Rugged Laptop or Rugged Tablet — How to Decide on the Right Mobile Computer for Law Enforcement

Whether you decide to implement a tablet or laptop solution into your department is completely dependent on the necessary requirements to create a real-time situational awareness crime center for every officer.

We all know how unpredictable and fast-moving law enforcement can be. We can all recall the days when officers carried handhelds the size of a brick, cell phones were an expensive status symbol, no inter-connectivity to personnel was available, and long trips back to the station to input the day’s data entry was a tedious and dreaded task. Who could have predicted the law enforcement workflow of the future — reliable and continual communication, instant access to critical records, GPS guidance, e-citations, fingerprint authentication readers, smartcard and magnetic card readers, body-worn cameras, in-vehicle printing, on-scene incident reporting, barcode and RFID readers, automatic license plate readers, and law enforcement oriented apps and software — these advancements have made it possible for officers to have a real-time crime center. Whether you decide to implement a tablet or laptop solution into your department is completely dependent on the necessary requirements to create a real-time situational awareness crime center for every officer.

Within the past five years’ tablets have become an evolving form factor, some pledging the case for tablets becoming the mobile computing tool of the future for law enforcement, gaining momentum into the market so strongly laptops are being thrown into the abyss of the past. However, opinions differ on whether a tablet can outperform the old tried and trusted mobile workstations via a laptop or notebook, as both have their individual advantages. Keep reading on to discover the advantages of both mobile solutions — tablets and laptops for law enforcement.

The Pros of Rugged Tablet Solutions

Why should you choose a rugged tablet solution for your department? The choice between equipping your workforce with laptops or tablets is dependent upon whether officers are in a patrol car, at a desk, on foot, or in the office. Do officers want to take the device outside of the vehicle? Tablets are a highly effective tool for police motorcycles which can be mounted on handle bars or in the saddle bag, as well as patrol cars, SWAT teams and investigators. Detectives can use rugged tablets to take on-scene film footage and images without requiring expensive digital cameras to capture evidence.

Tablets are light weight and small enough for handheld use and take up minimal space inside police vehicles. Specialized uses for tablets include signature captures, barcode scanning for ID verification and VIN number scanning, field interview creation, evidence photography, plus the ability to exit a vehicle while filming real-time video of emergency situations to properly assess the requested resources for dispatch. Officers can take a tablet from the vehicle to the street and back to the office to be docked and used as a desktop PC — this seamless transition is the definition of true mobile computing. In the past, display real estate has been an issue with officers using tablets for their main computing solution but today tablet screen size has become comparable to the laptop or notebook and even offer digitized screens for glove-touch and sunlight viewability. What about data entry? Many rugged tablets have backlit companion keyboards that seamlessly snap-on or bolt-on for quick typing ability. Rugged tablets are a practical solution offering complete mobility allowing for routine work to be more streamlined in the field, an imperative element in creating intelligent, real-time crime centers.

 The Pros of Rugged Laptop Solutions

Not every rugged laptop is created equal and this is especially true when deciding which laptop solution to implement into your department. Many rugged laptops are purpose built for public safety and offer touchscreens for tapping and zooming, stylus pens for signatures and on-screen entry, a thin and light design, and ergonomic features such as swivel screens to be viewed by individuals both on the driver and passenger sides of the car.

What about removing the device from the vehicle? Many officers never remove their device from the police vehicle and when given the choice, would rather not. When a mobile device is removed from the vehicle such as a rugged tablet the chance of the device being broken, driven over, stolen or misplaced is highly likely. When this happens, the device must be replaced which can be very costly over time. An important aspect of a law enforcement laptop or notebook is the proper vehicle mounting solution. The last thing an officer needs is a large bulky computer impeding the process and increasing risk. Vehicle docking stations and consoles keep rugged laptops charged and ready to go while providing shock absorption and stability. Rugged laptops will continue to evolve aiming to make jobs more efficient and productive — we see this today in the adoption of the two-in-one hybrid notebook which can be used as a laptop or tablet. For those who need the stability of a laptop, yet the light weight flexible form factor of a tablet, a two-in-one device may be the right solution for your department.

