The decision by the UK’s Metropolitan Police to give firearms officers mobile cameras attached to glasses in the aftermath of the inquest in January 2014 into the death in Tottenham, north London of Mark Duggan, provides yet another example of how mobile devices are playing an increasing role in the emergency services arena.
Technologies, such as automatic number plate reading systems, have been providing the police with an ability to check on cars that have been stolen, are involved in suspected criminal activities or do not have up to date documentation. Look inside many patrol cars today and it is a labyrinth of technologies designed to help officers gain access to information whilst on the move.
Goodmill Systems is one company that has developed mobile routers, which also allow patrol cars to seamlessly remain on-line no matter where they are deployed. The Goodmill Systems x24e is the first router in the world to provide this seamless connectivity across LTE, 3G HSPA, CMDA2000/450, Wi-Fi, WiMAX and TETRA technologies.
As the patrol car moves through areas where the coverage of each bearer varies, the router selects the best channels and maintains connectivity. The system has the added and important benefit of being secure. With clear benefits emerging from the use of such mobile computing their extension to the wider community of police officers was inevitable.
In January 2013, the Metropolitan Police also announced its intention to give 30,000 mobile devices to its officers. The aim of this programme is to enable information stored in back-office systems to be brought forward to help those working in the front line.
One problem Police face is establishing the true identity of individuals they come across in the course of their day-to-day work. Mobile fingerprinting devices linked into the IDENT application that has been rolled out nationwide have been tested by Essex Police.
Snap-on Optical Character Recognition systems, such as the COR-310 which can read passports and ID cards, can be quickly added to mobile devices, such as the Motorola MC70, and also provides another way of helping establish someone’s identity. High quality imagery is another element that allows police officers on the move to determine the identity of an individual, sometimes using digital imagery of distinguishing marks such as tattoos.
Motorola is one of a number of companies that have a long association with the development of mobile computing that is integrated with mobile phone technologies. Its LEX700 Mission Critical Handheld device (pictured above)provides access via LTE technologies to back-office systems and their information in a secure environment.
The Android 4.2.2 operating system allows media-rich applications to be quickly deployed to help officers on the front line. Connectivity can also be made using the UM1000 LTE USB modem. For vehicle-based applications the VML700 LTE modem provides access to information whilst on the road.
The battery life of the LEX700 is designed to be compatible with an 8-hour shift. It can also work in the harshest of environments and has been “repeatedly dropped on concrete” to ensure this does not disable its functionality. Motorola’s aim is clearly to ensure that no matter how bad the incident is, that Police officers may be sure their device will continue to function.
Companies such as Panasonic have also been in the forefront of developing ruggedised mobile computing systems that are able to work in difficult operational environments. Its Toughbook family of portable computers are one example. It provides a range of devices with differing screen size and weight to suit mobile applications.
The key for the buyers of such systems is to gain the economies of scale by working with a single supplier, whilst also ensuring that the right mix of computing systems are supplied to cater for the different roles played by police officers on the move. What suits a beat officer may not provide the kind of resolution and battery power needed for forensic work or for those involved in the investigation of crimes, such as murder.
GETAC also produce the V110 mobile computer which it claims is the lightest ever made, weighing in at 1.9kg. Its Lumibond 11.6” TFT LCD HD (1366 x 768) display is also seen to be at the forefront of technological developments, offering what the company claim to be better contrast than rival systems. In operational situations where light levels can vary enormously this advanced contrast can be extremely advantageous.
The V110 also supports the 802.11 ac standard for Wi-Fi and is claimed to operate at three times the speed of comparable systems. The optional SiRFstalIV Global Positioning System capability inside the V110 also offers improved awareness of location. A web cam is also provided to support video conferencing.
Couple these benefits with the use of a double battery so one can be unplugged while the other takes over power provision and the V110 can clearly be seen to be an example of a contemporary mobile computing device where battery power lasts up to 13 hours. Its batteries are 66% smaller and 57% lighter than previous models.
Clearly that is one of the reasons Getac has been able to keep the overall weight down on the laptop. But the mobile device marketplace is not simply about traditional computing systems that can access data on the move. Smartphone technology also is developing quickly to offer end users a range of options when it comes to equipping front line people.
Thales is another manufacturer that is innovating in the field of mobile devices. Its TeSquad mission critical smartphone is ruggedised and LTE enabled. It can offer mission critical voice communications over LTE. The functionality mimics many of the functions of public sector mobile radios, such as providing the capability for group calls and having the ability to make emergency calls.
Its display caters for presenting information at 720 pixel resolution on a 4.3-inch LCD touch screen. With the platform being based on the Android operating system it can also be adapted to cater for a range of mission specific applications that are customised to the needs of the end users.
The TeSquad allows the user to communicate using a range of different mobile technologies. It can support the movement of voice and data using LTE public safety and commercial networks, 2G and 3G networks, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and can also access GPS and A-GPS for location information. The device also features front and rear cameras allowing for pictures to be taken at a crime scene.
It also offers the prospect of imagery being broadcast from the crime scene with an overlay of the person at the location providing an accompanying commentary. The TeSquad also has dual microphones to support noise suppression, which is designed to improve the clarity of the voice transmissions from the device.
Security has also been uppermost in the minds of the designers of TeSquad. The device offers end-to-end encryption for voice, data and streaming video. Data stored within the device is also protected by a cypher in case it is stolen or lost. A dedicated secure application is also available to support the download of new applications, a point at which the mobile could become compromised.
TeSquad is the front end of a wider solution being offered to the market place by Thales that is called NEXIUM Wireless. It offers high speed data services based on LTE 4G international standards which can support a range of video applications whilst also being compatible with existing infrastructure based on PMR technologies.
This platform, combined with the TeSquad Smartphone, provides Thales with a very innovative and contemporary solution that can be offered to a range of clients that operate private and public sector radio networks in both the civilian and military arenas.