Choosing an Operating System for your Mobile Data Collection Systems


By Ron James, Senior Sales Executive, Adaptive Data Inc.

In today's world there are multiple operating systems available for you to select from for your data collection needs. Some of the suitability for each could be dictated by WHERE you use the devices, specifically ‘inside the four walls’ or ‘outside the four walls’.

There are distinct differences between the major options for you today, but fortunately there are only three Main options to choose from in current technology. They are:

  1. Windows Mobile (we will include Windows CE as part of this subset - both operating systems continue to be supported by the major data collection manufacturers)
  2. Android
  3. Apple iOS

Over the next few months we'll discuss the features and variations between these three options, and we will discuss them in order.

Windows Mobile including Windows CE

Microsoft operating systems have been around for quite some time now in the data collection world. They are very stable and yet continue to be enhanced by the major manufacturers. New devices continue to be released with Windows Mobile 6.5 and Windows CE. as of July 2013, ruggedized data collection device manufacturers are starting to include options for other operating systems, most notably Android, but in order to support the legacy population of windows mobile devices they have continued to release these operating systems even on newer devices.

So what does Windows Mobile and Windows CE have to offer?

  1. There is a plethora of legacy data collection applications written under this environment. These applications are quite mature, yet they do provide support for such popular data transfer mechanisms as 4gl.
  2. Many manufactures are offering Handsets that will let you use your SIM card yet still support Windows Mobile. These devices can run Windows Mobile, typically have built-in barcode scanning, and they can be used as phones. In addition, they are typically more rugged than a smartphone.
  3. Mobile Security is something that is still paramount in the corporate world, is readily available using these platforms, very importantly because these operating systems are less likely to be subject to security attacks.
  4. Devices using Windows Mobile or Windows CE are less attractive as targets of employee theft. They are efficient and effective tools to let employees get their job done better while on the job, without being tempting as targets of theft.
  5. Most offerings of ruggedized Windows Mobile data collection terminals include purpose-built barcode scanners. If your application ideally involves barcodes, these are still the best platform for the job. By contrast, most smartphones only use the camera to decode barcodes and the performance is simply not there to do scanning on a regular basis outside of sporadic consumer use.
  6. Remote Management capabilities – there are several existing and well-developed remote management tools for Windows Mobile and CE devices. The primary tools are Wavelink, SOTI and Remote Mastermind, but there are also feature-laden tools offered by manufacturers as proprietary solutions for their hardware, such as Intermec’s Smart Systems and Motorola’s legacy products.
  7. Advanced WIFI capabilities – specifically WIFI security - are well-developed in Windows Mobile devices. Today’s smart phones contain easy-to-use WIFI connection tools, but may lack the sophisticated corporate protection tools that are required to ensure that corporate assets – including critical data – remain safe and free from threat of wireless theft. Windows Mobile tools have years of development in this area.


Next month, we will investigate the emergence of Android as both a new standard in consumer products as well it’s gradual adoption in the ruggedized device world by legacy manufacturers.

We welcome your comments.