Mobility Market Trends: Wireless Industry Snapshot

Vicky Obenshain_Blog_Image.jpgAs we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Toughbook, we recently sat down with Vicky Obenshain, industry veteran and Vice President of Wireless Strategy for Panasonic, to examine mobility and connectivity trends. With more than 20 years of wireless industry experience, Vicky has been instrumental in developing the US wireless strategy for the Toughbook division.   

Q: Since the introduction of Toughbook 20 years ago, we’ve seen tremendous advances in mobility and wireless technology. And while faster networks and ubiquitous data access present a lot of potential for enterprise and government customers, this shift also creates new challenges. What are those challenges and what keeps customers up at night?

A:  With faster and more efficient networks available on a global scale, real-time data and analytics have enabled businesses and agencies to get closer to their customers by delivering more personalized information across varied media at quickening speeds. And while automated data capture and delivery provides clear value and competitive advantages in terms of customer satisfaction and increased productivity, this heightened connectivity leads to many security concerns.

Our customers, especially in the federal/government, public safety and financial industries, often identify security risks as their top concern. Now, more and more emphasis is being placed on incorporating hardware and software-based security into every mobile device. Since our Toughbook devices represent the critical end points of our customers’ networks, we are constantly working to strengthen their security by incorporating the latest protocols.

Q:  What are some of the exciting applications you’re seeing from Toughbook customers that are unleashing the full potential of advances in mobility + wireless?

A:  There have been some exciting strides made in the healthcare and public safety sectors. One is the ETHAN project in Houston, Texas. The ETHAN (Emergency TeleHealth and Navigation) Project employs the latest mobile computing technology and broadband 4G LTE connectivity via our partner Verizon Wireless to help prioritize 911 calls and allocate resources where they are needed most. Now, during non-life-threatening situations and when appropriate, Houston Fire first responders utilize Toughpad FZ-G1 rugged tablets to set up a teleconference between the patient and a trained emergency medicine physician. By providing the dependable hardware, software and connectivity capabilities they need, the fire department can connect patients with a physician in real-time. This mobility solution reduced unnecessary ER trips, shortened emergency room wait times, saved time and money and made the most of existing emergency resources so they could better serve the community.

A second example of how highly reliable mobile devices and seamless wireless connectivity has changed how people work is in law enforcement.  It hasn’t been that long since police offers were using pen and paper to write down information shared by dispatch or receiving call data from a fixed mobile terminal in their vehicles.  Now, police officers have all the insight they need via a Toughbook laptop or in the palm of hand with a Toughpad tablet or handheld.  This information includes real-time updates from dispatch, as well as the ability to communicate instantaneously with other officers in the field.   This solution allows officers to be better informed about the situation they are walking in to as they arrive at a call or stop a vehicle. Is this a reckless teenager or a real threat? The real-time access to CJIS (Criminal Justice Information Services) databases or other information improves safety for officers and citizens.

Q: What is Panasonic’s approach to wireless R&D for Toughbook devices?

A: Panasonic invests more than $50M in R&D and we have decades of in-house experience in wireless design and development.  As a core manufacturer who designs and builds our own rugged devices, we have 20 years of first-hand experience in the challenging environments our customers need to connect. It’s that unique insight and in-house engineering capability that has allowed us to fine-tuned certain aspects of the wireless design of our computers, tablets and handhelds. This expertise combined with deep relationships with the leading carriers and our wireless technology partners gives us a very unique perspective. And that’s the reason customers often say our devices can connect where others simply can’t.  Our continued focus is on providing the mobility and wireless solutions that meet our customers’ evolving needs. Our priority is to do so in a way that is cost effective and provides a level of service that builds and deepens long term client relationships. 

Q: What is the future for Toughbook in the wireless arena?

A:  Networks are getting faster and faster with todays connected broadband speeds. Streaming video is becoming a common occurrence, and it will continue to have a dramatic impact in areas such as healthcare, education and public safety.

One recent example of our work in the public safety market is related to the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet).  FirstNet has been tasked with building, operating and maintaining the first high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated solely to public safety use.  FirstNet recently awarded grants to eight public safety entities for relocating their existing radios and systems to Band 14, the spectrum licensed to FirstNet.

As a manufacturer, we must have the foresight to support important initiatives like this and we recently announced a relationship with Cradlepoint to provide real-time data access and highly secure connectivity to emerging FirstNet broadband wireless networks.  The mobile computing and connectivity solution combines our industry leading Toughbook devices with a rugged Cradlepoint cloud-managed 4G-LTE router—essentially creating secure “vehicle area networks” for first responders.  This solution improves real-time access to information, data sharing, and communications among first responder agencies.

On a broader scale, we expect to see global terrestrial and satellite networks playing an important role in enabling future services for avionics, automotive and mobility applications, as well as more managed services and we will have some very exciting wireless news coming up in the next few months so stay tuned!

For more information on Panasonic Toughbook wireless capabilities, please visit us online