Friday, September 30, 2011

Portable Computers and the Police Force

When it comes to portable computers in law enforcement. Several things come to mind and of course as mention in our Quality and Value in Mobile Computing article cash strapped township police agencies need to find affordable options to outfit their cars. A rugged laptop similar to the Panasonic Toughbook CF-29 seems to fit the need. There are some other concerns that must be addressed. These concerns include, upgradable units and service required for upkeep. These concerns are major and valid. After all no local or state agency wants to be non operational due to non-working laptops.
Lets take a look at these concerns one at a time. Which the first concern in my opinion is the most important even before the decision has been made to purchase. The plan of action should require that the laptops have a sustainable life which means that future upgrading may be required to either keep up with the most current crime fighting software. The effectiveness of any laptop mounted in any police vehicle can only be measured by how well it does it's job over a period of 3 years. So the question is – “Can a used laptop that is already 2 to 3 years old be useable and viable for an additional 3 years?”
My answer to this question is – Yes. However my answer should be defined by saying that it will require not only a reliable rugged laptop as the product but also the service and experience of the company that backs it up. When looking to purchase a used rugged laptop, the make and model are going to be basically compared and considered. What truly defines the trust in the product is the service that the company selling the unit can supply. The company should offer service on the product for as long as the unit is in use by the agency. In addition, a upgrade path should be offered with either accessories or unit trade-ins.Challenges of Mobile Computing
Once the buy decision has been made and the purchase is complete. The other concern should be – “What if this laptop stops working in 9 months?” Which is a very effective question. The challenges of daily hazards that are central to police work can and will create conditions which will not fair well for any laptop. This is where the experience and knowledge of the company supporting the laptop becomes important. Some support issues to address are:
  1. Do you have a fast repair turnaround?
  2. Do you have a Hot Swap program?
  3. Are your technicians trained in my laptops repair?
The answer to these questions should be an absolute Yes.
Value, quality and reliability tied with support are all valid aspects which need to be addressed. After all its easy to purchase a rugged laptop when simply buying based on price. In fact I challenge you to consider even deeper performance issues such as repair and upgradable laptops. Not only will your officers thank you, but more importantly your job will be easier and safer.

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