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Hardened Systems

The mobile computer is becoming as much a fixture in patrol cars as the police shotgun.

June 01, 2002  |  by Frank Leiter

Mobile computing technology is changing the way law enforcement officers approach their jobs. It has freed them from in-house report writing and the tedious business of conveying messages through a dispatcher. It puts state and national databases at their fingertips, thereby decreasing wait time for critical information from 15 minutes to as little as 10 seconds. And it has increased officer productivity by as much as 50 percent, primarily because it lets them check criminal histories as well as perform many other tasks all without leaving the patrol car or the crime scene.

The future of mobile computing technology in law enforcement looks even brighter. The latest generation can hook to such external devices as digital cameras, fingerprint scanners, printers, breathalyzers, and bar code scanners. Mobile computers are even getting smaller. These powerful machines have large memory capacity, full computing capability, and can fit in the palm of an officer's hand.

Amrel Systems

Arcadia, Calif.-based Amrel Systems offers its Rocky line of laptop computers for law enforcement apps. The Rocky Mobile is permanently mounted in the car, while the Rocky Unlimited can be docked in the car or taken out and used like a regular laptop. Both machines have a 700MHz Intel Pentium III processor, 128MB SDRAM expandable to 512MB, and removable 10GB or 20GB hard drive. The keyboard on the Rocky Unlimited unit is backlit for easy viewing, and has a PS/2 compatible touch pad.

Amrel recently introduced the Rocky Matrix system, which consists of a display unit, the system unit, and the keyboard. This all-in-one laptop and in-vehicle computing station is designed to offer the greater flexibility, versatility, and convenience of a combination stationary and portable notebook computer. It features the latest in computing technology, including an 800MHz Intel Pentium III CPU, a high-capacity hard drive, and an "Advanced Modular Platform" design, which allows for the integration of other devices and enables users to swap components in the field.

Rocky Matrix

CPU: 800MHz Pentium III
Memory: 128MB SDRAM, expandable to 512MB
Storage: 10GB hard drive, up to 40GB
Display: 12.1-inch
Size: 12x9.7x2.3 inches
Weight: 7 pounds
Ruggedized: MIL-STD 810E


Although Compaq has been in the computer business for many years, it has not created a ruggedized notebook. Instead, it is offering its iPAQ Pocket PC, a powerful handheld unit. This mini-computer can be used to wirelessly access databases, communicate with other officers, receive dispatch messages, or file reports from the field. The city of Bellevue, Wash., has supplied 100 city workers with the device, using them in such departments as Building Inspection, Emergency Services, Traffic and Signals, and City Management. The company also provided 1,500 of the units to Memphis (Tenn.) Police Department, whose officers will use the PDAs to check driver's license and vehicle information, criminal histories, and ultimately in a paperless ticket system.

The iPAQ boasts a 206MHz Intel StrongArm processor and a color display with 240x320-pixel resolution. It has 64MB of RAM, 32MB of ROM, measures 5.3x3.3x6.2 inches, and weighs 6.7 ounces. Data can be entered with a stylus, on the touch screen, or with voice recognition software. The unit also has the capability for audio recording, which can come in handy on traffic stops.

iPAQ Pocket PC H3870

CPU: 206MHz StrongARM
Memory: 64MB RAM
Storage: 32MB ROM
Display: 2.26x3.02 inches
Size: 5.3x3.3x.62 inches
Weight: 6.7 ounces
Ruggedized: Rugged case available


Cycomm sells the PCMobile, a mobile computing solution built around an Intel 333 Pentium II chip that can be upgraded without changing the configuration of the motherboard. It has 32MB of RAM, upgradeable to 160MB, and has a 6.4GB hard drive, a backlit removable keyboard, programmable function keys, and a touch screen. The display was designed for use during daylight hours with special filters that reduce the glare of the sun. At night, the screen's brightness is automatically reduced to improve readability. The unit is sealed to stand up to dust and water, as well as temperatures from -22 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

The PCMobile can support a number of externals, such as scanners or digital cameras. It allows officers to access local, state, and federal databases, and it can be removed from the unit for filing reports.


CPU: 500MHz Pentium III
Memory: 64MB SDRAM, expandable to 320MB
Storage: up to 30GB hard drive
Display: 10.4 inches    
Size: 11.37x10.62x3.25 inches    Weight:    8.5 pounds
Ruggedized: MIL-STD 810E


The mass-market PC manufacturer with the funny cow-spot boxes and the chain of retail stores may not be the first name that comes to mind during a discussion of rugged police computers, but Gateway is making a push into this market.

Gateway offers police buyers the 450, a fast (1.2GHz) Pentium IV notebook that's sturdy enough for police car installation but convenient for work away from the car. The Gateway 450 notebook sports a 14.1-inch active matrix display for all light conditions, 256MB RAM standard, and a 20GB hard drive.

Although Gateway doesn't make a true ruggedized computer that meets mil-specs, it does offer a special comprehensive warranty for police buyers. The $119 annual warranty covers damage from drops, spills, and other mishaps. It also provides customers with loaner units that can be picked up at Gateway stores.

For systems integration, Gateway can supply law enforcement agencies with installation services, including power adapters, brackets, and other hardware and software. "If you want a Gateway system for your agency, but you need a specific software, we can handle that," says Gateway spokesperson Greg Lund.

450 Notebook

CPU: 1.4GHz Pentium IV
Memory: 256MB SDRAM, expandable to 512MB
Storage: 20GB standard hard drive
Display: 14.1 TFT active matrix
Size: 13.15x10.63x1.21 inches
Weight: 5.79 pounds
Ruggedized: Through warranty

CONTINUED: Hardened Systems «   Page 1 of 2   »

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