Modern police vehicles rely heavily on mobile technology as a force multiplier, resulting in better access to information, increased operational efficiency, and improved situational awareness. Increasingly, agencies are finding that mobile routers are an essential tech component due to the number of devices that are operating in the vehicle and the need for reliable connectivity. Since the routers are connected to and managing the technology in the vehicle, they can monitor and optimize the performance of the connected devices. This means that officers can access critical information without interruption. This article will outline the benefits of mobile routers for police fleet managers and cover key considerations when selecting the best mobile router for public safety operations.
First, let’s cover some basics of router functionality. There was a time when the technology in a patrol car was primarily a radio and possibly a radar gun. Today’s patrol vehicles are frequently outfitted with license plate readers, video cameras, smartphones, and computers—all of which may require a connection to the Internet. The best way to ensure these devices have a managed and secure connection is by using a mobile router.
Usually mounted in the trunk or cargo section of a vehicle, routers serve as the central hub for establishing an Internet connection on the go. Routers provide wireless connectivity to devices in the vehicle by connecting them to a cellular network. Equipped with one or more SIM cards, routers help ensure a cellular connection is maintained and available. Typically, a router supports several devices and can simultaneously maintain multiple connections. This allows officers to quickly access online resources, maintain communications with dispatch, and share information seamlessly. This is the basic role of a router, but there is much more to be aware of, including selection criteria and the benefits that a router can provide to effective fleet management.
Public safety operations take place in challenging environments. Temperature and humidity extremes, exposure to dust, rough treatment, and an expectation of always-on reliability are all absolutes. This is why it is important to invest in purpose-built rugged mobile routers. Look for a router that is certified for shock/vibration in accordance with MIL STD 810G and SAE J1455 standards. This will ensure that the router can withstand the harsh conditions often encountered in the field. Also important is the IP rating, which indicates a router’s level of dust and water resistance. Look for an IP rating of at least IP67, indicating the router is dustproof and can tolerate temporary water immersion.
Mobile routers for today’s police vehicles should be able to support both wired and wireless devices. For wired connections, it is essential that there be enough ports with different types of connections to provide flexibility. Common connection types include Ethernet, RS-232 serial, and USB. Ensure the provided connections will meet your operational requirements. Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) is also important because it ensures effective and efficient connection to the network without cumbersome manual configurations.
Given the evolving landscape of cellular technology and the variations in frequency bands utilized by different carriers, it is imperative to opt for public safety routers with flexible frequency band capabilities. By ensuring compatibility with the relevant frequency bands for your specific operational needs, you can maximize your network infrastructure longevity as systems evolve. An increasingly important router feature for many agencies is dual-SIM capability, which enables easy switching between cellular carriers. This is particularly advantageous for agencies operating in expansive geographic areas where carrier coverage may vary based on location. Dual-SIM provides a degree of redundancy, further helping ensure reliable connectivity. Maximizing the connection options provides enhanced operational effectiveness in diverse environments. Mobile routers should also be capable of simultaneous connectivity on wireless local or wide-area networks.
Cloud-based Device Management
A cloud-based device management system enhances the efficiency of IT staff in managing and supporting mobile devices. It offers centralized configuration, device monitoring, and software upgrades across the entire fleet, resulting in substantial time savings and reduced IT-related expenses. This remote support capability is particularly advantageous for police vehicles, allowing them to stay on the road while benefiting from effective assistance. Moreover, a cloud management layer enables additional functionalities like geofencing, telematics, and advanced security, further augmenting the system’s capabilities.
Telematics and Operational Benefits
Telematics is the use of technology to collect and analyze data from vehicles. Mobile routers can facilitate the collection of key data from police vehicles, including vehicle location, fuel consumption, and driving actions. This information can be used to improve fleet efficiency and reduce costs. Telematics provides data that is more informative for fleet operations because multiple factors are considered. For example, oil changes are generally based on mileage, but police vehicles are frequently left idling. By leveraging telematics, fleet managers can monitor vehicle health, identify potential issues before they escalate, and implement preventative maintenance schedules. This proactive approach minimizes downtime due to unexpected breakdowns and extends the lifespan of fleet vehicles.
Routers Extend Coverage
Mobile routers are generally connected to an external antenna, and this significantly extends effective coverage. By capturing signals from a more optimal location outside the vehicle, the antenna helps reduce the impact of radio frequency interference caused by electronics within the vehicle, such as radios and computers. This can result in a cleaner, stronger signal, leading to better call quality, faster data transfers, and more reliable connections.
Public Safety Transition to 5G
With the emergence of 5G technology, police vehicle fleets stand to benefit greatly from an upgrade to 5G mobile routers. Faster data transfer with minimal latency and improved network reliability will significantly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of police operations. Perhaps the most notable benefit will be seen with video transmissions, an area that is rapidly expanding with officers now having access to real-time drone feeds and public security cameras.
Carrier Considerations and 5G Networks
Hardware is important, but smartphones and in-car computers are worthless if officers can’t access data or run desired applications. When it comes to carriers, remember the “three C” priorities in this order: coverage, customer support, and cost. Coverage should be the number-one determining factor. Conventional wisdom in government purchasing is to go after the lowest bid, but this is a time when service quality and capability should be the determining factor.
After coverage, customer support is essential to successful router integration and overall operational effectiveness. Law enforcement agencies know the importance of a trusted partner, and this should be your benchmark for customer service. Public safety technology projects can present some challenges, especially when integrating a new component like routers. If you’re evaluating carriers, ask other agencies about their experience and the level of support they have received. Carrier representatives may not have all the answers, but they should have the resources and referrals to help resolve issues in a timely manner.
T-Mobile for Government offers agencies access to the nation’s largest 5G network and provides priority access and preemption to organizations that are eligible for Wireless Priority Service (WPS). T-Mobile also provides these agencies with data priority for mobile devices. Since WPS is the only way to ensure priority calling across multiple carriers, T-Mobile assists agencies in the WPS registration process. All these services are provided without additional charge. In addition, T-Mobile has first responder rate plans that are budget-friendly, both for agencies and individual lines.
Reliable communication, data access, and timely vehicle maintenance are essential for police vehicle fleets. By effectively managing in-vehicle technology, enabling telematics, and embracing the power of 5G, mobile routers can significantly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of police operations.