Panasonic redefines portable
- By Michelle Speir
- Jul 16, 2001
Panasonic Computer Solutions Co. announced a product last month that may change the way people think about mobility.
The Mobile Data Wireless Display (MDWD) and the Toughbook 07 Mini PC work in tandem to form a flexible, wearable configuration—without wires. The wireless aspect is the key: Panasonic officials noticed that most other wearable computers on the market are encumbered by wires, so they sought to develop a product that would free users from the bulkiness and limited movement imposed by wires.
The result is a miniature PC with a detached screen and local-area network communications between the two. To eliminate lag time between the PC and the display, Panasonic developed a communications protocol that allows the screen to respond instantly.
Because the system can be worn on the body or mounted in a vehicle, it offers a lot of flexibility. Motorcycle-mounted police officers, for example, could carry the devices, giving them the same access to data as officers in patrol cars. Other situations ideally suited for the product include utility work, equipment inspections and conducting inventories.
The display unit can operate up to 300 feet from the PC module in open spaces and features an on-board screen-capture function that can save up to 100 images. In addition, users can order the device with an optional integrated Global Positioning System receiver.
The MDWD weighs 1.5 pounds, measures 8.74 inches by 6.38 inches and is less than 1 inch thick. It features touch-screen operation and comes with a stylus. Like Panasonic's Toughbook products, the unit is ruggedized for shock, vibration, drops (of up to 4 feet), dust, water, heat and cold.
The 8.4-inch, 800-by-600 SVGA transflective LCD screen is sealed and encased in magnesium alloy. It uses both ambient light and backlighting to provide visibility in direct sunlight as well as darkened conditions. Panasonic rates battery life at two hours with the backlight on and five hours with it off.
The Toughbook 07 Mini PC is a small rectangular silver and black box measuring just 7.87 inches high by 3.61 inches wide by 2.05 inches thick. The case is aluminum, and the unit weighs just 2 pounds. The Mini PC is resistant to water, shock, drops, vibration and dust. It is compatible with Microsoft Corp. Windows 98, 2000 and NT 4.0 operating systems.
Packed inside this small form-factor unit is an Intel Corp. Pentium III 300 MHz processor, 64M of PC100 SDRAM (expandable to 192M) and a shock mounted 5G 1.8-inch hard drive. It features a serial port, a mini-USB port, DC power input, one Type II PC Card slot and a slot for Panasonic's optional port replicator.
Users can buy Motient Corp., Cingular Interactive LP, CDPD, GSM or GPRS wireless services to use with the unit.