Recently I’ve been doing quite a bit of work with Symbol’s new wearable terminal, the WT4070 and the WT4090, the long awaited upgrade to Symbol’s original DOS wearable terminal the WSS1060. For those unfamiliar with these terminals, these are wearable terminals typically used by warehouse and distribution center workers such as UPS, FedEx, etc. The WT4070 is the currently shipping version that support 802.11 b/g, and the WT4090 will support 802.11 a/b/g. It is actually the same unit with software changes to handle some regulatory hurdles with the radio.
For the last few months, I’ve been working on migrating the SVTP terminal emulator I wrote at Symbol, from the old DOS terminal to Windows CE (SVTPCE) for one of our larger customers. Symbol does ship the WT4090 with a license for another terminal emulator, but our customer preferred having a version that was drop in compatible with their existing terminals, which used the original SVTP, and could be customized to meet their exact requirements.
Since I’ve been working with this new terminal, I thought I’d give a short review of the new WT4090 terminal and some tricks for working with this terminal.
Overall the WT4090 is a great terminal, and is a long awaited addition to the Symbol product line. It’s lightweight at only 12.6 oz. and has a very nice display and keyboard layout. The WT4090 will be available in two keyboard layouts, a “2-tap” keyboard that functions like the legacy WSS-1060 did, and a “3-tap” keyboard that operates more like a cell phone keyboard.
However, the biggest feature is that you now have a full Windows CE 5.0 operating system strapped to your wrist or belt which opens up a huge number of possible applications. Initially I see this product as a technology refresh for the current WSS1060 users who will mostly use it for warehouse and distribution centers, but down the road this could easily be used for many other types of field force applications where it would be helpful to not need to carry the terminal around. And with the belt option and voice capabilities the options expand even more.
The WT4090 also comes with two scanner options, the RS-309 Scanner and the RS-409. The RS-309 scanner is very large and bulky for a wearable scanner and I wouldn’t recommend it, but the RS-409 is a very nice device that compares favorably to the older RS-1 and SRS-1. Also, the scanner can be connected on either side of the terminal to allow for either left or right-handed users.
Display (not Touchscreen)
The display is a nice 320 x 240 landscape pixel addressable QVGA. It is sufficiently bright for working indoors, but would be difficult to use in an outdoor environment. Overall a pretty nice display.
One of the first things that I noticed was, like the MC1000, the WT4090 does not have a touch screen!!! When asked, Symbol told me that this was a design decision to help improve the terminal’s ruggedness in the wearable environment. Since the terminal is meant to be worn on the wrist or belt, they felt that having a touch screen would reduce the ruggedness of the device and receive stray mouse events.
However, I find that the lack of a touchscreen on a Windows operating system is difficult to work with. After a while I was able to navigate fairly well with the keyboard, but there are some functions that I was never able to access. Also, its hard to get past the habit of trying to push the buttons on the screen when looking at a windows environment. In a production environment this is probably ok since the end users will not need to navigate the Windows CE Shell, but as a developer or administrator it can be quite painful.
There are two ways to get around this “problem”. First, Symbol has provided USB keyboard and mouse drivers for their terminal which you can use to connect directly to the WT4090 (through the cradle). However, it requires an odd cable, a Mini USB A to USB A Female connector, which is apparently commercially available but not at any of the normal electronics stores (Radio Shack, CompUSA, Best Buy, …).
The second option, is to run the Microsoft ActiveSync Remote Display program to connect to the device over a regular ActiveSync connection. This is the choice I took, since it didn’t require finding special cables, and as a developer I needed to use the USB connection to debug the application. See my article on ActiveSync Remote Display for CE 5.0.
One more consideration when developing applications for the WT4090 is the memory configuration. The device has 128MB of RAM, and another 64 MB of flash available in the /platform and /application directories that Symbol uses for installing applications.
The WT4090 does not provide any slots for an external memory card. In general this is not a problem since the terminal is targeted for a warehouse environment which is continuously connected, but will prevent this terminal from being used in other field force applications.
New Bluetooth Stack
This terminal uses the StoneStreet OneBlueTooth Stack which Symbol is now also using on the MC9094. While in theory switching between the various BlueTooth implementations shouldn’t be a problem, it is when they implement different programming APIs. So for us this means migrating our BlueTooth implementation from using the Microsoft Socket interface to the API provided by Symbol on devzone.
Also note that Symbol is not providing the BTExplorer GUI on this terminal so all BlueTooth access must be done using the software APIs.
Development for this terminal is essentially the same as any of the other Symbol handheld terminals. Since it is a Windows CE 5.0 device it is best to do your development in Visual Studio 2005 to be able to deploy your applications.
Symbol provides the folowing set of SMDKs for wearable development (available in devzone):