Enterprise Mobility & the Connected Worker Blog

Enterprise Mobility Trends: The In‑Vehicle Office

by Elliot Mintz | 4/29/2024

We live in a dynamic era where the traditional office setting, complete with desks and computers, is no longer the exclusive setup for many workers. Frontline mobile workers in industries like transportation, public safety, utilities, and manufacturing, spend their days entirely in vehicles or rely on them for most of their operational workflows. Replacing a standard office with an in-vehicle workspace poses unique challenges that various OEMs have tackled by offering vehicle‑based solutions catered to mobile workers and their industries. These solutions include rugged computers, vehicle mounts, mobile routers, power cradles, accessories, and telematics software that all come together to create a space in which workers and fleets can operate successfully.

Historically, the typical in‑vehicle computing setup consisted of a bulky and expensive PC permanently mounted into a vehicle. While this configuration has advantages like durability, the demand in recent years has shifted toward cheaper, more mobile solutions. Rugged tablets possess the durability of fixed-vehicle computers and the versatility to be dismounted and taken out into the field, a benefit in many lines of work. Tablets have been the dominant form factor in vehicles like semi‑trucks and garbage trucks but are becoming more popular in utility vehicles, public safety fleets, and forklifts where they are frequently replacing dedicated forklift-mounted computers. Big names in the rugged computing space, like Zebra and Getac, have invested heavily in the tablet market, while Samsung, typically known for their consumer-grade devices, has found success in vehicles with their Tab Active series. By 2027 the market for rugged tablets will overtake the fixed-vehicle computer and in‑vehicle notebook/laptop market across almost every vehicle type covered in VDCs 2023 Vehicle‑Based Enterprise Mobility Solutions report.

The supporting applications that encourage safety, efficiency, and sustainability at the forefront of fleet operations are just as important as the hardware that enables mobile workers to do their jobs. More than just a mobile office, today's enterprise vehicle has become a hub for data collection through these applications that lead businesses to insight‑driven decisions. Advancements in telematics, artificial intelligence, and connectivity have optimized fleet operations and helped managers overcome many of the challenges faced by mobile workforces. AI-integrated cameras and sensors collect vast amounts of data on driver behavior, vehicle performance, surrounding infrastructure, and more while analyzing it faster than any human or computer could in the past. Edge computing and 5G‑capable connected vehicles allow this data to be transferred back to headquarters, often in the form of real‑time video or synthesized insights. Telematics solutions providers like Teletrac Navman and Samsara, and connectivity providers like Cisco, Verizon, and AT&T are striving to meet the increasing data collection demands across industries.

A successful in‑vehicle office requires a complete solution. Any lack of hardware, software, connectivity, or security features could lead to operational catastrophe for enterprise fleets and significant return on investment losses. It is key for OEMs of vehicle‑based enterprise mobility solutions to build partnerships, enabling them to deliver customers the complete solution they desire. VDC estimates that the number of enterprise fleet vehicles will increase by over 3 million by 2027, giving ample opportunity to deploy new and emerging technologies.

Discover essential insights into vehicle and industry‑specific device requirements, and more, in the 2023 Vehicle-Based Enterprise Mobility Solutions report.