Guest Post By James O’Donnell
One of the biggest appeals of a tablet computer is that you can use it anytime, anywhere. However, when applied to tablet computers, “anywhere” is a relative term; what we mean by “anywhere” is usually confined to a home, office or some similar controlled environment. What happens when “anywhere” includes anywhere from an oil field located above the Arctic Circle during the middle of winter to an emergency power station during a raging storm to a battlefield in Afghanistan?
Well, now there’s a tablet computer that you really can take anywhere. It’s called the JT-B1 and it’s the latest addition to Panasonic’s growing family of “Toughpad” mobile computers.
What’s a “Rugged” Computer?
For years, Panasonic has been a leading manufacturer of what are called “rugged computers” – PCs, laptops, tablets and other mobile devices that have been designed to function under the harshest of conditions. A rugged device is one that has been specifically designed to operate in less than ideal environments and conditions, such as rain, snow, dust, heat or cold as well as drops, shocks or intense vibrations. Generally, to be classified as a “rugged” laptop the computer must be built to MIL-STD-801G standards as established by the US Department of Defense and have a high Ingress Protection Rating which determines a device’s resistance the degree of protection against the intrusion of solid objects, dust, and water in its mechanical and electrical components . To meet these standards a device is subjected to a series of grueling tests to insure it operates reliably under the harshest of conditions.
“Toughpad” is the name Panasonic’s given to their line of rugged tablet computers. The JT-B1 certainly fits the category: powered by Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), it has been designed to MIL-STD-801G standards, with an IP rating of 65 (which means it is water and dust resistant), and can survive a five foot drop. Its chassis is made of a magnesium alloy instead of plastic, and features a raised bevel to provide additional protection to the screen. The four point multi-touch screen is made of Corning Gorilla Glass and has a special matte finish so the screen can be read under the brightest sunlight. As in all rugged computers, the ports are covered for protection; the JT-B1’s microSD card slot and charging ports are kept safe beneath locked doors.
Weighing in at 1.2 pounds the JT-B1 is the lightest mobile computer Panasonic has ever built. The device comes outfitted with a 1.5GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4660 processor, a 1,024 x 600 display, a Micro SD card slot, micro USB port, 16GB storage and 1GB RAM. Wireless features include a dedicated GPS, Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth and optional 4G LTE. There’s a 1.3 megapixel camera in front and a 13 megapixel one in back. The battery is rated to last 8 hours and can be replaced if needed.
A Business Tool
Unlike a lot of other tablets, Toughpad tablets are designed for business use, rather than recreational activities. The JT-B1 is supported by an ecosystem that includes an enterprise-focused app store, developer tools and deployment support. There are also advanced security features like encryption, trusted boot, IPsec VPN, root protection and FIPS compliance available. Panasonic also offers a wide range of accessories such as cases, mounts, printers, card readers to name a few.
On Sale in February
The JT-B1 is Panasonic’s second Android tablet rugged mobile computer. The first, the FZ-A1 was released last year. Panasonic previewed the JT-B1, along with the FZ-G1, a Windows tablet with a 10.1″ screen, at the recent CES 2013 in Las Vegas. The JT-B1 will be priced at 1199 USD and will hit the shelves in February 2013. Panasonic hopes that these new Toughpad devices will enable the company to continue its dominance of the rugged computer market.
While the JT-B1 isn’t the right tablet for everyone, it’s comforting to know that emergency responders have access to products like the JT-B1 – mobile computers that are tough enough to be used anytime and anywhere, no matter where or what condition anywhere is.