When the time comes to implement new and advanced technology whether it be a tablet, laptop or a two-in-one device, police computers must be durable, high performing, easy to use with custom features and options, along with a realistic price point — an equation for value and return on investment.

The mobile solutions experts at Group Mobile work with police departments nationwide and can assist you in determining the best equipment for your application and budget.

What to Shop for When Selecting a New Mobile Technology Solution

When you invest in technology to improve your business, you must be confident the investment will pay off in the end.

The public safety sector is on the forefront of real-time data use. The value of real-time data is almost immeasurable as having access to true, real-time data can save lives. Given this, the

The ideal best practice for every organization is to pilot a technology before procurement, but this is not always feasible and many budgets don’t allow for trial and error testing.

Talk to other agencies

How do you know what to shop for when selecting a new mobile technology solution? Group Mobile suggests choosing a mobile device that has the right feature set for your needs or will be able to fulfill all of your agency’s operational requirements in a single device. There is no reason to procure a device that falls short of your agency’s needs. Also, finding a solutions integrator who fully understands all elements of your organization from pre-deployment, deployment and post-deployment professional services. 

When it comes to mobile technology deployments, Group Mobile knows the road. Many mid-size cities, towns and counties have similar workflows and, therefore, similar mobile device requirements.

Before buying, do your research and talk with other agencies that mirror yours. Set up a call with them or meet with them in person to understand the lessons they’ve learned in their mobile journey. You’ll find that agencies are always willing to help another agency and give you an honest assessment.

What to look for

This portfolio list of options will help you focus your requirements and conduct a full analysis of your own current technology portfolio to make early decisions regarding:

  • Operating system preference: The applications you choose will drive your OS decision. Most public safety agencies choose to run Windows for compatibility and security. Though there are new applications arriving on the Android platform today that may benefit some organizations. Fortunately, fully rugged Android tablets are now available.
  • Mobile data and mobile device security: This may include VPN access, multi-factor authentication, fingerprint readers, Common Access Card (CAC) readers, TPM, Kensington physical locks and other internal and external measures.
  • Data entry tools: Do you need the flexibility of keyboard and touch for data entry? Do you need a digitizer pen (which is much more accurate than a stylus)?
  • Size and weight: Do you prefer a larger 10-12” screen for easy, full-page viewing of documents and apps? Or can you make do with a 5” screen? Can your techs juggle a 5+ pound notebook and patient care in the field? Or do they need a more lightweight 2-4-pound solution?
  • Wired and wireless connectivity: How many I/O ports do you need? Which I/O ports do you need? Will your teams have access to Wi-Fi hotspots all the time, or do they need multiple wireless network and ancillary device connectivity options such as 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, IP, Gobi 3000
  • Rugged requirements: Which MIl-STD-810G and Ingress Protection (IP) rating levels are enough – and how much is too much? It depends on how often your mobile device will be exposed to water, dust, humidity, or corrosive elements, for example, and how prevalent shock or vibration will be in the vehicle. Will the device be used in potentially explosive environments? Make sure it’s also ATEX or C1D2/C1Z2 compliant for Hazardous Locations.

Impediments to true public safety mobility – inappropriate form-factors, fragile devices, heavy notebooks, weak data radios, limited mobile workflow software – are a thing of the past. The decision to go mobile today is just that – a decision to go mobile. Real-time information, streamlined reporting and constant communication make your service to the community faster, better and safer.

Make smart, near-term buys to lay a foundation for a full mobility solution with long-term return on investment. That may be just a handful of rugged tablets to power a new dispatch system. But it gives you time to fine tune your solution, define next best steps, and measure ROI.

One of the most challenging elements of implementing or upgrading a technology solution is achieving the return on investment. When you invest in technology to improve your business, you must be confident the investment will pay off in the end. It is critical you reach the maximum benefits in the time frame desired for your new technology solution. Group Mobile will identify the benefits available to your company based on a return on investment mobility model, and deliver technology solutions and services to ensure a successful outcome.

Group Mobile’s team of industry experts can assist you in selecting, designing and implementing a multi-network environment for mission-critical fleets, request a free personalized quote.

How to Guarantee Your Agency Will Have In-Vehicle Connectivity and Ensure Success for Mission Critical Applications

A multi-network concept refers to any setup that provides the vehicle with more than one network connection, meaning, there can be a mix of technologies onboard ranging from cellular and Wi-Fi to LMR, satellite, or new formats as they come online, such as the FirstNet network for public safety.

Technology in the squad car is advancing every day which means staying on top of the best IT advances can be a huge challenge for any department.  Video surveillance, license plate recognition (ALPR), electronic ticketing systems and the latest vehicle dispatching and tracking technologies enable officers to safely cover more area, and coordinate with other officers and agencies. Today’s police officers, paramedics, firefighters, utility workers, transit operators, and other public safety workers rely on advanced mobile applications, such as automatic vehicle location, traffic signal prioritization, computer aided dispatch, route and schedule management, and fare payment systems that increase productivity and improve safety.

The main point of access for these applications is often from the vehicle, because it’s equipped with onboard wireless connectivity and transmits and receives data on a nearly continual basis. In-vehicle connectivity has become customary, with first responders and field service personnel driving cars, vans, and trucks equipped with a network connection that provides convenient access to voice, text, and video data.  However, if the vehicle has only one onboard connection, the setup involves a certain amount of risk. Any issues with network coverage, bandwidth, or usage can mean delayed communications or, worse yet, no communications at all. Losing the onboard connection can have extreme consequences, and can even mean the difference between life and death. How do you reduce this risk?  By adding at least one more onboard network connection you can greatly reduce this risk. An alternative connection – to a secondary cellular network or some other format, such as Wi-Fi or satellite – creates a layer of insurance. When the primary connection isn’t up to the task, the alternate connection can be brought online to keep communications intact. Having two or more available connections onboard the vehicle, or “multi-networking”, protects against worst-case scenarios, and increases resilience for emergency response and other in-field services.

So, what is involved in a multi-network concept? A multi-network concept refers to any setup that provides the vehicle with more than one network connection, meaning, there can be a mix of technologies onboard ranging from cellular and Wi-Fi to LMR, satellite, or new formats as they come online, such as the FirstNet network for public safety. A multi-network router installed in the vehicle is used to manage the switches from network to network. So, when are these typical network changeovers? Changeovers usually happen at three points of operation: When leaving the depot and transitioning from Wi-Fi to cellular, when returning to the depot and transitioning back from cellular to Wi-Fi, and while the vehicle is in motion, with the router switching from one network to another to optimize in-field connectivity.

With the right multi-network solution in place, changeovers from one network to another can happen automatically without any kind of manual intervention, and the necessary security protocols are maintained without interrupting the flow of work, even when there’s a VPN (Virtual Private Network) involved. Furthermore, the selection criteria for each network connection can be customized, based on things such as vehicle location, vehicle speed, or the type of data being transmitted. The overall result is more efficient network usage, more effective field services and lower operating costs. Law enforcement and other organizations are now using more video, and at a higher resolution. The video is typically stored in the vehicle and then transmitted to the backend system at periodic intervals. The mobile router can be configured to use a dedicated link to send video, so the data-intensive video transmissions don’t disrupt or slow down the other services in use. Alternatively, the router can be configured to send video transmissions when the vehicle returns to its home base, using the depot’s faster, more secure Wi-Fi connection to transfer video. Now, how to choose the right mobile router for your workforce to ensure connectivity in the field.

The operating costs and in-field effectiveness of a multi-network platform are heavily influenced by the ability of the router to manage seamless network changeovers and protect data. The router’s switching speed, security features, and programmability all affect how well the solution performs, and how much it costs to manage. It’s important to consider all these factors when evaluating the various options available for mobile multi-networking.

Transitioning to a multi-network environment is a serious undertaking. To maximize your return on investment and fully realize the benefit to your organization we recommend three things to look for in a multi-network mobile router:

  1. Switching speeds that are fast enough to support seamless connectivity.
  2. The ability to provide continuous security without impacting performance.
  3. A policy engine that can be configured for intelligent switching and customized operation.

