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8/22/2011
03:04 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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RIM Shows PlayBook As Brain For Police Car

Research In Motion is demonstrating a new concept this week: a police cruiser with a built-in PlayBook tablet.

RIM's PlayBook tablet may cost $500, but its latest accessory will probably set you back $50,000. No, it's not a solid gold and diamond-studded case, it's a concept police cruiser, based on the Dodge Charger, that comes equipped with a dashboard-mounted PlayBook.

The PlayBook does a lot more than provide law enforcement with navigation and Internet browsing. This PlayBook handles the car's lights and sirens, and serves as the vehicle's information and communications hub. This particular concept also includes some software from Mobile Innovations, called Mobile Police Assist. According to RIM, Mobile Police Assist provides secure access to police records and briefings; geo-tagging and time-stamping for photos, videos and notes; and GPS tracking.

RIM recently published a blog post with a more in-depth look at the set up and how it works.

First, it offers all the functionality and features of the base PlayBook. That includes the seven-inch display, speedy processor, touch-based user interface, dual 5-megapixel cameras, and card-based multitasking. With the Mobile Police Assist software on board, it accesses the cruiser's mechanical and information systems. The software can be used to trigger the sirens/lights, capture/control the cruiser's video feeds, and easily removed to serve as an imaging device.

Via the Bridge application, law enforcement officials can access all the information available to the PlayBook from their BlackBerrys while away from the cruiser. Anything they do on their BlackBerrys will be synced back to the PlayBook and vice versa. The PlayBook's Bluetooth radio also allows for accessories such as keyboards and printers. These could improve the process of issuing tickets and scanning licenses.

You might be asking, "Why bother?" or "What's wrong with my Panasonic ToughBook?"

RIM explains that using the small tablet (rather than a bulky laptop) is a good idea for a number of reasons. It is small, light, and portable, and more easily goes wherever the law enforcement officials in question need to go. Its smaller footprint will be a boon to the effective use of the interior space of police cruisers. As police departments downsize from aging Crown Vics and Caprice Classics to Chargers or other smaller vehicles, space is at a premium. Most importantly, the smaller footprint is out of the airbag zone, meaning that officers will be safer in the event of an airbag deployment. Last, RIM touts its strength in security as a major benefit for law enforcement.

When does it ship? Well, as noted, it's still just a concept. It is being toured around Canada right now, and will be on display at the 2011 International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference in Chicago in October.

Can tablets such as the PlayBook replace the status quo in policecruisers? RIM obviously hopes so. Should Panasonic start worrying about the future of its ToughBook? Probably not immediately.

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