Drew Wilken
Drew Wilkengeneral manager, product & marketing, Kyocera International, Inc.

Making the Right Move with Mobile Devices

Put your days of shattered phone displays behind you. Rugged devices offer a lower total cost of ownership. Laura Black, editor of Constructech magazine, sits down with Drew Wilken, general manager, product & marketing, Kyocera International, Inc., www.kyoceramobile.com/business/, to discuss mobile devices in construction. They discuss hardware, software, and why rugged devices are so important in construction today.

Laura Black:
Let’s dive into the phones and the devices and talk about why rugged devices are so important in construction today?

Drew Wilken:
I think the core value of having a rugged device is really about reliability. If you think about the chance of the phone breaking in the field, that causes downtime for the business. It causes downtime for employees and really reduces their ability to do their jobs. The result of that is rugged devices on the jobsite have a TCO (total cost of ownership) 46% lower than non-rugged devices. We hear talk of TCO, but it’s really one of the most important points in terms of making a decision about which mobile device and platform to use. VDC Research shows that phones that are not rugged can be as much as three times more likely to fail.

Black:
The construction industry has relied on mobile phones for a number of years. Can you walk us through what’s really changed in the past few years?

Wilken:
I think we have seen a lot of innovation and change in the mobile phone industry in the 20-plus years that I’ve been involved. I think in recent years a lot of that has been about the advent of the software, all the applications, and value that’s added into the phone as it becomes more of a mobile computer.

Phones offer much more than just a device for making calls. They’re becoming more and more a tool for organizations to really be more productive. Part of our value is making that productivity move into the field—out into the space where other phones may not last and endure. We really see a lot of value with that. Innovation continues to occur, we can add more and more value.

Black:
You started talking about software. Let’s chat a little bit about that. What are some of the software companies that you partner with? How will this impact construction?

Wilken:
Certainly we focus on partnering with solution providers and I think it starts at the base level where we have our phones based on the world’s most popular and most widely used operating system, Android. That opens us up to an ecosystem of solutions and partners that (solve) lots of different problems for a lot of different industries. So even when you’re in construction, you know that things like tracking of employees and even the most basic functions of an organization are going to be covered in that ecosystem. So I think there’s a lot of value just at the base level, working with Android. As part of that larger ecosystem, we offer some unique applications within the phone that line up with the hardware. Such as a two-way radio or push-to-talk capability. So just like two-way radios or walkie-talkies, you can now use the cellular network to communicate even beyond what might have been the radio footprint before; now you can have LTE, high-quality voice really anywhere in the country, across multiple sites. Even if you have a construction buddy across the country, you can communicate with him very easily with the phone.

The first step for Kyocera was creating mobile devices that don’t just survive construction jobsites, but actually stay fully functional and keep people productive in those harsh environments. For individual workers, that may be all they need. For construction businesses, however, their needs go beyond just hardware; they need mobile solutions that solve challenges. That’s why Kyocera works with construction-specific app developers like busybusy, GoCanvas, and a variety of mobile device-management software developers. And completing these solutions, many of these applications are further enhanced by a range of partners like Stone Mountain and Wireless Pro Tech that make accessories to customize the use of the devices. That includes things like RSMs (remote speaker microphones), push-to-talk headsets, charging bays, etc. For Kyocera, making a rugged mobile phone is an essential first step, but we go beyond that to work with software and accessory partners that turn our rugged devices into true mobile solutions.

Black:
Looking specifically at rugged devices and consumer price points. Can you talk a little bit about that and the value there?

Wilken:
I think that’s one of the interesting things that we can offer together with our carrier partners. Carriers used to heavily subsidize the cost of phones for consumers. That’s changed recently, it’s less common for consumers to get subsidies, but it is still very common in business contracts to have a subsidized device. So again, that really helps us lower the total cost of ownership and they can get a very dependable device for a low price. I think another consequence, or another good outcome of that, is that they can utilize that extra money for their other mobile needs, like powerful apps and convenient accessories. So they can really focus on the solutions that they need, the accessories they need, to make that phone as useful and valuable in the field as possible.

Finally, I would say the way we look at that whole picture is like … our head of communications calls it a three-legged stool so you have the affordability of consumer pricing that speaks to the value of the device, the durability and the ruggedization so it will last a good long time, and then finally, the business-level performance from all the features and solutions we include. So the unique combination of those three things ensures that we have a very good overall value equation.

Black:
For a construction company, what would they really need to know when they’re considering purchasing a new device? So let’s talk a little bit about a comparison between rugged device and a consumer mobile device. What do construction teams really need to know there?

Wilken:
I think, first of all, you want a device that meets your needs so we take a combination again of having the right solutions, the right ruggedization so it’s always available and lasts, and then of course, bottomline is what we mentioned before, the total cost of ownership and value. If they can see that the rugged device increases their productivity, communication, and revenue and keeps their cost down, then that becomes the best option for them. And we really believe that’s the case with rugged phones, for most field operations especially.

