Wireless technology vendor Socket Mobile this week announced the general availability of the SoMo 650, an expandable handheld computer targeted toward the enterprise market that represents the company’s entrance into the mobile device market.

For more than a decade, Socket Mobile has been a supplier of wireless peripherals like wireless LAN cards and barcode-scanning solutions that are designed to expand the functionality of mobile devices, said Peter Phillips, Socket Mobile’s vice president of marketing. With the SoMo 650, Socket Mobile is beginning an effort to become a “one-stop shop” for mobile-device solutions.

“It’s really a shift for us as a company from being a peripherals provider to now being a systems company—we’re now providing a bigger piece or component of the solution,” Phillips said.

Integrated SoMo 650 features include a 624 MHz processor in a PDA-like form factor, the Windows Mobile 5.0 Professional operating system, battery life than can operate for an 8-hour shift without recharging, and built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. In addition, the computing functionality can be expanded via peripherals that leverage the compact-flash and secure-digital slots on the SoMo 650 that can enable cellular connectivity or enable the reading or barcodes or RFID tags, Phillips said.

“So, you’re essentially taking this mobile computer and turning it into a data-collection terminal with an RFID and barcode scanner,” he said. “Now, you’ve expanded the functionality of that device; it’s not just a mobile computing device, it’s a data-capture device.”

One customer already using the SoMo 650 is St. Clair Hospital in Pittsburgh, where nurses use the device to scan patient ID wrist badges, medication bar codes and read the RFID tags in their own badges to document work flow and attempt to minimize errors.

“What they’re doing is that they’re validating against the system that they’ve got the right medication, the right patient, the right dosage, the right time of day for it to be dispensed and that it’s being dispensed in the right manner—intravenous, pill or liquid,” Phillips said. “So, if a doctor was reading a lab report 15 minutes earlier and determined that the levels were such that they no longer needed that med, the doctor could go into the system and say, ‘That med’s no longer required.’

“Within seconds, that would be updated in the system. When the nurse walks into a patient’s room 5 minutes later to dispense the med, the system would say, ‘That’s no longer required.’”

The hospital is an example of the kind of enterprise Socket Mobile is targeting, Phillips said. While large corporations with a typically mobile workforce that have similar needs—notably, companies like FedEx and the UPS—can justify the development of customized mobile devices, other businesses are forced to rely on consumer PDA devices that are not designed for enterprise usage.

In particular, many consumer PDA devices require time to reconnect to the network each time a user moves from one access point to another access point on a network, Phillips said. Socket Mobile has developed a roaming client that allows users to seamlessly from one access point to another while remaining connected.

“Today’s handheld devices do not meet all the cost, functionality and form-factor requirements of small and mid-sized mobile deployments,” Socket Mobile President and CEO Kevin Mills said in a prepared statement. “Our strategy is to address this need by being the one-stop supplier of mobile computing hardware systems for the business mobility market. The SoMo 650 is a strong step forward in that plan.”