Top Mobility Trends in Law Enforcement: IACP LEIM Technology Conference in Review


Last week, Panasonic Mobility exhibited at the IACP LEIM Technology Conference in St. Louis showcasing its complete portfolio of rugged mobility solutions, including the new Panasonic Toughbook® 33, the first fully rugged 12-inch 2-in-1 detachable laptop.

Dominick Passanante, senior director for U.S. Mobility Sales, was on hand meeting face-to-face with law enforcement professionals to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing IT departments across the United States.  Here he shares the top three technology mobility trends he saw at the show.

Meeting with law enforcement decision makers at the LEIM Conference, it’s clearer than ever that police work is undergoing real changes as reliance on mobile technology becomes an ever-increasing part of the job.

No two law enforcement agencies serve identical communities, but there are commonalities and recurring challenges across the board that came into focus during the LEIM Conference:

  1. The ways that technology is changing approaches to policing
  2. The budgetary constraints and concerns that come with serving the public
  3. The shifting demographics of law enforcement officers

The LEIM conference also served as a bit of a debut for the new Panasonic Toughbook® 33 to the law enforcement community.  We had a great opportunity to highlight how the insights our own engineers received from members of the law enforcement community resulted in a flexible, efficient and purpose-built device that meets the dynamic needs of today’s law enforcement professional.

1.       Technology is changing modern day police work

As more law enforcement agencies adopt a community policing model, officers are spending less time inside their cars, and more time visible and interacting with citizens. As a result, IT departments are charged with delivering flexible solutions that allow the officers to remain connected wherever the job takes them – in the car, on the go, or behind a desk. At LEIM, attendees were particularly interested in viewing convertible or detachable laptops as this design gives officers the flexibility to use the device in a tablet or full laptop mode.

The flexibility on display in the new fully rugged 2-in-1 Toughbook 33 spoke to IT attendees who were looking for a wide range of configurations available to them in a single device.

Agencies we spoke with were especially impressed by the wide range of Toughbook 33 docking and keyboard solutions that allow mounting in vehicles in a number of configurations. Those options enable IT managers to arm departments and even specific officers with the flexibility required to stay connected outside of the car or office. They’re able to spend valuable time out in the communities they serve and interact with citizens without feeling like they’re disconnected from the vital information and communications they rely on.

2.       Uncovering cost savings while modernizing technology 

While the IT department may be singing the praise of increased productivity in the field, taxpayers and limited budgets are often at odds. At LEIM, a recurring sentiment we heard were concerns around how well new technology would work with existing hardware and software investments – questions like “Will this work with my currently installed vehicle docks” and “Can I use my existing CAD system on this new display?”

These kinds of questions reflect a reality that all law enforcement agencies live with – being responsible to the taxpayers they serve.  Perhaps more so than any industry we work with, law enforcement pushes us to be smarter at finding cost savings and efficiencies while continuing to deliver the very best in rugged mobility.

At the show, we were able to showcase how the Toughbook 33 embodies this understanding of budget realities on both the hardware and software side.

Hardware considerations

We know that many of our state and local customers have invested heavily in previous Panasonic Toughbook laptops and vehicle docks. It makes sense for them – and for us – to ensure that they can maximize those investments. As such, we designed the Toughbook 33 to be fully compatible with the popular Toughbook 31 vehicle dock. By ensuring that docks and accessories are as backwards compatible as possible, we’re helping our public sector customers be more fiscally responsible.

Software considerations

In reviewing new mobile devices, LEIM attendees were careful to consider the potential budget impact hardware upgrades could force on the software side. For example, agencies who may have been considering a widescreen mobile device were disappointed with the resulting distortion of CAD applications, many of which were built for older 4:3 aspect ratio devices. There was much discussion at the Panasonic booth around Toughbook 33’s unique 3:2 aspect ratio screen. As the first fully rugged laptop with this display, police departments can continue to use legacy applications and won’t be forced to deploy new software had they opted for a widescreen laptop. With more vertical space on the screen, the 3:2 design displays the application truer to their original design without warping the content. As a result, officers have better, clearer access to information, and the agency saves precious budget.

Another cost saving feature of the Toughbook 33 which attendees were grateful for was the operating system options. While Toughbook 33 ships with a Windows 10 configuration, we also offer a Windows 7 downgrade for agencies that haven’t made the operating system leap yet.

We work to ensure that our devices are flexible enough to serve any agency – both in terms of hardware or software and agencies

3.       The changing face of law enforcement

Not only are we seeing law enforcement practices change – we’re seeing a new generation of officers who have grown up as digital natives. An officer in his or her early 20s may be paired with a partner who remembers when the job was entirely driven by pen and paper.

At LEIM, it was plain to see that law enforcement IT professionals are looking to outfit as broad a spectrum of officers as possible – from millennial rookies to baby boomers. A “one size fits all” approach to mobile device deployments is no longer feasible.  For departments that are transitioning to eCitations, smaller handhelds like the Panasonic FZ-N1 are gaining traction, whereas for patrol officers, a 2-in-1 design like the Toughbook 33 offers an efficient way to address different demographic preferences for tablets vs physical keyboards.

LEIM was a fantastic opportunity to see hundreds of law enforcement decision makers experience our latest devices in a hands on setting. The positive reactions we received, especially to the Toughbook 33, are a testament to our understanding of what the law enforcement community is looking for as it becomes ever more reliant on mobile technology to keep our communities safe.

Please visit Panasonic Toughbook 33 online to learn how it can better equip your agency.