Five years ago, the term “dedicated device” would have sounded alien to many people. But as organizations rely more heavily on technology, the term has become more widespread. And while the nomenclature itself is easy to follow, the exact definition is far more granular. 

According to Google’s Android Developer site, the short definition of a dedicated device is “a company-owned device that fulfills a single use case.” Point of sale systems, digital signage, self-ordering kiosks, handheld inventory scanners, restaurant tabletop ordering systems, self-check-in kiosks, cashier-less checkout systems, and airport ticket printing kiosks are all examples of dedicated devices — but this list is by no means complete.

You probably use some kind of dedicated device at least fairly regularly. ATMs — especially more modern models — are great examples of dedicated devices. Self-checkout machines at grocery and other brick and mortar stores are another prolific example in retail environments.

Single Purpose Devices and examples

We can sum up the core characteristics of a dedicated device in four points: 

  • They serve a specific, single purpose.
  • They run a single app or very tightly controlled selection of applications or operate exclusively in kiosk mode
  • Owned by an organization or enterprise (not an individual user)
  • They’re always-on and mission critical, meaning they’re relied on for essential business functions

Of course, sometimes those lines get blurred — like with a tablet used for a PoS (point of sale) system that also handles inventory management duties, email, and maybe even light web searching. Essentially, if the device is used similarly to how you’d use a personal mobile device (switching between multiple applications to accomplish a variety of fundamentally unrelated tasks), then it’s not a dedicated device. 

This can be slightly confusing because some devices may be crucial to company operations but don’t have a true dedicated use. That’s the differentiator — dedicated devices only need to do one thing (or one very short and tightly defined list of things), all day, every day. And they need to do it very well.

But hardware only tells half the story

So, we’ve defined what a dedicated device is, but that goes beyond hardware. As an integral part of operating functions for an organization, there are vital elements that you must consider at a software level.

The device needs touch navigation and hardware optimized to run the necessary applications. That’s a given. But what about communicating with these endpoint devices in the field or updating that software down the road?

You need a way to talk to, troubleshoot, update, and otherwise interact with these devices remotely. That’s why most modern dedicated systems need a cloud backend and interface. For example, PoS (Point of Sale) systems could have a backend to configure the management of store-specific activity like user credentials, real-time transaction monitoring, and more.. Logistics devices for tracking products might have a backend that manages warehouse inventory. 

This information is not generally stored directly on the device, however. It’s communicated back to an online repository that can be read and written from various sources across an entire fleet of devices. For example, a cloud-connected PoS could synchronize all transactions across devices in a store so management can view them in a single location. 

This same kind of connectivity applies to device management. You need a way to provision devices, push updates, enforce policies (and policy changes), and manage drift — all remotely. 

Why Android is the best choice for dedicated devices

Since many dedicated devices are purpose-built, you might think they require a proprietary or hyper-specific operating system to do the job. While traditional desktop operating systems like Windows weren’t designed for the always-updating, always-connected role that many organizations now demand, a versatile and customizable mobile operating system can offer the granular control generally required to provide the best experience to customers and end users. 

Desktop alternatives like Linux can be appealing but present significant technical challenges. At the same time, heavily restricted mobile operating systems like iOS can’t offer the control generally needed to provide the best experience to customers and end users. 

But that’s where Android (and the Android Open Source Project, AOSP) differs. It’s flexible,  adapting to nearly any need and use case. You can, for example, control system updates to integrate new features and improve security. Similarly, because Android is open source and exceptionally well supported, many devices can be maintained for a much longer period, increasing lifespan (and reducing costs). Some versions of Android can even run on x86 hardware, so older machines that have reached their end of life no longer need to be discarded in the name of security or new features.

With the wide range of free and commercial Android apps available, the incredible amount of customization it enables, and the accessibility it provides for users and developers, you have a winning recipe for a dedicated Android enterprise device fleet regardless of your specific needs. 

We’re the Android specialists for dedicated devices

Now that we’ve established what a dedicated device is, their requirements for optimal functionality, and why Android is the best platform to build them on, let’s talk about how you get there. Esper helps organizations build, deploy, and manage dedicated Android devices. It’s what we do.

Whether you need an agile, upgradable point of sale system, a network of self-ordering restaurant kiosks, or portable logistics devices to manage inventory, we can help. Whatever your use case may be, Esper can help guide and enhance your dedicated device strategy with our rich set of APIs, SDKs, custom operating system, and other tools. 

For more information on how we can streamline your operation, get in touch with us today.

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