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Mobile Computing Carts – How Do You Choose?

Mobile computing carts are a convenient way to bring computing power from a stationery computer to the places where that power can be used more efficiently. With mobile computers, those doing the tasks have the tools they need right at hand, streamlining, or even replacing, existing business systems to improve productivity.

For example, a clinician in a hospital using a mobile cart can access the latest lab or radiology reports right at the patient’s bedside. With valuable information at the point of care, you can make better and faster diagnostic decisions and improve patient care.

In a warehouse environment, a you can bring a mobile workstation to the point of labeling to ensure that an accurate label is placed on the correct item, or you can scan incoming pallets to automatically reconcile the shipment with purchase orders. With this type of  information available at the point of use, you easily remove inaccuracies and inefficiencies.

Carts that tote around mobile computing equipment come in a variety of configurations, depending upon your needs and applications. Some are basic computers on wheels (also known as COWs), some provide battery power, while others have sophisticated onboard power systems to support a number of computing options. Many additional features exist for specific applications.

So if you’re thinking that a cart would be right for you, consider the following factors when selecting one:

  • Size and weight. Since the purpose of the cart is to move and use computer power in different areas, you’ll have to consider the weight of the cart, ease of pulling/pushing the cart, ease of steering, and the footprint. In a hospital environment, for instance, a narrow cart might be a better choice as it can fit between hospital beds. In a warehouse or industrial environment, a heavier cart might be necessary to accommodate ruggedized equipment.
  • Ergonomics. The handles and work surfaces should be easy to adjust for user comfort. The height should be adjustable also, so it can be used while standing or sitting. The tables or brackets supporting the monitors should be adjustable too for comfortable viewing by all.  User-friendly features like a full-size, tilting keyboard and adjustable platforms for keying in data or using a mouse are a nice feature.
  • Power. Be sure your cart has enough battery life for the demands of your task. A readable display of battery life is a useful option; you wouldn’t want to run out of power while in the middle of a task. If a backup battery is available, be sure that it can be changed easily and without any delay. The cart should also provide enough outlets for the job, and have the necessary electrical characteristics.
  • Storage and security. You’ll want enough storage space for the items you need for your task. Things like tools, scanners, or charts that are used routinely should have a convenient spot for storing when not in use. Locking drawers or other security measures might be needed if theft or safety is a concern. In a  hospital environment, for example, you can add locking drawers and an onboard medication server to a powered workstation so you can transport and dispense medication at the patient’s bedside.
  • Cart Materials. In some environments, hygiene is an important issue. Carts used in hospitals may need to be made of materials that can be cleaned and sanitized regularly. Fans that cool the battery can cause dust or other contaminates to be blown around, causing problems in certain manufacturing areas or clean rooms. Therefore, alternative methods of cooling the battery are required for these particular environments.

Cart choice doesn’t need to be confusing. The options and configurations available make the cart suitable for your particular needs and environment. If you would like more information, or would like to discuss how carts can streamline your application, give us a call at (603) 598-1553, X237.

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