Mar 29 2011

Product Review: Motorola Enterprise Digital Assistant

This multipurpose mobile device stands up to abuse in the field.

The Motorola MC75A Premium 3.5G Worldwide Enterprise Digital Assistant is a rugged mobile device primarily targeted at field workers who need reliable access for situational awareness, public safety or asset management. With the MC75A, your organization can save lives and money.

End-User Advantages

With the public counting on safety agencies, users need something fleet of foot and familiar. The Motorola MC75A boasts a PXA320 processor at 806 megahertz, with 256 megabytes of RAM and 1 gigabyte of flash memory on board and a microSD slot capable of an additional 32GB. That means it can respond quickly to your queries, and with Windows Mobile 6.5 as an operating system, it is familiar.

All that processing and operating system talk is great, but what about the interface? The 640x480 pixel 3.5-inch LCD touchscreen is quite readable and responds very well to the touch. The natural font size is large, so it's easy to read and navigate.

Motorola MC75A Premium 3.5G Worldwide Enterprise Digital Assistant
Connectivity is also a snap with more options than users may need. Standard Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g) is available for WLAN connectivity; Bluetooth v.2.1 with EDR for close-range peripherals; 3.5G HSDPA or CDMA EVDO for cell voice and data connections; and IrDA for infrared networking (with medical imaging devices, for example).

The MC75A also has a number of ways to interact with its environment, starting with five different keypads: Numeric, QWERTY, DSD, AZERTY and QWERTZ. A 3.2-megapixel camera with autofocus and flash can be configured to act as a scanner for 1D and 2D barcodes (for instance, to mark evidence or assets).

Why It Works for IT

With users out in the field, the challenge of managing an enterprise digital assistant (EDA) is a steep one indeed. First and foremost is durability.

When I unpacked the MC75A, it was clear that this is a solid device. The product meets or exceeds all MIL-STD-810G military requirements for stress (drop) testing and is IP54 seal-rated against dust and rain. It survived several drops from five feet onto the solid concrete flooring in my basement — and a whole day with my 5-year-old, outside in the ice and snow. Now that's durable, which means it lasts longer, saving money on replacement costs. An optional three- or five-year full-replacement warranty guarantees that Motorola will replace the device for any reason — even if it's accidentally run over by a patrol car.

The MC75A complies with FIPS 140-2 level 1 security for advanced encryption and authentication algorithms. It also meets stringent industry regulations for PCI data and HIPAA requirements. IT administrators can centrally manage the device for software updates, and wipe it remotely should it become lost.

The manufacturer designed the product as part of its Motorola Platform Architecture (MPA), so existing applications written for other Motorola devices will work on the MC75A. With the MPA, you can rapidly deploy the devices or remotely diagnose issues. The MPA also assures that your specialized software will run on the MC75A or any new Motorola EDAs that become available in 2012 or beyond, giving you more bang for your development buck.


Let's make one thing clear: While the MC75A has voice capabilities, it's not a cell phone replacement. It weighs in at 14 ounces and feels more like a walkie-talkie than a cell phone. However, Motorola included a backup voice channel to get information quickly to someone when they need it most, in places where cell phones don't work.

It should also be stressed that the MC75A is a technology enabler, part of a bigger solution that includes software and servers. I wouldn't just buy a few and hand them out; it should be part of a departmental initiative — for example, an electronic citations or fleet management program. The centralized management software is also part of that solution and is not included with the purchase of the device. The good news is that Motorola has hundreds of partners that develop solutions for the MPA; you just need to hook yourself up with one to fully appreciate the investment.