By: Conrad H. Blickenstorfer
Ruggedness – A voluntary testing
Ruggedized mobile computing gear costs more than standard consumer technology, but in the long run, it often costs less. That’s because rugged computers don’t break down as often, they last longer, and there isn’t as much downtime. What that means is that despite the higher initial purchase price, the total cost of ownership of rugged equipment is often lower.
That, however, only works if ruggedized products indeed don’t break down as often, indeed last longer, and indeed do not cause as much downtime. Ruggedness, therefore, isn’t just a physical thing. It’s an inherent value, an implied promise of quality and durability. And that makes ruggedness testing so important.
Interestingly, ruggedness testing is entirely voluntary. While computers must pass stringent electrical testing before they can be sold, ruggedness testing isn’t officially required anywhere. It isn’t regulated. Electrical testing makes sure a computer adheres to standards, will not interfere with other equipment, and meet a wide range of other requirements. Why not ruggedness?
It’s probably because electric interference can affect third-party equipment and systems, and possibly do harm, whereas ruggedness “only” affects the customer. And it’s also because unlike electrical interference standards that are absolutes, the degree of ruggedness required depends on the intended application. In that sense, the situation is similar to the automotive field where there are strict governmental testing requirements for safety and emissions (which affect third parties) but not for performance, comfort or handling (which only affect the customer).