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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.

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[PAGEBREAK]


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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