Black:
And you talk about that total cost of ownership. Do you think really understanding that is going to be key?

Wilken:
I do and I think there’s some hidden costs there too. You start with basic things like the cost of replacing broken phones. But then you get into less obvious costs, like if you have a rugged device and you’re not going to have downtime, that impacts the home office or the dispatchers, and the other people that work with you as well. The home office or manager’s having to get devices replaced into the field and the IT organization is impacted, or whoever’s supporting you, is also impacted especially in medium and larger companies. I think downtime and total cost of ownership, all of that is the same equation. It really boils down to a device that meets your needs at the best value.

Black:
Absolutely. That’s a really important message that needs to be shared with the construction industry today. Can you share some of the features on your rugged devices?

Wilken:
We have both smartphones and basic feature phones out in the market that are ruggedized and really built for this purpose. One of the most basic things we do is really add that kind of rugged protection. We do a lot of standardized testing and certification to make sure that it meets the needs of field workers. We include IP testing for waterproof and dustproof and we have more than a dozen profiles for Military Standard 810G for things like vibration, extreme temperatures, drop and shock, and more. I mentioned earlier, device features like programmable, push-to-talk key, makes it possible to use for two-way communication or other solutions. We also focus on audio so we provide loudspeakers and noise-cancellation. We have security features like a fingerprint sensor. We have lots of third-party solutions, you asked earlier, so we have things like MDM, and timekeeping, mobile forms, all of these kind of solutions under third-party. One more device feature we have a unique capability with our touchscreen where you can use it with gloves. That’s a small thing that doesn’t get a lot of publicity but it’s really valuable to those in the field. Especially if it’s cold or if you need gloves for protection, you can still use the touchscreen, you can still use your applications.

Basic capabilities like the battery life, the processor, and platforms from Qualcomm, all of those things mean you have a good, solid device to go with the Android system too.

Black:
You mentioned push-to-talk. That’s really been fundamental in the construction industry for years. How have 4G LTE networks really boosted push-to-talk coverage? What are you really seeing with push-to-talk? How is it really evolving?

Wilken:
I think it’s something that has been evolving over time. Push-to-talk is great for construction because it allows convenient, walkie-talkie style communication between individuals or entire work crews. What used to be just a Nextel service is being offered by almost all carriers now, and the quality of the service has become excellent. High dependability, low latency, and very low cost. Now you can compare cellular push-to-talk to the traditional private land-mobile radio in the past where you required either a contract or your own private radio network. For multiple years now, there have been really strong PTT solutions developed for the cellular networks. Today’s 4G LTE networks improve the capability in terms of the voice quality, connection time, and the network overall is improving over time. And then finally something we’ve seen recently is those networks are starting to create gateways that let you combine cellular push-to-talk with existing LMR radio networks, which makes it very cost effective to expand the capacity of the radio network and add nationwide coverage. So if you have a land-mobile radio that works, you can create a gateway to Verizon or AT&T or carriers to crossover so your push-to-talk or your cellular solution can interact with a LMR radio even.

So that push-to-talk capability continues to expand and I think around that by having a smartphone in particular, you have a lot of other applications that can tie into it and support it.

Black:
So looking forward, what would you say is really your vision for the future of mobility in the construction industry?

Wilken:
We see that solutions are evolving and more and more companies, even construction and others, are looking to their mobile device as a management tool, as a productivity tool, and just everyday getting-task-done tools. We see that side of the value equation continues to improve. But the phone has to survive the environment where it’s being used and that’s where we really see mobility evolving. We’re working very hard to make the device more and more durable, then adding tailored software and appropriate accessories to create a better tool and a better value so that the increase in productivity, access to communication and data, and cost savings is improved overall.

We also see increased usage of mobile solutions as the hub for industry-specific needs. Broader and broader basic accessories with camera add-ons, asset tracking with RFID (radio-frequency identification), all kinds of personal tracking, barcode scanners that can be asset management. And I think there’s a lot of value in all those mobile enhancements that we continue to add. I think again our key message is that we want to provide a great solution that simultaneously enhances a business while being a good value.

Black:
Perfect. If there was one message that you wanted to get out to our audience, what would that be? Is it that you want to provide a great solution at a good value?

Wilken:
I think the message is that today’s rugged cellphones are a powerful, evolving technology that’s a perfect fit for the construction industry. Cellphones aren’t (traditionally rugged enough) for the construction environment. When we go to construction trade shows, and I wish I had a dollar for every person who shows us their shattered phone display, broken phone, or $100-plus protective case they have to use.  We want this industry to know that Kyocera is making devices that are purpose built to survive and thrive in environments that used to make cellphones disposable in the construction industry, and offering them with software and accessories that turn them into high-value, customized mobile solutions.

To learn more, visit https://youtu.be/9J68Owxfs-U