When they hit the road to respond to an urgent call, or to follow up on an investigation, members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) probably don’t give much thought to the computer hardware installed in their cruisers – all they know is it had better work fast.Laptops used by officers to file report information to detachments and obtain information from government databases, such as a layout of a building or a complete criminal record, have to be rugged and responsive. That was the main requirement when Public Works and Government Services Canada went to bid last year to refresh the technology RCMP officers were using on the road. Previously, the Mounties had been using rugged Panasonic laptops, but the force was upgrading its records management system and looking to improve the overall technology officers needed to do their job while in the field.
“The members (of the RCMP) don’t care what equipment they use, they just want it to run and run well and be as simple as possible,” says Raymond St. Jean, systems engineer with mobile communications services for the RCMP in Ottawa.
Ultimately, the officers are interested in getting as much information as quickly as possible from resources such as the RCMP database, as well as cross-agency databases such as the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), which helps them be more effective in a mobile environment.
The RCMP also uses the laptops for receiving dispatches from operations command centre and for car-to-car messages. In some parts of the country, they are using the hardware to do field report entry or report writing. That means they can spend more time on the road, and less time in the detachment, which increases their visibility in the community, says St. Jean.
“Query is a big one, especially when you pull a car over on the highway, it’s a very unpredictable situation so you need access to up-to-date information,” he adds.
In February, the RCMP chose the Itronix GoBook III rugged notebook as its computing platform for the next three to five years. The wireless notebooks, which are equipped with Sierra Wireless modems, were chosen over two other competitors.
When it came to choosing Itronix over the Panasonic laptop technology it had been using, the decision was largely made on price, says St. Jean.
The Itronix notebooks are priced at about $5,000 each.
“It was really the cost analysis that determined Itronix as the choice. It was a very aggressive pricing scheme,” says St. Jean.
The national individual standing offer issued by PWGSC was not just for a laptop, but a for a complete mobile work station system which included the radio modem, docking station equipment console and antennas. With the addition of the updated modems, the RCMP can also take advantage of wider coverage and faster data rates available with newer cellular networks. The RCMP has been using Sierra Wireless cellular digital packet data (CDPD) modems since 1997.
The RCMP has been using Sierra Wireless CDPD modems since 1997, now considered an old technology.
“CDPD was more oriented toward short burst transactions, so it was great for doing things such as licence plate checks, things like that. But to access a bigger file it becomes a little more problematic; it’s not a great technology for that,” says Trent Punnett, vice-president of marketing and product management for Vancouver-based Sierra Wireless worldwide.
The RCMP now has two new air link systems from Sierra Wireless — the MP-775 and MP-555 — which will provide them with an air link four times faster than the older technology.
About 1,500 of the Itronix laptops have been deployed to date, mostly in the Surrey, B.C. area.
The RCMP relies on the fact the hardware recommended has been tested in harsh conditions, with the government outlining military specifications that are a mandatory part of the overall requirements.

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