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The Benefits of Handheld Computers—and the Challenge for Wi-Fi Networks

Handheld computers are ubiquitous at work, creating stress on some networks—but there are ways to handle the load and ensure connectivity

As the need for real-time information continues to expand, so does the need for industries to embrace more portable and dynamic technology. Organizations are finding tremendous value in a wide array of handheld computers from companies like Honeywell to streamline their operations.

However, as is the case with other IoT devices, handheld computers are often only as good as their network. More tools mean more stress on Wi-Fi networks, some of which may already be overcrowded as it is. This can lead to interference, dropped connections, and security threats, among other potential adverse effects. 

Simply put, without good connectivity, the experience of using a handheld computer is miserable—and its use is beside the point. The network must be designed to handle the number of devices and volume of traffic so businesses can stay efficient.

Handheld computers: benefits and functionality

Handheld computers such as those from Honeywell, Zebra Technologies, and Datalogic have exploded in popularity in industries with specialized processes and workflows. These mainly include manufacturing and distribution, industrial, retail, transportation and logistics, and government. 

Their versatility makes it possible to handle everything from simple data capture to complex industry software. Some of the tasks most reliant on these handheld computers are:

  • Product merchandising
  • Inventory management
  • Traceability
  • Mobile checkout
  • Quality control and safety inspections

There are a few major benefits to handheld computers; chief among them is their portability and flexibility. Employees can carry enterprise-level technology with them anywhere they go in a relatively lightweight package.

These devices also give employees across the organization access to real-time information, which improves productivity and accuracy. There is no more need for manual data entry or redundant processes, and the odds of error are significantly reduced, which makes for a better customer experience. Real-time information also gives organizations the gift of foresight, as they can anticipate potential issues and solve them before they spread.

For handheld computers to have their maximum effectiveness, however, the network has to be optimized to support them. Here are some of the typical network issues organizations with a fleet of handheld computers experience and some improvement tips: 

Network issues and optimization tips

The importance of network connectivity for handheld computers extends beyond just being able to get things done. Device failures and bad connections can lead to delayed deliveries, missed appointments, inaccurate inventory, bottlenecks, and poor customer experiences. 

When choosing devices and designing a network to sustain them, organizations have to consider:

  • The type of environment the devices will be used in
  • What processes they’re needed for
  • How much downtime is acceptable
  • How much mobile employees rely on this equipment to do their jobs

The most common cause of network issues when it comes to handheld computers is the number of devices. Adding such a large number to the network can overcrowd the RF spectrum, which creates interference when so many things are trying to connect at the same time. This often results in slow connection, drops in service, and insufficient data transmission.

Other factors, such as the size of the space, building materials, and machinery, can influence network connectivity, especially in large warehouse-like areas. Increasing the number of access points, adding wireless bridges, and being conscious of machinery and shelving placement can increase uptime.

Network security is also a concern with handheld computers, as IoT equipment often doesn’t have the same level of security protections as other devices. Hackers and intruders may have easier access to the information being exchanged, and they could gain access to the more extensive network through vulnerable endpoints. Access control, antimalware, and software and firmware updates can provide valuable defenses, assuming the latter two are available from the manufacturer and their technology partners.

How can network monitoring improve handheld computer performance?

Wireless network monitoring is designed to continuously monitor the network for performance issues, ultimately increasing uptime and device connectivity. Industries using handheld computers rely on Wi-Fi for nearly every task, so downtime and poor connectivity simply aren't options. At best, downtime is expensive. At worst, it can cripple operations. 

Wireless network monitoring can help solve issues like unreliable Wi-Fi connections, poor coverage, and roaming problems by monitoring performance from the end-user’s perspective. In a network with potentially thousands of handheld computers, effectively managing endpoint device performance gives managers full visibility into their system.

7SIGNAL’S Mobile Eye® is the world’s first and only Wi-Fi performance agent for mobile devices. It was specifically designed for enterprises with a large number of employees or customer devices—including those running Windows, Android, or macOS—that need consistent and high-quality Wi-Fi access. It runs constant Wi-Fi tests, 24/7 from the end-user’s perspective.

Sapphire Eye® is a state-of-the-art software-enabled sensor that enables network managers to monitor performance and fix Wi-Fi issues from anywhere. Placed on site, it can spot co-channel and radio interference and congestion, coverage, network, and WLAN configuration issues, often enabling you to fix these problems before they impact users. 

7SIGNAL is committed to making wireless network monitoring easy and providing you with the mission-critical Wi-Fi you need to get things done. Handheld computers are making workforces more agile and responsive than ever before—and the networks they operate on must rise to the challenge to support them.

Contact us today to learn more about our wireless network monitoring solutions and how we can help keep your set-up running consistently.

7SIGNAL® is a leader in enterprise wireless experience monitoring. 7SIGNAL provides a cloud-based platform that continuously monitors wireless networks and identifies elusive performance issues impacting application performance and digital experience. By taking the “outside-in” approach to monitoring, 7SIGNAL has visibility into the edge of any enterprise or home Wi-Fi network where complex device interaction exists, and user experience matters most. The platform maximizes employee productivity, operational efficiency, and network ROI. Sapphire Eye® and Mobile Eye® are designed for and deployed at the world’s most innovative organizations, educational institutions, healthcare systems and government agencies. Learn more at www.7signal.com.