Tablets to continue driving rugged device market


CivSource recently reported on the rugged device market which is seeing growth as law enforcement and public safety officials look for ways to be connected, often in physically challenging situations. In an active public safety crisis, holding a glass iPad is less than ideal. Vendors are entering this space at a rapid rate, offering solutions that can stand up to demanding scenarios. SmithMicro is helping these vendors make these devices secure by providing IT shops with secure connections capabilities to ensure that first responders can transmit high value data securely.

Most users probably don’t know that they are using Smith Micro services. Smith Micro is responsible for shepherding the Internet connections users get through their air cards, dongles and other wifi access points from the major carriers. For secure connections like those used by public safety officials, Smith Micro can help IT shops manage their connections so that public or unsecured connections are filtered out of the connection options that present themselves on devices.

Recently, Smith Micro partnered with Getac Inc., a leading manufacturer of rugged computers, to offer the QuickLink® Mobility connection management solution on select Getac devices.

“What we can provide with the solution is a high quality consistent connection that is also persistent, so if users enter into a dead zone, they will get reconnected as soon as a new connection is available without having to login again,” explains Douglas Louie, senior director, product marketing, Smith Micro, in an interview with CivSource.

Recently, the company started working with the District of Columbia, Office of Unified Communications (OUC) to help the DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPDC), the tenth largest police agency in the United States deploy secure connections. OUC provides centralized, District-wide management of public safety voice radio technology and other wireless communication systems and resources. Tasked with handling almost 2 million “911” calls in the District of Columbia each year, the OUC handles call traffic from the MPDC, Fire and Emergency Medical Services (FEMS) and customer service operations, and oversees all land and mobile radio systems tied to the response network. The company will support this work by offering connection management, security, and policy management in a single package.

Smith Micro collaborated with OUC to ensure that police officers in the field could maintain seamless access to all 3G and Wi-Fi connections from mobile devices in their vehicles, with persistent access to back-office applications through a simple user interface. The solution also incorporates advanced authentication for mobile systems which provides compliance with Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) access requirements.

These secure connections are carrier agnostic and the company is also on the advisory board for FirstNet the forthcoming US network for first responders. The company has partnered with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as part of the advisory board on FirstNet. Through that partnership, says that they are working to help work through the way that network will be constructed for first responders and “build a roadmap for the future’ for our products and partners,” Louie says.

That roadmap is also being driven by external forces like the growth of bring your own devices/network programs. “People want to use their iPhones and their iPads, because they are more comfortable with them. And it has forced IT shops to bring those devices in alongside their Blackberry servers and other networks,” he notes.

As those devices have come in, tablets are seeing exponential growth. “I don’t think there is any doubt that tablets are the next frontier. It’s an area of the device market that is growing everywhere, including rugged tablets. I don’t think it’s the end of the laptop, but these devices are lighter and cheaper than laptops and they can be used in a variety of situations.”

As the use of these vices grow, Smith Micro has also developed a security solution to help public safety officials manage the personal wifi hotspots that are part of those devices. He explains that in talking with public safety IT shops, many where aware of this issue but solutions to deal with them were still more commonly on the wish list than the critical list. “People are overly focused on the device, but they aren’t keeping an eye on the networks included in those devices like hotspots, but they need to be protected with passwords as well, they can be hacked like any other connection,” Louie says.