A retail store, restaurant or storage facility is an accident waiting to happen for computers, mobile devices and other IT hardware. What looks like a fabulous restaurant or boutique is a hotbed of workplace hazards for electronics: liquids, steam, temperature fluctuations, dust or food particles and rough handling can all compromise your technology.
Shopping for point of sale (POS) hardware for your store or restaurant can be overwhelming, especially when you get into the nitty gritty details. One piece of information you’ll receive for the hardware you are considering is the IP (ingress protection) rating. At first glance, it may seem to be just another number in a long list of stats to consider, but its purpose is actually to tell you the level of protection the hardware has against damage from dust or dirt particles and liquids.
How to Decipher the IP Rating
The first digit in an IP rating is related to solids and pertains to what can get inside the device through a fan, port or other entry point:
|1: Solids larger than 50 mm (hands or large tools)|
|2: Solids larger than 12.5 mm (finger)|
|3: Solids larger than 2.5 mm (wires)|
|4: Solids larger than 1 mm (slim straps)|
|5: Limited dust protection|
|6: Completely sealed against dust|
The second number defines the degree of protection against liquids in different forms:
|1: Dripping water or condensation|
|2: Dripping water (up to a 15-degree angle)|
|3: Water spray (to a 60-degree angle)|
|4: Splashing water from any direction|
|5: High pressure water jets|
|6: Liquids from a nozzle under pressure|
|7: Short periods of immersion (30 minutes at up to three feet)|
|8: Waterproof (up to 13 feet of water)|
How to Know Which IP Rating is Right for Your Application
There are some computers and tablets that while attractive, are impractical for harsh environments like retail, restaurants and entertainment venues. Heat, dust, spills and high traffic make these units vulnerable to damage and downtime, which will disrupt your business and risk loss of revenue.
The POS system is one of the last things a customer will see before exiting your store or restaurant so it should be a pleasant experience. Those sleek, glass-faced consumer-grade tablets are pretty and don’t take up a lot of space, but are they tough enough to provide the efficient customer experiences your shoppers or diners are looking for? In general:
- The higher the IP rating is, the more tightly sealed a device will be and the longer it will last. Most retail and restaurant environments need hardware that has a minimum of an IP54 rating. A longer life also means the manufacturer will have replacement parts, repair service and support available for the device for a longer period of time.
- IP ratings higher than 54 are appropriate for outdoor intermodal facilities or storage yards and locations with debris and flying particles. Their high level of durability makes them perfect for areas with a lot of foot traffic (stadiums, convention centers, and transportation facilities), wet work areas (bars, nightclubs and recreational facilities) or places where a lot of people will be touching the devices like museums and airports.
- Devices with lower IP ratings are vulnerable to damage from particles or liquids and won’t deliver the solid ROI you need to run your facility profitably.
IP ratings are an important part of understanding how your technology will hold up against heat, dust, spills and heavy use. The wrong decision may eventually cost you more money in downtime and replacement costs. If you are looking for reliability and low total cost of ownership (TCO), choose the right IP rating for your business environment.