Thursday, August 29, 2013

Indian Navy Goes Shopping For Tablet Computers

The Tablet PC must have an Ethernet port & at least 4 USB ports.

The concept of a 'paperless office' is growing on the Indian Navy [IN]. In keeping with this, it has undertaken digitisation of reference documents & drawings, needed while carrying out maintenance tasks on its aircrafts of its Air Arm. It now seeks to acquire a suitable hardware solution that Naval maintainers can use for accessing these documents to carrying out their task. It recently issued an 'Expression of Interest' for making such a purchase.


Users of this tablet PC would be able to receive the required documentation onto the device by connecting it to a central Server via a Ethernet Cable - no Wi-Fi for this. Easier to secure a wired-only WAN. It might appear a little strange for the Navy to demand a device powered by a x86-64 architecture processor, running a version of the Windows Operating Systems. However, a look through the catalogue of offerings of Tablet computers meant for industrial applications would reveal that their specifications are overwhelmingly in line with what the IN is asking for. Enterprise Application Software [EAS] used in industries long antedated the introduction of the Android OS fork, and most were thus coded to run in a Microsoft-created environment, including the older Windows 7, that wasn't quite optimised for the touch interface. What does attract some attention is the requirement for upwards of 4 USB ports in the device, as much as that in a conventional desktop PC. In the quick search done before posting, one couldn't locate a tablet with that many. Not surprisingly, the Navy is soliciting response for the "development of e-Reader Tablet (e-RT)". It would also likely indicate plans for subsequent utility as something more than an e-Reader.

Tablet PCs first found large-scale application, unsurprisingly, with the U.S Military. The US Air Force, for example, were one of the early adopters of this computing form factor, reportedly using Microsoft Tablet PC running Windows XP to help maintain & repair their aircraft since around 2001/2002. Installed with the client-side of a Product Lifecycle Management [PLM] software, it allowed operators to wirelessly access a centralised server to retrieve the required digital knowledgebase, including process workflow, carry out remote collaboration, visualise processes before performing it, conveniently updating generated data for later retrieval or analysis, among other functions. Recently it even took a decision to begin use of Tablets to store & access mission-specific data that flight crew have till now been carrying as paper documents, lots of it.

It remains to be seen to what extent is the tablet going to feature in the Indian Navy's present scheme of things. One gets an impression that the organisation intends to test the waters, thus adopting it for a limited application, that of accessing maintenance-related documents. Increasing familiarity with the platform, through use, should see it progressively getting incorporated for additional tasks. The hardware specified does allow comfortable room for more. The ultimate aim would be to attain a completely paperless approach to functioning, at some point in the future, hopefully the near future.


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