Mobile software applications are becoming more important in the daily operations of emergency service organizations. Accessing databases, provisioning planning materials at the scene, or managing the current situation on digital mapping systems are just a few examples of how IT solutions are used. These applications are made mobile by using corresponding hardware on scene.
When you talk with various emergency response organizations, it frequently turns out that selecting the right hardware is mostly a question of faith in the beginning. Some believe in the legacy of Steve Jobs – iOS and Apple -, while others pay homage to the life work of Bill Gates and therefore Windows, and the third group swears by the world of Google and Android.
In this rather philosophical discussion, opinions are often divided, without asking the question: “so what do I want to do with the devices and which applications will actually be used?”
First, though, some fundamental points about the topic of mobile end devices should be defined.
When talking about the mobility of computer hardware, this is generally limited to laptops/notebooks and tablets. With the first category, mobility is basically provided through the design.
But in an emergency scenario, a standard notebook has only limited mobility and flexibility. The “convertible” or “2-in-1” varieties make even notebooks more mobile, while still offering the advantages of fully-fledged PC systems. This design allows either the keyboard to be folded behind the screen (convertible) or to be fully remove (detachable) and use the end device as a touch tablet.
One of the important mobility contributions are the communication interfaces of the end devices. Alongside WLAN, which has established itself as standard in mobile end devices, a mobile phone module in the form of a 3G/4G modem is now indispensable.
End devices are also categorized based on their area of application. Here, a distinction is made between computers for private use (consumer devices) and end devices for use in tough working environments, often called rugged computers. Consumer devices are “off the shelf” systems which are primarily offered via the retail sector. This principally represent an affordable entry into mobility. Here, a tablet for deployment can be purchased even on a shoestring budget. Depending on the usage purpose, though, the equipment, interfaces, CPU, and disk capacity as well as the available accessories of a device should be looked at in more detail.
Rugged computers are designed for use under extreme conditions. In addition to the robust housing, they are also different in terms of equipment features specially designed for this usage area as well as long-term availability of spare parts and accessories.