Emergency response organizations have different hardware requirements. Thus the term of “ready for operation” is also not easy to define. As described in the first part of this blog, there are fundamental differentiating features in the robustness and mobility of devices. I would like to go into detail using further examples.

Rosenbauer International AGAs the operational leader, you are exposed to everything the weather throws at you – whether rain, snow, or bright sunshine. So a display which can be read in daylight is essential for operations. In tough operational environments, features and certifications such as spray water and dust-tightness (IP rating) or resistance to vibration (MIL-STD-810) are also important issues[1]. Rugged tablets usually fully cover these requirements through their special design. Consumer devices can be protected with corresponding sleeves or housings. However, these are usually only available for a limited number of devices.

Rosenbauer International AGThe topic of accessories should also be given some attention as regards operationally readiness. Here, both classes of devices offer different approaches and solutions.

When it comes to holders or installation in vehicles, consumer devices usually offer little more than universal attachment solutions. These do hold the devices in place accordingly, but often options to actively charge the devices and connect antennas for the exterior of the vehicle are missing. These are required in order to improve the transmission as well as the reception quality of GPS, WLAN, and 3G/4G. Rosenbauer International AGAdditionally, professional holder systems provide corresponding docking connectors to connect further input/output or end devices.

Special attention should be paid to the topic of charging. The absence of active charging of devices when docked in the vehicle holder can often lead to unintentional discharging. Especially if you forget to manually plug the vehicle charger into the device after operation.

Securing the devices in the holder should also be a topic, as emergency vehicles are often left standing in unattended locations. Unauthorized access to the end device can be prevented by locking the vehicle holder.

For use in rescue operations, the option of disinfecting the devices must also be kept in mind, among other things. Consumer end devices do not make the cut here – with convertibles, this requirement must be checked in more detail, as the keyboard represents a weak point in terms of complete disinfection.

As well as the many “hard facts,” the service life of the device is also an important point in the procurement. On the one hand, the robustness of the device is an important factor, which can protect against failure caused by damage during operation. Also the compatibility of accessories as well as the durability of the form factor play a role, i.e., the housing and the component parts over the intended lifetime. Because, if a device has to be replaced after a defect, it should not be necessary to replace all other components, too. Rugged PC systems can usually fulfill this long-term availability requirement. By contrast, consumer devices are often aimed at the short-lived “trend-oriented” life cycles of private users. Looking at it from a simple black and white perspective, consumer hardware is positioned more in the area of “disposable devices.” Under the motto “if it dies, throw it away.” This is not necessarily a negative factor, as the device can be quickly and cheaply replaced in case of a defect. But if such an event occurs during a large scale operation, robust devices clearly fare better.

In conclusion, it can be determined that many possible parameters have an effect on the choice of hardware for an emergency response organization. So the term “operationally ready” cannot be broken down into a singular setup.

What is your experience with hardware in operation? In what fashion is this used in your organization?

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[1] The IP rating indicates the tightness of the end device against environmental effects such as water and dust. The MIL-STD. is a fall test defined in accordance with US standards, which defines robustness in terms of shock and acceleration.