The Buyer’s Guide to Rugged Mobility – How Rugged is Rugged?

The modern mobile worker needs a reliable, customisable, and rugged device that keeps them connected and productive in the most challenging of environments, regardless of the industry. But what makes a rugged device ‘rugged’? 


written by Dirk Weigelt, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Panasonic TOUGHBOOK

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Understanding MIL-Spec

The term ‘rugged’ is often thrown around and used frequently, with many devices marketed as such that are available on the market. However, since the 1960s, the United States Department of Defense has set the standard for rugged device performance, known as MIL-Spec, with the latest standard, U.S. MIL-STD 810H utilised by manufacturers to simulate how a mobile device will operate under a variety of extreme stress tests and environmental conditions.

These tests can be modified to fit the needs of a specific customer or industry, allowing manufacturers to choose the tests they want and then adjust parameters accordingly. It's commonly accepted that once a device is tested and meets certain MIL-STD 810H standards – and are approved by use by the Department of Defense – it can be considered ‘rugged’. 

For example, Panasonic’s TOUGHBOOK G2 and TOUGHBOOK 40 hold MIL-STD 810H certifications, a truly rugged device that is designed for the defence sector and use in military vehicles.

Why Testing Matters

Truly durable rugged devices need to be tested to the absolute limit, sometimes to destruction, to ensure that devices can continue to operate in any conditions. Example MIL-Spec tests include:

  • Drops: One of the most common causes of damage to business mobile devices. Given their use in non-traditional environments, they are likely to be fumbled.
  • Altitude: Vibrations in the reduced atmosphere at 15,000 feet will have a greater impact than at sea level.
  • Blowing Rain: Few mission-critical workers can stop working during a rainstorm.
  • High and Low Temperatures: Mobile workers need to know that, in extreme heat or cold, devices can work without damaging internal components.
  • Vibration: Rugged devices are frequently installed in vehicles and travel over uneven terrain, where heavy vibrations are common.
  • Thermal Shock: This tests the durability of screens and components when quickly going from one temperature extreme to another.
  • Sand and Dust: Unsealed devices may have internal components damaged by contaminants.
  • Explosive Atmosphere: Devices are tested to ensure they will not ignite after coming into contact with explosives.

Questions to be Asked

With organisations looking for a rugged device that will be operational for between 5-7 years on average, mobile workers need to ensure that any notebook or tablet can continually perform mission-critical tasks, in unforgiving environments.


However, MIL-Spec isn’t a silver bullet; there is no single governing body undertaking testing, so it’s important to ask the below questions when sourcing rugged devices.

  • Get a second opinion
    • Organisations should ensure a device has third-party validation of all MIL-Spec claims. With numerous tests, all conducted independently, they must ensure it has met the tests that best reflect the environment that it will operate in.


  • Devil is in the (test) detail
    • With suppliers of rugged devices setting their own parameters, analysing the fine print is crucial. For example, have multiple devices been used for drop tests?


  • What is the failure rate?
    • MIL-Spec is just a test. Annual failure rates of devices will really prove whether devices can continue to operate smoothly after several years of punishment, so always ask for manufacturer verification.


  • What features are included?
    • Testing is one thing, but organisations must pay attention to the features that will work best with those using it in the field. For example, does the screen respond accurately to gloved hands, for those mobile workers operating in extreme cold?


  • Warranties and support
    • Rugged devices need to be backed-up 24/7, 365 days a year, giving organisations complete peace of mind that any downtime will be minimised. For example, Panasonic’s ProTect PLUS Premium warranty includes everything from battery protection and replacement, and remote technical support from specialist TOUGHBOOK technicians.


  • Security is paramount
    • Ruggedness and strength doesn’t automatically mean that your device’s defences against cyber attacks are impenetrable. For example, military organisations handling mission-critical data, or health services dealing with confidential patient information need a solution that will provide complete peace of mind. 


TOUGHBOOK Goes Further

Panasonic is dedicated to ensuring its devices uphold the promise of rugged reliability in a wide variety of environments. All TOUGHBOOKs, regardless of their level of ruggedness, must endure rigorous testing undertaken by R&D engineers, as well as at independent, internationally recognised third party test labs for our semi and fully rugged devices. 

Panasonic technicians perform these tests under parameters that often exceed the test specifications of MIL-STD 810H, Panasonic does this as part of our mission to deliver ever greater levels of functionality, performance and reliability.

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