We’re in the midst of a radical shift in the way people live, work and communicate. New and continually improving technological advancements are opening the doors to a truly mobile future for the global workforce.

Does this sound like old news? After all, some might argue that this shift has been happening for decades — and they’d be mostly right. Gone are the clunky mobile devices, wired telephones and dial-up Internet connections of the 20th century, and the amount of computing power we can fit into a few inches of space these days is nothing short of mind-boggling.

But it’s my opinion that, until very recently, some significant obstacles prevented most workplaces from seeing true mobility as more than some nebulous future ideal.

The first obstacle was inaccessible or unaffordable wireless broadband. Without mobile connectivity, even the smartest and best-designed devices are confined to the office. But in recent years mobile-device sales have exploded, and mobile operators have responded by discovering ways to expand their networks and increase their capacity to handle data traffic.

The second obstacle was inadequate mobile hardware. For a while, “adequate” simply meant powerful enough to perform complicated tasks quickly and efficiently. But as the mobile workforce has progressed, another critical need has become apparent: the need for exceptional performance anywhere and everywhere.

That’s because wirelessness, speed and portability alone don’t make for truly usable mobile devices — just ask the countless field, utility and public service professionals who’ve dropped cell phones into water, vibrated tablets to death on their dashboards, or watched PDA screens shatter as they hit the ground.

Standard computers just aren’t suited for use in the outdoors and other hazardous environments such as workshops, warehouses and factories. They can’t handle water, dust and shocks, and they break too easily and too often. And breakages don’t just cost companies money — they can also mean a huge loss of productivity as devices are assessed, repaired and replaced.

To continue to drive true workforce mobility, data devices need to be compact, connectable, quick and able to withstand whatever they encounter — whether that’s a river, a sandstorm or a warehouse floor.

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