The feedback indicates that tablet use could dominate in law enforcement because rugged, enterprise-grade configurations of this form factor are capable of delivering exactly what officers told us they want in this survey, as you’ll see below: inherent mobility, full capability to run all the software that laptops can, and keyboards. (For the record, rugged 2-in-1 tablets come standard with both wired and wirelessly-connected keyboards that feature full tactile feedback and are as good as any laptop.)
Of course, there were some officers who are currently using tablets but would prefer a laptop. (Oddly enough, these were all Windows tablet users, though the survey didn’t dig deeper to understand if they were unhappy with the tablet for reasons beyond the OS. That leaves me hesitant to draw any direct conclusions about their preference reasons.) This might also be easily addressed with a 2-in-1 solution, as the preference could drive from the need for a good portable keyboard.
But when you look at why tablet users preferred tablets, 55% said simply that tablets are truly mobile computers, meaning they can stay with the officer at all times, while others like that tablets take up less room in the car than a laptop when they are mounted.
Many treat the words “mobile” and “portable” as synonyms, but in the context of computing devices, they mean different things. A laptop is a “portable” computer, it can be moved from place to place, but is typically ONLY used when stationary. A tablet is a “mobile” computer; it is easy to carry AND can be used while standing and working, while a handheld computer is a very mobile device, usable anywhere. If public safety officers need real-time information (and the answer is “yes, they do”), they need a mobile device that is designed to be used while holding it, designed for both indoors and outdoors – i.e. rugged to the core but still lightweight.
Mobility isn’t the only reason why officers want truly mobile computers, though.
There were a few open-ended questions intended to explore the features that are most used on mobile devices in the field today along with those that are most desired.
Not surprisingly, the majority of respondents said they want more mobility from their technology tools, and just as many wanted rugged computers. (In other words: They want/need rugged tablets.) But perhaps most surprising in this digital age was respondents desire for:
- Better wireless performance from their mobile computing devices. Poor performance of current systems was a shared challenge among respondents. More advanced antenna/pass-through technology could help to address this.
- More speed or improved computing performance.
- Greater security so that they could access CJIS or similar systems while in the field versus being restricted to desktop-only access. Desktop computers have historically been viewed as more secure, even though rugged tablets boasts equal security capabilities with multi-factor authentication, TPM, CAC/Smart Card readers, encryption and more.
- A number of screen improvements. These include better outdoor viewability, the ability to adjust brightness up or down, a different size screen and/or touchscreen capability (all of which rugged tablets offer).
- The ability to write reports in the field. This indicates a desire for both the proper software and preferred keyboard accessibility (which, again, rugged tablets accommodate in public safety configuration options).
In other words, laptops are failing to deliver the tools and capabilities that officers need. They may be rugged, but they aren’t mobile. They may have keyboards built in, but they are not the only mobile computer form factor with a keyboard and can’t be carried without them. This data shows that officers want an 8-12 inch, high performance, well-connected and secure rugged tablet for which an excellent attachable keyboard is available.
The recommendation to replace laptops with rugged tablets is further reinforced when you consider how officers want to be able to use their mobile computers in the future:
- 41 respondents commented that they want eTicketing, citation, and similar functionality added to their mobile platform
- 34 want better and more integrated software for report writing
- 14 want better integration with mapping software (GIS)