Panasonic introduced two additional rugged handheld devices this week, on the heels of Tuesday’s announcement about its updated Toughbook N1.

The new pair, the Toughbook FZ-T1 and FZ-L1, are sleek, slim devices intended for a mobile workforce, particularly those employees in warehousing and retail environments.

“When talking with its customers, Panasonic acknowledges they are focused on the ways their work is evolving. They want to know how to deal with the unexpected changes in their job, and the pressure to keep up with those changes,” said Brian Rowley, vice president of marketing and product management for Panasonic North America. “Workers are being asked to be smarter and more efficient than ever, and much of that is made possible by mobile connectivity.”

SEE: Smart office technology: What’s working, what’s failing, and what users want out of it (Tech Pro Research)

The two new devices have integrated, high-volume barcode scanning, long-lasting batteries, and high-speed connectivity, Rowley said.

The Toughbook T1 has a 5-inch screen and runs Android 8.1 Oreo. It allows retail workers, warehouse employees, or transportation and logistics employees to quickly scan barcodes for better productivity. The device also has a built-in barcode reader and high-speed connectivity to integrate with resource management systems and databases.

The FZ-T1 is available in two models–one with Wi-Fi connectivity only, and another offering voice and data connection on AT&T and Verizon networks, as well as data connectivity through P.180, Panasonic’s purpose-built network.

The Toughbook L1 is a professional-grade tablet that can be mounted in a vehicle or used as a handheld device. It has a 7-inch screen and runs Android 8.1 Oreo. It includes an integrated barcode reader that is field-configurable for landscape or portrait modes.

The L1 will be released in a Wi-Fi only model that supports data service on Verizon, AT&T and Panasonic’s P. 180.

Rowley said Panasonic has been carefully planning this week’s release of the updated and new rugged devices. “We’ve been working on this for almost a year,, and the reason for that is because it’s not only just about having the right devices in place, it’s about an entire ecosystem that consists of the right resellers, the right sales team, the right accessory portfolios, the right application solutions that we have,” he said. “There’s many different pieces to this equation that we’ve had to put together over the past year in order to be able to make this happen.”

There are industry verticals that do best with rugged devices for a mobile workforce, although there is less need than in the past.

Andrew Hewitt, a Forrester analyst specializing in employee mobility and smart office, said, “In general we’re seeing customers adopting more consumer focused devices with a degree of ruggedization rather than a fully rugged device from a traditional player like Panasonic. However, there are still use cases and industries where the fully rugged model makes sense and is totally necessary. We see this most frequently in oil and gas, public safety, healthcare, and of course military. We’re seeing companies like Panasonic expand their offerings to embrace new form factors, like 2-in-1s, to help workers become more mobile.”

Diving deeper into the rugged handheld business gives Panasonic new opportunities in the US market, since Asia and Germany have traditionally been the stronger markets for the brand, according to Dan Diliberti, head of mobility product and market strategy for Panasonic North America.

“The disruption in the handheld market [has] created opportunity for us. We’ve been really developing very focused products for some key vertical markets within our space that we’re penetrating,” Diliberti said. “From a product development standpoint, we’re really paying very close attention to our customers and listening to the end users who want to use these products, but also the IT managers, CEOs, and finance people who are running the operations of their businesses and need recognized technology.”

The devices have been in the works for a long time, Diliberti added. “These are purpose-built devices for very extraordinary users who still want to have stylish, lightweight, thin devices that they want to use in their job every day,” he said. “The approach that we have is that this is a good/better/best approach to the market, and we’re really talking about putting the right tool in the hands of people who are doing their jobs everyday so that they can be the most productive and efficient.”

Key specifications

Toughbook T1

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU
  • ARM Cortex-A7 Quad-Core 1.1 GHz
  • Android 8.1 Oreo
  • 5 inch display with 10 finger capacitive touch screen
  • 5 ft drop shock registrant and designed to meet MIL-STD-810G standards
  • IP66 dust and water resistant design, IP68 (5 feet of water for up to 30 minutes) sealing
  • Barcode Scanner
  • Wi-Fi, multi-carrier voice and data with nano SIM card (WWAN model)
  • Optional gun grip and expandability via xPak port

Toughbook L1

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU
  • ARM Cortex-A7 Quad-Core 1.1 GHz
  • Android 8.1 Oreo
  • 7 inch display with 10 finger capacitive touch screen
  • 5 ft drop shock registrant and designed to meet MIL-STD-810G standards
  • IP65 dust and water resistant design, IP67 (3.3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes) sealing
  • Barcode Scanner with native interface for portrait and landscape orientation
  • Wi-Fi, multi-carrier data with nano SIM card (WWAN model)
  • Future connectivity and feature options with xPak port

Also see: