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.

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.

The ROI of Rugged Computers: Are They Worth the Investment?

Rugged mobile computers have the potential to offer a stunning return on investment for your business. When you work with a rugged laptop, tablet, or handheld you can be confident in the fact, no matter where work takes you, your rugged device can come along.

When you choose the ideal laptop or tablet for your computing needs away from the office, you want to be sure you’re getting a product that will stick with you for time to come. Rugged computers have a higher price tag than many consumer devices. You want to be sure, if you’re going to spend money on a ruggedized device, that it’s going to be worth the investment. Knowing the (ROI) return on investment of rugged computers can help you make those critical decisions for your business.

Rugged Computers Go the Extra Mile

For many individuals, from contractors working on-site to people who work outside on a regular basis, a computer is only as useful as the device will allow. Rugged computers are designed to be usable wherever you are. They can be used:

  • Out in the rain without having to worry about water damage
  • In the back of a truck, bouncing around with the rest of your equipment, without having to worry about damage from vibration
  • In locations exposed to dirt, dust, and other conditions that could cause a more traditional mobile computer to stop functioning

A rugged laptop or tablet’s greatest ROI is that it can go anywhere you can. Take it with you on those important trips, haul it along when you’re headed out to a job site or out into the wilderness: it’s tough enough to take it.

Rugged Computers are Highly Durable

In some cases, you might not be headed out to a job site or spending a great deal of time outside. That doesn’t mean, however, that accidents can’t happen wherever you are. Ask yourself a few key questions:

  • Do you travel frequently, hauling your computer along with you through airports, to hotels, and anywhere else you have to go?
  • Do you often find yourself setting up at restaurant tables that aren’t as clean as you’d like or where spills are more likely?
  • Are you naturally clumsy, with a tendency to drop your computer bag at the worst possible moment or spill a drink when you’re sitting behind your desk?
  • Do you work in dusty or otherwise dirty conditions on a regular basis?

If any of these conditions ring true for you, it doesn’t matter if you often work in rugged conditions or not. A rugged device could be the solution to everything you need! Any time your mobile computer has to be fixed, you’re losing time and money. Not only do you have to pay for it to be fixed, you also have to find a solution for handling your computing needs while your computer is out of service or put off that work until you have your computer back in your hands. A rugged mobile computer ensures less time lost because it’s less likely to become damaged over the course of a normal work day.

The Support You Need to Keep Running

In every stage of the new device implementation process, from pre-deployment question and answer sessions to support after you’ve gotten used to your new mobile computer, but faced with a problem, you’ll receive all the support you need to make the most of your rugged computer. This includes:

  • Solutions for your most common problems
  • Help figuring out which rugged technology is the right fit for you and your business
  • Vital technical support when you need it most
  • Smooth roll-out services that will have your new technology working seamlessly in no time
  • Training for members of the team who need it
  • Extended help desk and repair of broken items

The investment in a rugged device comes along with all of these vital services, ensuring that you’ll be able to keep your equipment running smoothly. That means minimal lost time for your business as a whole, from the pre-deployment phases to the post-deployment need for support.

Rugged mobile computers have the potential to offer a stunning return on investment for your business. When you work with a rugged laptop, tablet, or handheld you can be confident in the fact, no matter where work takes you, your rugged device can come along. With less lost time, the ability to use your computer even in rugged conditions, and high-quality support, rugged mobile computers are an investment that will certainly pay off. Contact Group Mobile today to learn how we can help choose the right rugged mobile solution for you.

Group Mobile Offers End-to-End Mobile Services and Lifecycle Solutions

Can your company afford to replace the essential hardware that it 

needs to run properly?


How many of your workstations or other pieces of equipment are out of date and due to be refreshed?

Did you know you can incorporate your hardware renewal into a 
monthly service plan? 


Group Mobile is a full end-to-end mobile technology solution provider of project lifecycle services across all sectors and vertical industries. 

Pre-Deployment Services
Mobile deployments are unique and complex, especially when taking into account communication requirements, training, applications, and the ergonomics involved in handling technology in an environment where challenges reach far beyond a standard office environment. Group Mobile has worked through dozens of worldwide mobile deployments for all sectors and vertical industries. 
Pre-Deployment Services include:
  • Asset Staging & Tracking
  • Disk Imaging
  • Solutions Architecture
  • ROI Development
  • Wireless Site Survey
Learn more on Pre-Deployment Services here…

Deployment Services
During the deployment phase, businesses want to be ensured the solution purchased is well received by end users. Group Mobile will not only fulfill the hardware requirements, but we will also deploy the solution with minimal impact on your business and maximum return on investment. 
Deployment Services include:

  • Wireless Activation
  • Project Management
  • Training
  • Vehicle Installations
Learn more on Deployment Services here…

Post-Deployment Services
Once the solution has been deployed and in the hands of end-users, the next step is post-deployment support. Group Mobile will take ownership of the health of the system and its ongoing success. 
Post-Deployment services include:

  • Advanced Exchange
  • Mobile Device Management
  • Battery Management
  • Extended Help Desk
  • Client Services Management
  • Technology as a Service
  • Break/Fix

Learn more on Post-Deployment Services here…