Choosing a mobile router that meets all three criteria lets you create a multi-networking environment that not only enhances efficiency but also adds value. Group Mobile works closely with Sierra Wireless to offer the world a comprehensive offering of hardware, software, and services for connected devices and machine-to-machine communications. Together, Group Mobile and Sierra Wireless provide innovative, reliable and high performing solutions.

Group Mobile’s team of industry experts can assist you in selecting, designing and implementing a multi-network environment for mission-critical fleets, request a free personalized quote.

6 Critical Areas that Benefit from Automated License Plate Recognition

ALPR will enhance law enforcement and investigative capabilities, expand the collection of relevant data, and expedite the time consuming process of comparing vehicle license plates with lists of wanted, stolen and other vehicles of interest.

Automated License Plate Recognition, also known as ALPR, captures a license plate image, transforms that image into alphanumeric characters using character recognition software, compares the plate number to license plate numbers in critical license plate number databases, and alerts law enforcement if and when problems arise.

ALPR for Law Enforcement

Law enforcement personnel need real-time data, with ALPR they have just that. ALPR technology gives them real-time data without the tedious manual process of researching license plate numbers one by one. ALPR technology drastically improves efficiency and effectiveness for officers trying to identify vehicles of interest–a stolen car, an abandoned car, a vehicle associated with a robbery or child abduction.

ALPR technology helps law enforcement with investigative and interdiction activities. Police officers can use ALPR technology with fixed or mobile equipment. With such advanced technology, you’ll need a rugged laptop or tablet devices that integrate smoothly — devices that better withstand hazards associated with law enforcement and public safety work.

ALPR for Airports

With the obvious need to increase security at airports, many are turning to ALPR technology to monitor precisely who enters onto airport property. ALPR security offers instant alerts and provides real-time data to those responsible for keeping airline passengers and personnel safe.

In addition to bolstering airport security, ALPR enhanced devices track and provide automatic inventory of available parking spots, helping customers get where they need to go with less time-consuming hassle.

ALPR for Healthcare Facilities

When it comes to medical treatment, seconds matter. ALPR technology can monitor available parking, alert and receive incoming notifications from emergency personnel and law enforcement, and can communicate the presence of nefarious individuals and alert the right people.

With the right network and technology in place, ALPR provides a common operating platform for multiple sites or healthcare locations, giving medical personnel instant information on potential dangers, helping emergency personnel know the best location for their purposes.

ALPR for Traffic Solutions

ALPR doesn’t have to always be about preventing crime. With a camera, illuminator, processor and modem integrated in a single rugged enclosure, traffic control can recognize plates at high speed, function with both single and double lane zones, automatically enforce traffic infractions, and reduce costs associated with toll-booth monitoring.

ALPR is perfect for spotting critical traffic safety issues, such as school zone infractions, school bus stop arm enforcement, passenger vehicle moving violations, and driving in prohibited lanes. ALPR technology helps with traffic flow analysis, making roads and highways safer.

ALPR for Property Managers

Property managers are entrusted with keeping tenants and their property safe. This important aspect of property management becomes easier with ALPR technology.The moment an unwelcomed visitor drives past a security camera, ALPR technology sends an alert.

No more need for security guards to undergo the tedious and inefficient task of manually recording each license plate number that passes. This allows security personnel to do their jobs more effectively. It also helps property managers monitor traffic flow and encourage community policing.

ALPR on Schools and Campuses

Students need to feel safe while at school. Large campuses often run like a city within a city. Most colleges and large school districts maintain their own police forces or partner with local law enforcement and transportation to maintain safety. ALPR technology helps campus police and local law enforcement officers identify potential threats, such as sexual predators or vehicles not allowed on campus.

Providing ALPR Solutions

Installing ALPR technology at parking facilities and other critical areas keeps individuals safe, but only if your current technology is reliable and integrated properly.

Group Mobile knows exactly what you need to design and implement the right ALPR solution. Group Mobile specializes in providing a perfectly customized mobile solution for every customer, contact one of our solutions experts for more information.