“There are so many applications coming for touch,” states Gilbert. “We wanted our computer to do multi-touch scenarios. We took ours and decided to do something different with it. What you got was the only capacity touch screen on the market. They can page flick. They can zoom with their finger. It works like an iPhone.” Dell’s multi-touch screen works with latex gloves on and their resistant-touch screen can be used with heavy gloves, so it is appropriate for officers in colder climates.
“The pressure touch screen is effortless,” says Lamb. “For example, in Minneapolis an officer will get into the car with gloves on and he can use the screen with them on. A touch screen makes the difference between the computer being usable and non-usable.”
Due to many law enforcement applications utilizing forms, most tablets can be used with a stylus as well. A bonus is the ability to automatically switch between applications.
Even with the best touch screen on the market, a computer geared towards law enforcement will be useless if the officer can’t see the information on the screen. Manufacturers addressed this problem by adjusting brightness and reducing reflectivity. “The number one complaint about tablets is they can’t see it while they are trying to read the display,” states Lamb. “One of the best features (of the Getac V100) is its QuadraClear display, which has a six times greater contrast rate than its nearest competitor. Even though there is a roof over the officer’s head, with this one they can see even with the sunlight coming through.” The utilization of circular polarization is becoming standard in rugged computers. Screen size is important as well. Specs generally run from seven to 12 inches.
On the move: Mobility
One of the perks of tablet computers is definitely the ability for them to be mobile. This mobility transcends just a piece of patrol equipment and becomes a tool for investigators and specialty patrols as well. “You can take them out of the vehicle,” explains Kyle. “It can be a lot more versatile.” According to Kyle, the Algiz 7 “represents a latest, best of class, kind of device. It boasts pushing the envelope as far as specifications and ruggedness go. It provides a lot of power in a very mobile unit.”
Investigators can use them to take pictures at a crime scene. Tablet features also include bar code capability. “This puts it in the hands of investigators which are not tethered to a car and are in different environments,” explains Poulin. “It can be used for investigations and traffic accidents. [The nice thing is] the camera, the ergonomics and the touch screen allow you to utilize your software out in that kind of environment.”
Tablets are useful in specialty vehicles as well. “Police agencies are adding more bike patrols and motorcycles,” says Gilbert. “I see them mounting kits in the back of the bike. We made vehicle docks so they can be mounted in cars, boats and other vehicles.”
A tablet computer’s mobility and versatility can be attributed in large part to its size and weight. “The way we see the tablets working in police is primarily in patrol,” states Gilbert. “One of the biggest things in the US, Canada and Europe is squad cars are continuing to get smaller.” Where once many departments drove Crown Vics or Impalas, many have now gone to Chargers (US), BMW (Canada) and Fiats (Europe). “Cab space is getting smaller, so we went to a tablet form factor that frees up space in the vehicle.” Longacre agrees the smaller size was a key factor in Stockton’s choice. “We got a tablet so we can fold the screen back and it can mount in the front of the car. One of the selling points is it only covers the AM/FM hole and air vent and that’s it. It just works so well in there.”