IT & OT Teams Must Unite on Intrinsically Safe Mobile Devices in Hazardous Locations

14 Jun 2016

Consumer smartphones may survive a drop on the ground but few can withstand dangerous working conditions where the potential for a spark or explosion exists, which is why intrinsically safe mobile devices will top one million shipments in 2021, forecasts ABI Research. Designed to retain optimal thermal and energy levels to avoid igniting a hazardous atmospheric mixture, the devices are a necessity in many enterprise markets from agriculture and forestry to food and beverage to manufacturing.

“Consumers have all the technology they need at their fingertips, as do most deskside professionals, but workers operating in the field or on-site are still lagging behind in the digital race,” says Jeff Orr, Research Director at ABI Research. “Intrinsically safe mobile devices give these workers access to all the technology and resources they need to best do their jobs while keeping employees safe and protected.”

As the prevalence of these rugged devices increases, IT teams are able to buy devices—from tablet PCs to smartphones and cameras to wearables—through existing sales channels, rather than specialized vendors. But to optimize usage once the devices are in the workers’ hands, IT and OT (operational technology) teams will need to overlap efforts. While IT is responsible for a company’s devices and the technology utilized, OT teams ensure plant or site safety procedures are in place. The two teams will need to merge their practices for optimal job workflow performance.

Smartphones will lead the hazardous location (HazLoc) market by 2019, while tablets will have the highest CAGR at 34% between 2016 and 2021. Current vendors include Aegex Technologies, Bartec Pixavi, and Extronics, but Apple is notably a nonexistent player. A few third-party enclosures permit iPhones and iPads to achieve minimal levels of rugged capability, but they are not certified against explosion, or Ex-proof.

“Intrinsically safe mobile devices are subject to a plethora of technical and local government requirements, which increases the hurdles for new market entrants,” concludes Orr. “The products need to follow strict design specifications, pass government certification, and then adhere to any additional regulations of the industry in which they will be categorized. As such, it is a risk right now for larger companies, like Samsung and LG, to enter this market.”

These findings are from ABI Research’s Intrinsically Safe Devices. This report is part of the company’s IT & OT Convergence sector, which includes research reports, market data, insights, and competitive assessments.

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