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The connected cruiser: How mobile gateways can turn cop cars into mobile offices

Cops need to be connected to data. Here’s why mobile secure gateways are the answer.

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Mobile gateways connect officers wirelessly.

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The following is paid content sponsored by Xplore Technologies.

By Police1 BrandFocus Staff

How do you turn a police cruiser into a connected vehicle—a mobile office that can transmit and receive data from local, state and national databases? Most importantly, how do you do it securely?

The answer: You can invest in a mobile secure gateway (MSG), which enables a cruiser to turn into a wireless hotspot that connects several different devices in order to transmit and receive data. This could range from the status of the cruiser to CAD (computer-aided dispatch) on a mounted PC.

More police departments are installing these systems to keep cops and their cruisers connected to data. But what exactly is a mobile secure gateway?

How a mobile secure gateway works

An MSG is a hardware device that is hardwired into a vehicle’s power source. It connects to antennas and features an assortment of internal radios, acting as one point (or “node”) on a network that provides data connectivity.

The deployment of a mobile gateway creates a robust vehicle area network (VAN), turning the vehicle and its surrounding area into a mobile office. This delivers bandwidth to connected devices consistently using the VAN, regardless of which wireless area network is used to power it—whether that’s commercial LTE or muni Wi-Fi.

Also, since an MSG is hardwired into a vehicle’s power supply, it maintains a persistent secure connection and is designed to re-connect automatically whenever it is disconnected, said Bob Ashenbrenner, a solutions architect at Xplore Technologies. The Austin-based company makes rugged tablets, among other technologies.

If there is a problem, many gateway providers offer tools that let a department’s IT staff access it remotely in addition to the equipment connected to it. This means it never has to be taken out of service, Ashenbrenner said.

“This feature enables a fleet to have minimal downtime, while functioning at optimal performance,” Ashenbrenner said.

How police departments use an MSG

Officers must have reliable access to a wireless network to support in-vehicle devices, such as dispatching and tracking technologies, electronic ID and license plate recognition systems, electronic ticketing systems and cruiser-mounted tablet computers.

MSGs support these applications by turning police cruisers into wireless hotspots, Ashenbrenner said. Using gateways, every IP device in or around the vehicle gets network access, meaning they can connect to the internet. This includes tablets, smartphones, IP-based cameras and other devices such as electronic ticket printers and fingerprint scanners.

When there is an emergency, officers are busy dealing with the situation before they are even able to report in, Ashenbrenner said. Mobile gateways also can be set up to trigger events in the vehicle and provide immediate alerts to headquarters.

For example, on-board diagnostic ports on vehicles sold since 1996 can support a piece of hardware that transmits data on airbag deployment, heavy braking or excessive speed, according to a report from Motion Computing.

Patrol cars are capable of sending other data using the gateway—such as using embedded sensors that send alerts if a shotgun is removed from the rack. Or sensing microphones can be installed to detect and generate an alert out via the gateway when there is a gunshot, the report said.

Some MSGs also support automatic vehicle location systems with GPS receivers installed in the vehicle, so location can be sent to a CAD system.

“This type of deep integration with CAD and automatic vehicle location systems make an in-vehicle mobile secure gateway essential for all vehicles in a fleet,” Ashenbrenner said.

MSGs turn cop cruisers into connected vehicles that can transmit and receive data—whether that is from embedded sensors on engines to a mounted, wireless tablet computer. They enable the mobility demanded by cops and keep them connected to databases that can keep them efficient and safe in the field.

For more information, contact Xplore Technologies.