Drives and Controls Magazine
Cognex expands into mobile terminals with phone-based system
Published:  04 April, 2016

The machine vision market-leader and barcode reader specialist, Cognex, has expanded into a new product area – rugged mobile terminals – which, it says, offer a “revolutionary” way of performing tasks such as inventory management, logistics and field service.

Cognex says that users of mobile terminals currently have to rely on expensive, inflexible, purpose-built systems. It claims that its new MX-1000 terminal combines the ease-of-use, low cost and flexibility of Apple and Android smartphones with a rugged hand-held assembly that holds both the phone and a special barcode reader that outperforms competitors’ laser-based and camera-based systems.

Cognex expects this “unique” combination to make it a major player in the $500m segment of the mobile terminal market that it is targeting. The company’s president and CEO, Robert Willett, predicts that the development will disrupt the market. “Customers no longer need to choose between ruggedness and flexibility,” he says. “With the Cognex MX-1000, they’ll get the best of both together with industry-leading DataMan technology for reading barcodes reliably, even under the most difficult conditions.”

Cognex developed the new terminal following discussions with mobile terminal users who are also buy its machine vision and barcode reader products. It reports that they are unhappy with their current terminals, which they describe as proprietary, expensive, closed systems that are both difficult to build applications on and costly to maintain.

The new terminals can read both 1-D and 2-D barcodes, but also incorporate a complete vision engine that can do much more. “I envision that, in the near future, customers will ask us to add other valuable vision-based capabilities – such as optical character recognition (OCR), package dimensioning and inspection,” predicts Cognex’s founder and chairman, Dr Robert Shillman.

Cognex's handheld terminal combines a smartphone with a machine vision engine

The development of the new terminal comes at a time of transition in the mobile terminal market as suppliers are phasing out terminals based on Microsoft’s Windows CE and Windows Mobile 6.x operating systems.

Early versions of the new MX-1000 terminal are already being field-tested by a several Fortune 500 companies, and Cognex is now starting to take orders for them.