By Samuel Mueller, CEO, Scandit.
Purchasing barcode scanners has become a matter of varied choices. No longer are enterprises restricted to selecting from an array of dedicated scanners or traditional mobile computers. Barcode scanning options now include smartphones. Organisations must determine which device will deliver the scanning performance needed at the right price.
As any IT buyer knows, one of the most important considerations in a technology purchase is getting the biggest bang for your buck. Upfront costs are only one of many factors barcode scanning device buyers need to include in their evaluation. Others include how long the device will last, how frequent and expensive maintenance and repairs will be, ruggedness, the amount of training needed, ergonomics, scan performance levels, and how many different tasks the device will handle.
Taken together, these and other elements comprise the total cost of ownership (TCO). TCO accounts for all hard costs (such as the device itself, the software that runs on it and associated software development costs) and soft costs (such as training, operation and downtime expenses).
Firstly, it's important to understand that smartphones can be deployed as consumer-grade devices to be used in a variety of enterprise workplaces. However, they are also available in rugged models to ensure operation in physically demanding environments. By deploying ruggedised smartphones, or smartphones protected by rugged cases, enterprises can further lower TCO and benefit from the same durability as traditional rugged mobile computers or dedicated scanners.
Mitigating the higher hardware costs of rugged smartphones is the fact that they still have a much lower TCO than the dedicated scanning devices traditionally used in demanding scan scenarios.  Even so, mobile computers can still cost over five times as much as a rugged smartphone over the device's lifetime. Meanwhile, rugged smartphones developed by traditional barcode scanning hardware manufacturers can cost three times as much as standard iOS or Android smartphones.
Fortunately, other options exist for enterprises seeking to perform rugged scanning operations without paying too high a price. In good news for supply chain managers seeking convenient and efficient scanning solutions, enterprise technology providers offer cloud-based software that utilises the built-in camera and flash of a smartphone to turn it into an enterprise scanner. Many smartphone manufacturers also offer ruggedized smartphones designed for use in harsh environments.
Some organisations are even leveraging employee's personal devices instead of investing in enterprise hardware. Apps that utilise a smartphone's camera can be extended to personal devices via bring your own device (BYOD) IT policies, eliminating hardware costs from the TCO equation. Training on iOS and Android-based smartphones may also be easier and more cost-effective, simply because of employee familiarity.
Other benefits, which may further reduce the TCO of a consumer smartphone (ruggedized or non-ruggedised), include its applicability to numerous non-scanning functions. As opposed to a dedicated scanning device, smartphones can also be utilised for tasks such as communication and navigation.
Rugged smartphones, as well as smartphones protected by ruggedised cases, offer a lower TCO by a large margin. IT buyers and supply chain managers should note they also offer alternative advantages to businesses with a barcode scanning requirement. With fully-ruggedised and encasement options now available, smartphone-based scanning solutions offer a more economically viable alternative that will suit the rigours of even the most demanding environments.
 TCO Models for Mobile Computing and Communications Platforms – VDC Research
 Total Cost of Ownership of Mobile Barcode Scanning – Scandit