What to Look for in a Mobile Computer Device for Law Enforcement Usage

Sept. 13, 2022
Mobile computing devices have become a key part of the arsenal of tools at an officer's disposal in helping them keep the peace and keep the rest of us safe and protected.

By Sasha Wang, President of Durabook Americas

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

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

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

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

Rugged devices are designed to work in extreme temperatures, survive being dropped, resist shocks and vibrations, and be waterproof and dustproof. A rugged laptop is built to operate reliably in dusty or wet environments and conditions. These laptops have a thicker and stronger housing compared to a regular laptop.

They also are able to comply with other essential requirements, such as high-performance and governmental-grade security. Rugged laptops are engineered to be mobile; they are vibration, shock, drop, dust, and waterproof. 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 international standard IEC 60529. The IP portion 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 water intrusion. The larger the number, the higher the protection level.

The IPX standards provide users with more detailed information than vague marketing terms such as waterproof. For example, IP65 means protection from total dust ingress and low-pressure water jets from any direction.

MIL-STD-810H is a series of tests designed by the U.S. military to test equipment limits in various conditions, where the item is expected to be used (environment) or transported (shocks). High/low temperature, transit drop (shock), and humidity resistance are the most common environmental tests. The testing standards vary based on the positioning of the rugged devices.   

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

The semi-rugged device is usually IP5x, and MIL-STG-810 certified. However, semi-rugged laptops are much less expensive than their fully rugged counterparts. As a result, semi-rugged devices find their niche in areas that demand specialized devices that do not experience the extreme level of wear and tear as fully rugged devices and are susceptible to a decrease in performance in extreme temperatures or frozen screens in freezing temperatures, for instance.

That’s what being rugged is all about. But there is more to these mobile wonders that make them an ideal partner for law enforcement officers. While each manufacturer offers a variety of features, there is a lot of similarity between companies. Here are a few that enhance the user’s experience.

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

4G LTE, 5G, Bluetooth® V5.2, and Wi-Fi communications allow seamless connectivity. Plus, built-in GPS can provide accurate location tracking and geographic overviews.

An array of built-in interfaces with numerous add-ons, such Thunderbolt™ 4, HDMI + VGA + USB Type-C DP, RJ-45 ports, RS-232 serial ports, Smart card/CAC reader, RFID reader, ExpressCard 54, and PCMCIA Type II slot, is a must. Plus, USB options including Type-C to Type-A, USB 3.2 Gen2, and USB 2.0.

A 10-point capacitive multi-touch panel with multi-touch modes (e.g., glove, stylus, water, finger) optimizes a unit for applications indoors and out, enhancing the device’s usability regardless of work conditions.

In the field, portability equals productivity. Many rugged mobile devices come with high-capacity ultra-long battery life, and hot-swappable battery capability, enabling non-stop law enforcement activities, even when away from headquarters or the precinct.

Law enforcement officers need flexibility in successfully doing their job. 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 complete connectivity or a tablet for increased 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 otherwise. As a result, you never need to settle for an off-the-shelf model. 

That is just a list of some features to include in your rugged mobile device for law enforcement usage. Others include security options (fingerprint scanner, stealth mode, night vision mode, Kensington lock, TPM 2.0, NIST BIOS compliance, and more), graphic 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 officers should harness rugged computing devices to help them remain competitive, efficient, and reliable in their everyday operations.

About the author

Sasha Wang, the Head of the Global Sales and Marketing in DURABOOK. Recently became the president of Durabook Americas, who has been highly successful in the areas of global product planning, sales, and marketing, as well as various management positions within the rugged-computer industry for over 15 years.

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