hospital, patients wear wristbands with barcodes that contain their unique IDs. By scanning the barcode, healthcare providers can instantly access a patient's medical records, reducing the risk of errors like medication mix-ups or mistaken patient identities.

  3. Data Entry: Mobile computers allow bedside data entry, enabling healthcare providers to update medical records on the spot. This minimizes the risk of forgetting or misrecording information, which can lead to medical errors.

  4. Security: Mobile computers can have robust security features that protect sensitive patient information. Data encryption, user authentication and secure networks ensure that medical records are updated and accessed only by authorized personnel, minimizing the risk of data breaches.

  5. Portability: Mobile computing devices are portable, meaning they can be carried from room to room, allowing for immediate record updates and quick access to crucial patient information. This saves time and resources, as healthcare providers don't need to return to a central station to update records or access information.

  6. Durability: Mobile computers are designed for use in demanding environments like hospitals. They are built to withstand drops, spills and frequent cleaning, ensuring they remain functional and reliable.

  7. Connectivity: Mobile computing devices can easily connect to hospital systems and other devices, allowing for seamless data sharing and coordination among healthcare providers. This can reduce the risk of miscommunication or information gaps that could lead to medical errors.

Mobile computers serve as a valuable tool in a healthcare environment, offering a combination of real-time data access, security, portability and durability that can significantly reduce medical errors and enhance patient care.


It can ensure that students and faculty have information at their fingertips to enhance not only their learning environment but also their safety. For faculty, these mobile computers can streamline various administrative tasks. For instance, they can use the device to take attendance, update student records, communicate with parents, plan lessons, etc. This can save a significant amount of time and effort, allowing them to focus more on teaching.

In terms of safety, mobile computers can be equipped with various features to enhance security in schools. For instance, they can be integrated with security cameras and other surveillance systems to monitor school premises. They can also be used for emergency communication - in case of an incident, faculty can immediately alert students and other staff members, and vice versa.

In addition, these devices are built to withstand rough handling and harsh conditions and offer long battery life. They can also be easily sanitized, which is an important consideration in today's context.

What Factors Influence the Selection and Configuration of Mobile Computing Devices for Different Work Environments?

Applications for the workforce include those who work in the back-of-house like warehouse and inventory personnel, those in the front-of-house who are more customer-facing like store clerks and managers and those who work in the field like service technicians, sales reps and drivers.

Each working environment places requirements on mobile computing devices. When you look at ruggedness requirements, back-of-house workers are typically in a harsher environment with concrete floors, dust and dampness. They need rugged and often the most rugged devices whereas front-of-house workers usually have carpeted floors and conditioned air. Their need is for rugged to durable devices.

Field workers perform a large range of tasks in varying environments. For example, sales reps often call in on customers in office spaces where high drops onto concrete are unlikely, therefore devices on the lower end of the ruggedness scale are fine but for delivery workers, jumping in and out of trucks, using their devices while juggling packages, a maximum rugged device is required.

All mobile workers need access to enterprise data and most need voice communication between team members. For workers in either the back-of or front-of-house, devices that can simply connect to the enterprise’s WLAN will enable those functions.

Field workers must also have WLAN connectivity to send and receive mission-critical data while on the road. Often, field workers also need cellphone functionality, the ability to see the display screen in bright sunlight and the location services of GPS all in one device.

Lastly, the device form factor must be considered, larger gun-style devices work well for back-of-house workers but need to be scaled down for front-of-house workers. This goes even further for field workers, where many require a device that can fit in their pocket but still provide all the needed functionality.

Worker type and application considerations drive the selection and configuration of mobile computing devices.

What Are the Benefits of Mobile Computing?

User Productivity

On average, employees are up to 14% more productive using mobile devices through a combination of reducing time spent in acquiring information needed on-the-job and increasing their time supporting customers.

IT Cost

IT operations cost reductions can account for up to 20% of the total savings gained by moving to mobile solutions. Changing the way mobile workers use IT can also greatly reduce the requirements for older IT infrastructure

Business Operations Cost

Enterprises are focused on automating business processes and increasing information distribution and flow – two improvements that mobile solutions help achieve

IT staff productivity

Consolidating mobile apps and communications onto one platform, reducing the number of devices used by employees and infrastructure enhancements brought by mobile solutions provide more time for IT staff to support other business activities.

Every day, the need for mobility is spreading through the enterprise into more business functions and workgroups and mobility enables the utmost efficiency, accuracy and accountability with real-time voice and data access delivered right at the point of business activity. Through the power of mobility, enterprises can put the tools of the desktop in the hands of mobile workers everywhere whether workers are inside the four walls or out in the field. Mobility will enable the completion of virtually any task right on the spot.

Efficiency and accuracy are maximized through real-time secured access to virtually any application, intranet and internet sites as well as real-time voice, minute data can flow easily through the enterprise in real-time, ultimately providing the information needed to ensure the right action is taken at the right time, every time.

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