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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


GETAC, a company that resulted from a partnership between GE Aerospace and Japan's Mitac Corp, offers laptops and pen tablets built specifically for military and law enforcement. Its biggest seller is the A320 laptop, which has an Intel Pentium III processor, an optional sunlight readable touch screen, and is upgradeable to 256MB of RAM.

Gaining in popularity, however, is the CA25, a wireless tablet computer that uses a Pentium III 700MHz processor, and has up to 512MB of RAM, a 20GB hard drive, a 10-inch high-resolution flat-panel touch screen display, serial ports, and a speaker. Depending on the software, it can help officers write tickets and capture signatures, write incident reports, then later download the information. It also can connect to a portable printer to print a citation on the spot.

A-Series 320T

CPU: 600MHz Mobile Pentium III
Memory: up to 256MB SDRAM
Storage: Up to 30GB hard drive
Display: 12.1-inch
Size: 12.2x10x2.76 inches
Weight: 12 pounds
Ruggedized: MIL-STD-810E

Kontron Mobile Computing

Kontron Mobile Computing offers a complete range of products to the public safety sector. Kontron's EnVoy is a ruggedized, airbag compliant laptop with a compact footprint. It was built to meet the military standard for shock and moisture resistance, and was created specifically for the public safety market. It features day- and nighttime readable displays and keyboards, one-touch function keys, an optional touch screen, and a hard drive that pops out with the touch of a button for quick, easy upgrades.

Kontron's new ReVolution can be used as a notebook, tablet, or handheld. The "SwitchIt" 180-degree custom display hinge lets the ReVolution convert from notebook to touch screen tablet in seconds. The device uses a 1.06GHz processor. Its CPU module comes standard with 128MB SDRAM upgradeable to 768MB. An available option is a sunlight readable display and an I/O Expansion Stick for connecting to external devices.


CPU: 1GHz (or higher) Pentium III
Memory: 128MB SDRAM expandable to 512MB
Storage: up to 20GB
Display: 12.1 inches
Size: 11.6x10x1.75 inches
Weight: Less than 7 pounds
Ruggedized: Mil-Std 810F

Litton/Northrop Grumman

Litton/Northrop Grumman's mobile computing solution is the MobileVu System, which includes the display, computer, keyboard, cables, and accessories. The 10- or 12-inch color display mounts high on the dashboard for safety. It is easily viewable in direct sunlight and dimmable to near black at night. The optional touch screen functions even when contaminated by substances such as dirt, mud, snow, or grease. It responds to touch but will not respond to a bump from a hard object, such as a clipboard, baton, or shotgun. The system's open architecture can be upgraded or changed without replacing the entire system, providing maximum cost effectiveness. Optional video allows for FLIR/video color camera or map applications.

Litton/Northrop Grumman
MobileVu Trunk Mount Computer

CPU: 566MHz Celeron, 600MHz Pentium III
Memory: 64MB RAM, expandable to 256MB
Storage: 10GB hard disk drive
Display: 12.1-inch
Size: 10.6x11x5.9 inches
Weight: 17 pounds
Ruggedized: MIL-STD 810


Microslate's 3000 series features laptops that are sealed, shielded, and self-contained, with interface circuitry that allows for up to six port connections. These computers offer spillproof, backlit keyboards, 10-inch sunlight readable screens that can be easily viewed from the driver's or passenger seat, 6GB shock-mounted hard drive, and 65MB of RAM expandable to 512MB. The units can be disengaged from the docking station without disrupting or suspending applications.

A company spokesman says one of the most important considerations when purchasing mobile computers is the life of the machine and the possibility of buying an extended warranty. Given the fact that mobile computers are the casualties of constant vehicle vibration, Microslate's seven-year extended warranty could prevent additional expenditures.


CPU: 500MHz Mobile Pentium III
Memory: 64MB, up to 512MB
Storage: 6GB shock mounted hard drive, up to 20GB
Display: 10.4-inch
Size: 11.8x8.9x2.9 inches
Weight: 6.6 pounds
Ruggedized: MIL-STD 810


Panasonic supplies mobile computers and ruggedized PDAs to 1,800 agencies in the U.S. It primarily sells its Toughbook 27 and an upgraded version, the Toughbook 28. These units use gel in the shock-mounted hard drive to provide cushioning. Ribbon connectors inside the unit keep fittings from snapping apart or breaking during rough use or hard vibration. There are no fans; the system is sealed to make it impervious to dirt, dust, and water. Like most other vendors, Panasonic offers a sealed, backlit keyboard, a touch screen anti-reflective display, and a magnesium alloy case.

For added adaptability, Panasonic offers the PDRC option, which features a permanently mounted Toughbook 28, but adds a removable screen that is brighter than the Toughbook 28, and a removable keyboard, both of which can be used away from the vehicle.

For motorcycle officers, Panasonic has developed the Mobile Data Wireless Display (MDWD) system, which features a fully functional computing system (the Toughbook 07). The computer is about the size of a brick and can be mounted almost anywhere on the motorcycle. The "brick" powers a portable display unit that has an 8.4-inch touch screen. The MDWD can be used to access a database or to input citation information, and collect a signature or fingerprint.

Toughbook 28

CPU: 800MHz Mobile Pentium III
Memory: 256MB SDRAM, expandable to 512MB
Storage: 30GB hard disk drive
Display: 13.3-inch
Size: 11.8x 9.5x2.3 inches
Weight: 9 pounds
Ruggedized: MIL-STD 810F


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