As warehouse technology continues to evolve, many retail distribution facilities are moving to rugged smartphones as the preferred device for tracking and managing inventory.

Warehouse workers have traditionally used barcode scanners and dedicated devices, which have been the backbone of data capture in these cases for the last 20 plus years, to scan, track and manage products and materials in warehouses. While these devices can offer basic scanning functionality, the need for a more efficient and cost-effective model is causing a demand for new technology in the supply chain.

Barcode Scanners Versus Smartphones

Because traditional barcode scanners are single-purpose devices, they can typically scan much faster than smartphones. These devices are well-suited for scanning-only applications, and they can read tags from a greater distance, in low-light conditions and around packaging obstructions. Some of these devices are in fact Windows devices, and can run multiple applications, but they’re typically industry-specific.

Even though some of these scanners offer low costs and excellent scanning performance, smartphones can help address the advanced technology needs of data-driven organizations. Manufacturers and industrial users can easily upgrade and customize these devices with mobile apps that can boost productivity and efficiency. Additionally, because Samsung smartphones come equipped with Samsung Knox, a security platform built directly into the hardware of the device, the security of confidential company data is guaranteed. And with Knox Workspace, you can separate work and personal data into two separate containers, ensuring that the two never intermingle and that business data is isolated and encrypted.

Rugged Smartphones Bring Greater Durability

Until recently, smartphones lacked the sustainability for industrial environments. Heat, machinery, movement and the rigors of being carried around all day can present a number of risks to delicate electronics.

Yet new materials and designs have made these phones stronger, lighter and more suited for these types of environments. Rugged smartphones are already being used in the manufacturing industry to simplify operations, improve efficiencies and reduce waste, but the technology continues to advance for even more use cases.

Smartphones such as the new Galaxy S8 Active have a durable design that can withstand all-day usage in industrial environments and harsh conditions. The S8 Active is built on a metal frame that resists tilting and twisting, and it comes with a built-in bumper to guard against shocks and drops.

The Galaxy S8 Active has passed 21 rigorous tests to ensure compliance with military specs and is MIL-STD-810G certified. It also includes a shatter-resistant screen and has IP68 certification for water and dust resistance. The S8 Active is designed to meet the needs of enterprise users with wireless charging capabilities and a larger battery with multiple power-saving modes.

Although dedicated devices have a barcode scanner integrated into them, a rugged smartphone’s real value is in its features, storage and processing power. But because they’re equipped with high-resolution cameras, gyro sensors and GPS modules, smartphones offer far more functionality than traditional barcode scanners. This helps decrease the potential number of devices workers need in the warehouse while expanding capabilities. Additionally, when enabled with apps, they can serve as a new tool in the warehouse space that can not only scan and manage inventory but also serve as a high-powered communication device to transmit images, audio and video.

Endless Functionality With Warehouse Technology

Rugged smartphones can also be paired with wearable barcode scanners via Bluetooth, enabling wearable scanning, a growing trend in the warehouse. Additionally, aftermarket “sleds” enable users to equip their rugged smartphones with the same pistol-grip functionality as traditional scanners, ensuring familiarity with handling devices.

With ever-growing connectivity in warehouses, organizations are consistently seeing new concerns around security; some analysts have said that traditional barcode scanners pose less of a security risk. But those risks can be easily mitigated. The Samsung Knox security suite is standard with the S8 Active, and can protect data with enterprise-grade biometric security.

When equipped with the right apps, the rugged smartphone can enable retailers and distribution warehouses to bring a new level of visibility to their operations.

Rugged devices not only offer maximum productivity benefits for employees, but they can also save your enterprise money in the long run.