Military tablet computers must meet stringent operational requirements, and consumer grade devices don’t stand up to rigorous inspection and testing. Rugged tablets, however, can be custom built to withstand even the harshest environment, providing the security, stability, functionality, and speed of communication required for both on-base use and in-the-field mobility.
Rugged tablets will often be tasked with enduring wet or dusty environments, extreme hot and cold temperatures, and prolonged vibrations or repeated impacts. They must allow clear readability and operation in dark surroundings or bright sunlight, accept data input via a variety of options, be useable with gloved hands, bare fingertips, or digital styluses or pens, and deliver exceptional reliability at every turn.
Tablet internal components must match the rugged exterior, providing security, fast processing, and seamless communication of text, audio, video, and imaging. Military applications generally indicate that chosen devices display the following features in their design and construction:
- Durable housings must be impervious to contamination from dust, dirt, mud, water, moisture, and other contaminants, and should be capable of withstanding shocks, jolts, drops, and prolonged vibration.
- Displays must remain usable in direct sunlight and transition easily between dim and bright environments. Direct sun glare should be mitigated, and the display dimmable in dark environments for safety of mobile users in dangerous conditions. Customized displays should also allow input with touchscreens via stylus or even fingertip writing.
- Electronic components must be rated for wide temperature ranges, typically -40˚C to 85˚C Conformal coating of assembled circuit boards and/or potting of specific components may also be required to help prevent corrosion in humid environments or to aid in higher shock/vibration resistance.
- Military band radios, remote vehicle controllers, connective, military specific interfaces, and other government related options should be seamlessly implemented.
- Operating systems should prevent operation by non-approved users and allow customized configuration to manage specialized user and applications. Defining user and application access must be rapid and accurate.
- Encryption keys will enable the protection of both critical data and proprietary application codes stored on the tablet. CAC access can allow use of each device by a range of security levels, providing more flexibility and permitting one device to service several members on a team.
- Media blackout options and a “kill switch” function in case of loss or theft should also be part of a military device, and physical tamper detection mechanisms can be embedded to sense attempts to open the device or access it in other ways. Encryption keys can be wiped remotely, and the software set to self-destruct.
Designers of rugged military tablets must both understand the required applicable design of portable devices and be capable of managing the multiple requirements posed by electronics, operating system configurations, rugged casings, heat dispersion, display customization, data input options, and more.