If you’re one of the many officers not working out of a squad car, you might have used mobile devices in the past that allowed you either to issue tickets or run license plates through NCIC. The difference with the Panasonic Toughbook CF-U1 is that its super-fast Intel Atom processor allows it to run all of the applications you’d have on an in-car computer, including full-function Microsoft XP and Microsoft Vista operating systems, in real time. You no longer have to pick and choose.

Called an ultra mobile PC (UMPC), the CF-U1 functions like a PC, just on a smaller scale. But it isn’t so small that it’s difficult to use. “Ergonomically, ease of use comes with the backlit QWERTY keyboard and LCD touchscreen display,” says Joe B. Martin, director of business development, government for Panasonic.

Although the U1 is currently targeted to motor officers, its usefulness doesn’t stop there.

“We’re seeing it used for any kind of application where form factor and mobility are key: motors, e-citations, foot patrol, mountain bikes, Segways, and even equestrian,” says Martin. “Any time you don’t have access to a squad car or a command vehicle.”

Panasonic’s ability to debut the U1 as the first ultra mobile PC (UMPC) to integrate the new low power Intel Atom processor in a rugged handheld computer was fortuitous, but not without effort. “Through our relationship with our customers and our very close relationship with Intel, we’ve dovetailed the availability of this processor and this new device to hit at the same time and be the first to market,” Martin explains.

CF-U1 features not routinely found on a handheld device include an integrated 1D and 2D barcode scanner, fingerprint reader for user authentication, GPS, a digital camera, and seamless connectivity with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and 3G-mobile-broadband Internet connectivity.

Hot swappable dual batteries provide for long battery life and a bright, daylight visible display means no squinting at the screen even in direct sunlight.

And of course, being part of the Toughbook line, the U1 is built to take a beating and then some. “It’s probably the most rugged device we’ve produced to date,” says Martin. A solid state drive contributes to reliability, while also expanding the CF-U1’s operating temperature range.

Multiple docking options make the CF-U1 remarkably versatile. For motor units, a specific mount will soon be available for easy docking on a motorcycle. The UMPC can also be docked in another vehicle or at a desk when the officer returns to the station.

The Panasonic Toughbook CF-U1 UMPC is currently available at an estimated street price of $2,499 from authorized Panasonic resellers and distributors.

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