Eaton County First Responders Depend on Toughpad Rugged Tablets

In 2011, the government of Eaton County, Mich., faced a dilemma. The rugged mobile computers used by law enforcement personnel throughout the county were aging and needed to be replaced. As with local governments across the country, funds to upgrade to new technology were tight.

Despite a long history of relying on Toughbook laptops, administrators decided to make the switch to a consumer-grade device for its first responders. “The idea was, they could buy five of them for the cost of one Panasonic,” said Nathan Nighbert, network administrator, Eaton County Information Systems.

Soon, the true cost of the new consumer-grade technology became clear. Devices frequently broke down, overheated, or suffered damage in the field. Functionality and connectivity was limited, requiring personnel to return to the office to complete reports and perform other tasks. The county’s small IT team spent substantial time repairing and replacing devices. Most importantly, the breakdowns kept officers off the road when they could have been in the field serving the community.

“In the end, we weren’t saving the taxpayers any money,” Nighbert said.

Two years later, the county decided again to try something new – with a familiar partner. After spotting a Panasonic Toughpad® FZ-G1 rugged tablet at a tradeshow, Nighbert and his team, led by Eaton County Information Systems Director Robert J. Sobie, tested and deployed the tablet to law enforcement personnel as well as the county’s fire and EMS workers.

Today, all of Eaton County’s 16 law enforcement, fire and EMS agencies use Toughpad FZ-G1 tablets. Not only are they proving to be ideal for first responders in the field, but the Information Systems department now spends less time and money to support a greater number of devices across more county agencies. Read the full case study now at

“Once we switched to the Toughpad we watched the labor costs go down significantly. They just don’t have the problems we experienced with the consumer devices,” he said. “They’re made for this environment. They aren’t made for an office, then adapted for police or fire. To this day, I’ve had zero hardware failures.”

The reliability of the Toughpad tablets, and their suitability for the job, benefits the citizens of Eaton County in the end, he added.

“If we can keep officers on the road, in the car and on patrol, that helps the public. Officers in the office doing reports? That helps no one,” Nighbert said. “They have the ability now to stay on a call, or go from one call to the next, and stay on the road. It changes the way they do their jobs. They feel empowered.”

‘Valuable Tool’

With its 10.1-inch daylight-readable touchscreen, enterprise-ready Windows 8 operating system and MIL-STD-810G certified all-weather design, the Toughpad is a natural fit for a wide range of uses across Eaton County’s first responder agencies.

The tablets are mounted in police and county sheriff vehicles, as well as in ambulances and fire trucks, and run software that allows personnel to see the real-time location of every available first responder unit on the map. Personnel also use the tablets to access data, complete reports, and perform other tasks.

Being able to easily remove the lightweight tablet from the vehicle dock and carry it in-hand at scenes is incredibly beneficial, said Sgt. Paul M. Brentar of the Charlotte Police Department, one of the county’s agencies that are using the Toughpad.

“We’re way more efficient with the Toughpad. It’s a really valuable tool,” said Brentar. “We can run plates right from the device and are now able to do all our crash reports in the car on the Toughpad It gives us extra time we didn’t have before, because we don’t have to come back into the office and we can stay on the road longer.”

Those time savings are seen by the county’s fire and EMS workers as well, thanks to the tablets’ ability to provide near-instant data retrieval, said Capt. Kent Nordlund of the Delta Township Fire Department. Emergency responders can access addresses, patient histories and other notes, as well as floor plans and other building records in the case of the fire departments.

“I have all of that in front of me rather than pulling it out of a dusty binder,” Nordlund added.

Connected and Powerful

A key factor for success is the Intel® CoreTM i5 vProTM processor that powers the Toughpad FZ-G1. With the powerful Intel processor, the Toughpad delivers the performance that users require, along with advanced security and management capabilities.

“The consumer devices we had before were vastly underpowered,” Nighbert said. “We went with the Intel processor because it’s speedy. These guys don’t have time, when they’re trying to get to a scene or get to a fire, to wait for their computer.”

The county relies on the Toughpad FZ-G1 tablets’ embedded 4G LTE mobile broadband connectivity to keep staff productive. As with its Toughbook laptops, Panasonic performs extensive wireless testing on the Toughpad to ensure connectivity for field-based workforces.

“The best device in the world serves no purpose without connectivity,” Nighbert added. “With the Toughpad, we just turn it on and go to work.”