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From wireless routers to USB modems, an overview of connectivity options

Police vehicles are not what they used to be. With the public’s renewed focus on law enforcement accountability and transparency, and with today’s heightened safety concerns, modern police departments are turning to in-vehicle technology to help improve operations and overall fleet security.

Fast, reliable Internet connection has become a critical mechanism to support the influx of new technology officers are tasked with wearing and implementing daily. From body-worn cameras, to dashboard computers and tablets, reliable in-vehicle connectivity helps ensure seamless surveillance and continual access to essential information. It also helps power mission-critical applications—not only for reporting, but for recording and streaming—and, with ignition sensing, it can run even while the vehicle is parked.

Through a reliable wireless network solution, officers have a means to securely stream video “in the moment” to dispatchers with real-time updates on officer safety. Wireless also frees up camera systems of the storage limitations that would otherwise be placed on them by the availability of local storage media, allowing video to be compressed, encrypted, and sent to dispatch centres to inform command units of the whereabouts and operations of their officers during a call. These applications can give police department’s greater granularity on how to use and store videos, allowing them to send and save tamper-proof copies to third-party audit companies.

In-vehicle connectivity options

When choosing an in-vehicle networking solution, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons and consider the long-term benefits. Here are three popular connectivity options available to police departments today:

USB modems are devices that provide users with plug and play access to 4G LTE wireless connectivity. Though widely available and affordable, they are not built specifically for law enforcement vehicles that require 24/7 connectivity. Built for consumers, these devices can be prone to temperature restrictions, vibration and environmental damage—and with single-host connectivity, they only connect one device at a time and have limited configuration options. Another con: USB modems are usually unsuitable for handling sensitive data; they are vulnerable to breaches, and with no cloud management, each device must be individually managed, configured, and updated.

Similarly, MiFi devices are primarily consumer products which enable the user to create their own personal wireless WiFi hotspot. These devices typically allow users to connect up to five devices to the Internet at the same time over a cellular connection. While a MiFi can provide a fast and affordable option for creating an in-vehicle network, client device support is limited. Personal hotspots are also unreliable and they are not designed for an in-vehicle environment. The inability to deliver security compliance to the vehicle network also makes MiFi devices unsuitable for organizations where security is paramount. The lack of cloud management means that MiFis can be difficult and impractical to maintain.

Wireless routers provide the most reliable and secure solution for in-vehicle connectivity. Although they are costlier to install at first, in-vehicle routers deliver the greatest return as a long-term solution.  That said it is important select a certified 3G/4G/LTE enterprise-grade internal modem that has been ruggedized for vibration, shock, dust, splash, and humidity. And, because routers run off the car’s battery, it should also have built-in transient and reverse polarity voltage protection to prevent electrical spikes. 

Cradlepoint’s new COR IBR1100 is just such a system built purposely for in-vehicle networking. Engineered to protect against extreme temperatures, humidity, shocks, vibrations, dust, water splash, reverse polarity, and transient voltage, this solution is the most rugged router on the market today.

To learn more about COR IBR1100, and to help you make an informed buying decision for your organization, please see Cradlepoint’s comprehensive buyers’ guide: https://cradlepoint.com/products/cor-ibr1100-series

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