What to Look for in a Mobile Computing Device for Law Enforcement

By Sasha Wang, President of Durabook Americas

Whether a law enforcement officer is at the scene of an incident or on patrol, one thing is that they will be in the thick of the action. For some citizens, “protect and serve” is just a cute (or irritating) slogan; for law enforcement, it’s a way of life.

From investigations to communications, paperless documentation, real-time reporting, applications, communications, mapping, and more, today’s digital technology has changed the way law enforcement do their job.

With instant access to a department’s network, databases and real-time intelligence needed to keep communities safe, mobile computing devices have become a key part of the arsenal of tools available to help keep the peace and keep the rest of us safe and protected.

The best type of mobile computing device for law enforcement is classified as rugged or, at a minimum, semi-rugged. Here’s why:

Rugged devices are designed to operate in extreme temperatures, survive drops, withstand shock and vibration, and be waterproof and dustproof. A rugged laptop is designed to work reliably in dusty or wet environments and conditions. These laptops have a thicker and stronger casing compared to a regular laptop.

They are also capable of complying with other essential requirements, such as high-performance and government-grade security. Rugged laptops are designed to be mobile; they are resistant to vibrations, shocks, drops, dust and water. A fully rugged device is usually IP65 or even IP66 and MIL-STG-810 certified.

So what are IP65 and MIL-STG-810?

IPXX is part of the international standard IEC 60529. The IP part stands for Ingress Protection. The first digit (ranging from zero to six) represents protection against dust and foreign objects, and the second digit (ranging from zero to eight) represents the degree of airtightness against moisture and intrusion of water. The larger the number, the higher the level of protection.

IPX standards provide users with more detailed information than vague marketing terms such as waterproof. For example, IP65 means protection against total ingress of dust and low pressure water jets from all directions.

MIL-STD-810H is a series of tests designed by the US military to test the limits of equipment under various conditions, where the item is intended to be used (environment) or transported (shock). High/low temperature, transit drop (shock), and humidity resistance are the most common environmental tests. Testing standards vary depending on the placement of rugged devices.

Semi-rugged devices, sometimes referred to as enterprise rugged by marketing departments, are usually enhanced versions of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware. The components are the same, but they are better protected. For example, a semi-rugged laptop might have a thicker case, gel-mounted storage drive, and spill-resistant keyboard. They can also have a protective case or a rainproof body.

The semi-rugged device is usually IP5x and MIL-STG-810 certified. However, semi-rugged laptops are much cheaper than their fully-rugged counterparts. As a result, semi-rugged devices find their way into areas that require specialized devices that do not experience the extreme level of wear and tear of fully rugged devices and are susceptible to diminished performance at extreme temperatures or screens frozen in freezing temperatures, for example.

That’s being tough. But there’s more to these mobile marvels that make them an ideal partner for law enforcement. Although each manufacturer offers a variety of features, there are many similarities between the companies. Here are a few that improve the user experience.

NVMe PCIe SSD, the latest storage technology, provides up to 1TB of storage and delivers speeds 4x faster than SATA III. Some manufacturers design a unit to accommodate two additional internal SATA III SSDs to maximize onboard storage. Some also provide a media bay for different configuration options, such as an optical disc drive, second battery, or third SATA III SSD storage.

4G LTE, 5G, Bluetooth® V5.2 and Wi-Fi communications enable seamless connectivity. Additionally, the built-in GPS can provide accurate location tracking and geographic insights.

A range of integrated interfaces with many add-ons, such as Thunderbolt™ 4, HDMI + VGA + USB Type-C DP, RJ-45 ports, RS-232 serial ports, Smartcard/CAC reader, RFID reader, ExpressCard 54, and the PCMCIA Type II slot, is a must. Additionally, USB options include Type-C to Type-A, USB 3.2 Gen2, and USB 2.0.

A 10-point capacitive multi-touch screen with multi-touch modes (e.g. glove, stylus, water, finger) optimizes one unit for indoor and outdoor applications, enhancing device usability whatever whatever the working conditions.

In the field, portability means productivity. Many rugged mobile devices are equipped with an ultra-long-lasting, high-capacity battery and hot-swappable battery capability, enabling uninterrupted law enforcement activities even when away from headquarters or pregnant.

Law enforcement officers need flexibility to carry out their work. Some manufacturers, including Durabook, offer 2-in-1 solutions with an innovative detachable keyboard. Whether an officer needs a laptop with a full keyboard and full connectivity or a tablet for added mobility, the unit can provide the versatility and functionality to do both.

Finally, a manufacturer can customize a rugged unit to meet your needs, unique or not. As a result, you never need to settle for a standard model.

This is just a list of some features to include in your rugged mobile law enforcement device. Others include security options (fingerprint scanner, stealth mode, night vision mode, Kensington lock, TPM 2.0, NIST BIOS compliance, etc.), graphics packages, cameras, and audio choices.

Working in a challenging and fast-paced environment for an officer can be stressful and demanding. That’s why today’s law enforcement agencies need to leverage rugged computing devices to help them stay competitive, efficient, and reliable in their day-to-day operations.

About the Author

Sasha Wang, Head of Global Sales and Marketing at DURABOOK. He recently became President of Durabook Americas, which has enjoyed great success in global product planning, sales and marketing, as well as various leadership positions within the rugged computer industry for more than 15 years old.

About Michael C. Lovelace

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