Francisco Jeronimo (Associate VP, Devices, IDC EMEA)

Mobility is pivotal for most companies to embrace a digital transformation strategy, as it helps to increase productivity and engage with customers in innovative ways. Mobile devices continue to improve and gain attention among more industries and businesses. Improvements in device performance have made mobile productivity more efficient, and therefore the workforce more effective. Enterprises have been increasing the number of mobile workers, but the priority has been on providing mobile devices to office-based mobile workers (mobile professionals and knowledge workers), according to the results of IDC’s European Enterprise Mobility Survey, published in June 2018. But this is changing — in the next 12 months, enterprises in Europe will prioritize spending on mobile devices for non-office-based workers (field force, task-based workers).

  • The field workforce is also facing transformation, dictated by growing customer needs: Customer satisfaction is becoming a core key performance indicator (KPI) in the success of companies’ digital strategies. Customer service is now a critical business operation.
  • Internal customers (such as field force workers) expect to be able to work anywhere, anytime, and from any device.
  • There is an increasing focus on customers’ data protection.

While many technologies are playing a part in the concept of the Digital Workspace, mobility is the most empowering at present. As stated in IDC’s Mobility at the Heart of the Digital Workspace (IDC #EMEA43576618, February 2018), 56% of the European workforce was mobile in 2017. Mobility vendors are therefore developing a workspace vision and positioning their solutions and products for the Future of Work. There needs to be a holistic strategy aiming to leverage digital technologies to reinvent the way businesses engage with their employees, partners, and customers. This will drive greater efficiencies and deliver superior experiences (compared with just products or services) that result in a sustained competitive advantage.

Mobility implies investment in advanced mobile connectivity and enhanced mobile security around software, applications, and data/content storage, namely in off-premises devices.

The impact on ruggedized devices has been inevitable. To start, many organizations are looking at replacing their old legacy installed base and are attracted to new ruggedized devices offering unprecedented functionality, performance, and reliability. More importantly, a greater number of field force workers, from shop assistants to engineers on construction sites, are now equipped with ruggedized devices to work “smarter.”

Tablets and notebooks have become important devices for the mobile workforce with their lightweight, flexibility, and industry-focused features. As more vertical industries and new job positions adopt mobile devices, tablets, and laptops, the need for ruggedized devices increases for these specialized jobs. With the growing importance of mobility, IDC expects vertical industries to embrace ruggedized devices for employees who previously did not have a mobile device (e.g., logistic or field workers). Despite the average selling price (ASP) of a ruggedized device being higher than a standard smartphone, the long-term cost for vertical sectors investing in a ruggedized device will be lower compared with the cost of a non-rugged device, as the number of breakdowns and the cost of repairs will be reduced while maintaining employees’ productivity.

The need for ruggedized devices has been growing over the past few years in the declining PC and tablet markets. However, adoption has not yet been fully implemented in all vertical industries. New opportunities for implementation and growth will present themselves as digital transformation continues.

Main Use Cases

Digital transformation and the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) accelerated the deployment of new ways of work and innovative interaction with customers. Whether for tracking deliveries, warehouse pickups, or assembly status in production lines, companies must upgrade their devices accordingly. Some industries require device specifications and robustness as the device holds a great part of client and company information while on the go or in hazardous environments. IDC has identified several industries where ruggedized devices are used:

  • Manufacturing
  • Emergency services and police forces
  • Warehouse, logistics, and deliveries
  • Transportation
  • Construction/maintenance
  • Aviation
  • Farming

The benefits of adopting rugged devices are clear:

  • They prevent damage to the device as users are not careful and frequently break them
  • They prevent damage as users work in challenging environments
  • They provide special features not available on standard mobile phones, such as thermal imaging and barcode scanners

In the next five years, the number of ruggedized smartphones is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.3%, according to IDC’s Worldwide Rugged Mobile Device Forecast, 2018–2022.

Western Europe Commercial Ruggedized Device Smartphone Unit Shipments Forecast, 2015-2022












Digital transformation and mobility are transforming the way companies operate. Devices must be adapted to meet company, employee, IT department, and customer service needs. Ruggedized devices are getting more attention as their reliability and durability are adaptable to the new way of doing business.

Ruggedized devices can provide companies with a mobile and robust proposition that help them cut long-term costs by reducing the amount of breakage, repairs, or loss in productivity. Each industry and company has its own requirements.

To accommodate these different needs, it is important to provide clients with complete end-to-end solutions tailored to specific business cases. This puts EMM companies in a very interesting position to deploy integrated solutions that include both software and hardware. For ruggedized device manufacturers, the opportunity is huge, assuming that they innovate in the possibility to add modules to hardware and increase software security and customization.

IDC expects the ruggedized segment to continue thriving across devices as companies continue their digital transformation journeys and update their device installed base. Device manufacturers are expected to introduce new specifications and features that will need to meet their client’s needs and embrace the long-tail business concept.