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Hardware and software collaboration benefits business

Written by Kevin Tristram - Key Account Manager UK & Ireland for Panasonic Mobile Solutions Business Division

Hardware and software collaboration benefits business

The power of mobile computing has unlocked the potential of mobile workforces across industries but a close collaboration between the mobile hardware provider and software provider is the secret that underpins this success.

The trust to share deep-dive technical information and work closely together can create innovative, more secure and faster solutions for the customer and these can be applied across a range of areas from utilities even to the edge of space! Let me explain a little further.

Microsoft and Panasonic have developed one such collaborative partnership to ensure their software and hardware are optimised to work effectively together; and so that they can work on specific customer challenges quickly to establish solutions.

It’s a symbiotic relationship. At the highest level, Microsoft is working to deliver a whole host of software applications via the intelligent cloud but it only comes to life when hardware partners like Panasonic can deliver the product into people’s hands, via a mobile device, to put the applications to best use.

But technology companies promoting they work closely together is easy to say, the reality can only be truly seen in the fruits the relationship bears for its customers. So let me give you some examples.

TOUGHBOOK G1, TOUGHBOOK 33 and TOUGHBOOK 55

End of support for Windows 7

The first example of collaborative benefit can be seen in migrating organisations from obsolete operating systems to the latest and greatest. Many organisations are still running Windows 7 on their mobile computing devices but the operating system is now more than 10 years old. It was designed for a different technology era with less connectivity, fewer security threats and mainly office-based employees. In January 2020 support came to an end. But due to the Panasonic and Microsoft close working relationship, the organisations had already put a subsidised programme in place to help Panasonic TOUGHBOOK customers transition to the latest Windows 10 operating system quickly and cost effectively. 

The Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) used this programme to upgrade its Ambulance fleet of Panasonic Toughbook devices from running Windows 7 to Windows 10. The upgrade instantly removed technical issues that the ambulance teams were experiencing when the devices were used in tablet mode and ensured they had access to vital information at the scene of an emergency.

Zero touch deployment

Another example is helping customers to deploy their TOUGHBOOK devices with Windows operating systems faster. Panasonic was the first rugged-focused mobile computing provider to join the Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider programme. It enables them to offer customers more simplified deployment and management services. Customers can now slash IT administration time and radically improve the user experience when deploying new Panasonic rugged Windows mobile devices by using the Windows Autopilot cloud-based configuration and deployment service.

When customers order their Panasonic TOUGHBOOK notebooks or tablets with Windows 10 Pro they can choose to manage the configuration and deployment using Windows Autopilot. Panasonic then pre-register the device hardware in the cloud from its European configuration and service centre in Cardiff. This service enables all the configuration settings for each particular device to be uploaded to the cloud. The devices are then dispatched directly to the users, who simply switch them on straight out of the box, enter their credentials and the device is configured automatically over the cloud to deliver the user’s specific business set-up. 

This new deployment option is an immediate benefit for customers with users in disparate locations or with hundreds of devices to configure. It removes the need for the IT teams to image each device and automates the deployment and management process – lowering effort and costs.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service used Microsoft Autopilot to deploy Panasonic TOUGHBOOK rugged devices for its frontline staff. The devices are used in the vehicle and when the firefighters are mobile, at the scene of an emergency, to provide access to vital information.

 

Secured-Core PC development

For those highly-targeted industries like healthcare, financial services, and government that require added layers of security built directly into their devices out of the box, Microsoft worked closely with its PC and chip manufacturing partners, including Panasonic, to develop a new class of secure PC. They call it the Secured-core PC. A Secured-core PC is a modern Windows device that comes with built in security that brings together hardware, software and identity protection ready right out-of-the-box. The Panasonic TOUGHBOOK 55 was one of the first Secured-core PCs on the market and the first in the rugged Panasonic TOUGHBOOK range to offer this new level of security.

 

An image showing the 3 layers of a secured core PC

 

The first European deployment of the TOUGHBOOK 55 is currently underway at Severn Trent, one of the largest water companies in the UK, which serves the Midlands area. The devices are being rolled out to the mobile workforce to support the key workers in their vital roles. 

 

TOUGHBOOK in Space

Lastly, I talked about even reaching into space. Panasonic and Microsoft worked with their customer Centrica and network connectivity partner NetMotion to send a TOUGHBOOK device into the stratosphere while it ran a successful Microsoft Teams call in the sky.

The test involved strapping a Panasonic TOUGHBOOK tablet to a weather balloon that took the tablet up, up and away into the stratosphere. The Teams call transitioned seamlessly from a Wi-Fi connection to a 4G LTE cellular network at 110 feet, and then maintained the call to a dizzying height of almost 10,000 feet, the TOUGHBOOK finally came crashing back to earth when the balloon exploded somewhere over Herefordshire at around 100,000 feet.

Apart from being just fun, this stunt tested the extreme limits of product durability, network connectivity and application performance. This type of collaboration and testing builds trust in relationships.

It’s no coincidence then that when Centrica wanted to take its tradition of service excellence to the next level – the cloud – it transformed the working lives of 29,000 employees around the world by deploying Panasonic TOUGHBOOK devices with Windows 10 Pro. Now employees use modern applications on connected devices to improve customer service and efficiency.

When Centrica migrated from Windows 7 to Windows 10 Pro and upgraded their British Gas field engineers to TOUGHBOOK devices they worked closely with both Panasonic and Microsoft to ensure the potentially complex and challenging process ran smoothly. With the cloud-based productivity apps of Microsoft 365 at their fingertips, field engineers can now easily access product information, process quotes, and use Microsoft Teams to collaborate with remote peers to troubleshoot problems. Microsoft Teams also speeds communication across the organisation.

Centrica also plans to use Windows 10 Autopilot to make device deployment more efficient. Panasonic will be able to ship a device to an engineer who needs one without having to preload the software. When the engineer turns on the device, it will connect automatically to the Microsoft cloud and download the necessary apps.

Another advantage of Microsoft 365 is enhanced security. The new Microsoft 365 tools are all cloud-based, so no customer data is stored on engineers' devices. This not only makes customer data more accessible to field engineers, but also enhances its security.

With these examples, I hope that the fruits of a really close and collaborative partnership between a mobile hardware and software provider are obvious. Engineers on both sides that understand each other’s hardware and software applications to a granular level can pay big dividends when it comes to planning, deploying and troubleshooting new solutions – even if you don’t have to put a device into space to prove it.

Find out more about the TOUGHBOOK 55 Secured-core PC, visit the website.

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