Security, Cost, Convenience Make the PlayBook an Attractive Alternative

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2012-05-04 Print this article Print

Security is a tremendous concern for police departments; the Internet and secure police databases can€™t be accessed on the same device. However, the introduction of BlackBerry Balance€”technology that creates a virtual wall between security-sensitive data and everything else on a device€”addressed this.

€œCops won€™t say work and play,€ Koke explained, suggesting the two sides of the wall, €œbut secure work and work.€

Given that the department was already pleased with its 2008 rollout of BlackBerry handsets, and the challenge of slimmer new cars, €œit wasn€™t a leap to say, €˜Let€™s put a tablet inside the car,€™€ said Koke, noting that these weren€™t the department€™s only motivations. Money was also a factor, as was convenience.

In a struggling global economy, police departments are being forced to operate on less but deliver the same results. In Canada, said Koke, department funding has been cut 20 percent, which generally comes out of salaries and vehicles.

Rugged laptops, easily accommodated by the Crown Vic, have become de rigueur in police vehicles, but with mounting and other installation necessities€”a good amount of connectivity equipment goes into the trunk€”deploying one can conservatively cost $10,000 per vehicle, said Koke. A tablet, by comparison, runs $500 to $600. That savings, multiplied by the number of cars in a fleet, is likely to pique a lot of interest.

Also, €œNo officer ever takes the laptop out of the car,€ said Koke.

The PlayBook, by contrast, is truly mobile. In an arrangement designed by a company called Mobile Innovations, it€™s housed in an Otterbox case, mounted on the dash and paired with a wireless keyboard and a small machine that grabs information off a driver license. The mount works on springs, though, and so it takes just a second to grab the PlayBook and go; it fits in the cargo pants pocket of an officer€™s uniform. Koke uses it to look up information, print tickets, submit daily reports on the state of the vehicle (a thing that€™s done at the start of each shift), to record witness statements and more.

The PlayBooks€™ potential is also raised by the comfort young officers have with the BlackBerry platform. New recruits are trained to use the devices, and a BlackBerry smartphone is now as much a part of an officer€™s uniform, said Koke, as his baton or handcuffs.

Wes Montee, a senior government market development manager for RIM, explained that a recent VDC study found 90 percent of government-issued devices to be BlackBerry phones.

With every new product, said Montee, RIM looks for opportunities to maximize sales. As for opportunity for the PlayBook in new police crusiers, €œIt€™s great to get in on the ground floor as things are moving forward,€ he said. €œThere€™s a tremendous amount of interest in this.€

Follow me on Twitter at @eWEEK_Michelle.

Michelle Maisto has been covering the enterprise mobility space for a decade, beginning with Knowledge Management, Field Force Automation and eCRM, and most recently as the editor-in-chief of Mobile Enterprise magazine. She earned an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University, and in her spare time obsesses about food. Her first book, The Gastronomy of Marriage, if forthcoming from Random House in September 2009.

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