As the computer world gets more mobile, you might be thinking of how you can put mobile computing to use for your livestock enterprise. A mobile device needs an operating system, in the same way that a desktop computer needs an operating system – for PCs this means Microsoft Windows. Here’s a quick guide to the main mobile operating systems in use today and the type of hardware each runs on.
Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 (formerly Windows Mobile 6)
About 10 years ago, most handheld computers were known as PDAs made by the likes of Dell and Hewlett Packard. Back then the operating system was known as Windows Mobile. Some farm software was written for Windows Mobile and was designed to transfer data between the PDA and the farm software running on the PC. However, it wasn’t hugely practical; for example, you have to use a cable to connect to the PC and data transfer was a lengthy process.
Over the last few years, many manufacturers have ceased making the PDA, so today Windows Mobile is not so widely seen. Pretty much all the devices running the latest incarnation of Windows Mobile (now known as Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5) tends to be used in rugged industrial devices for specific sectors like logistics. These devices are ruggedized with a good water and dust ingress rating.
One such “industrial” device that has found favour among farm software providers is the Psion Workabout Pro. This handheld computer is frequently used as part of an electronic identification (EID) system in sheep and cattle farming. The Psion can be fitted with an EID tag reader (usually the Agrident AIR200) and with appropriate farm software installed, the device is used on many UK farms. The Workabout Pro 4 is now on the market and uses the Windows Embedded 6.5 operating system.
Apple’s iOS is found exclusively on Apple devices – namely the ubiquitous iPhone and iPad. While these devices find favour in the farming fraternity and there are a plethora of useful, lightweight Apps, it’s not always straightforward to create full-feature farm software. This is partly due to Apple wanting to keep very tight control on their “ecosystem”. For example, to link an Apple device to an electronic livestock weigher or EID stick reader is not as easily achieved as with the Android operating system (see below)
Android is Google’s operating system, and it designed to be very accessible to software companies looking for a low-cost operating system to run on high-tech devices. There is a huge choice of mobile devices on the market that run Android, including consumer non-rugged and rugged smartphones and tablets.
It’s easy for farm software companies to develop software that can make full use of hardware. For example, the Orchid FarmWizard bluetooth app enables sheep and beef farmers to record animal weights on their Android smartphone using a bluetooth-enabled EID stick reader and Tru Test weigh head. The App also makes use of the device’s Wi-Fi and mobile Internet capabilities to transfer recorded data back to the farm office.
Android is also starting to be used more widely by manufacturers of “industrial” devices as discussed by leading supplier of mobile computing hardware. Undoubtedly, Android will continue to be a strong force in mobile computing for years to come.