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P1 Tech Help: iPad's potential for LE is massive, but distant

Apple has turned the world of portable tablet-type computing on its head

My past articles have tended to focus on the advancement of technology in police work. I’m sure there are officers still on the job that hand wrote their reports, used a personal computer the size of an oven, and finally graduated to a laptop computer that doubles as the MCT or MDT.

This last Christmas, several of my friends and coworkers received an Apple iPad. I had a vague idea of what an iPad was capable of, but when I actually put my hands on one, I immediately thought of the massive potential this type of technology could have in law enforcement.

The Early Bird and the Second Mouse
First, let me mention that this type of technology is not new. Several computer companies such as HP, Dell, Panasonic, Itronix, and others offer a laptop computer that opens up just like an ordinary laptop with the added feature of having the screen turn around and close with the exposed screen. This enables the laptop to transform into a tablet where you can actually write notes with a stylus pen in your own writing on a typical blank electronic document and the software transcribes the notes into the familiar Microsoft Word (or other word processing program) type of document.

This though, makes me remember that PoliceOne’s Editor — Doug Wyllie — has shared with me a saying a few times when we’ve talked about emerging police technology. “The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse tends to get the cheese,” he’d say. His meaning is that sometimes the “first-mover” in technology may not get the final prize. Remember, we once had Internet search companies like Excite! and social networking services like Geocities, but those ventures are deep in the technology dustbin while Google and Facebook are multi-billion dollar enterprises.

Apple has turned the world of portable tablet-type computing on its head. The iPad offers the same functions, graphics, and software in a device that is thinner and lighter than typical tablet laptops making very easy to carry around. It can connect to the Internet using Wi-Fi hotspots or 3G technology and also can be used as a pseudo desktop/laptop utilizing a keyboard docking station and once undocked (charged), battery life is extended up to ten hours of user time because there are no moving parts.

An iPad in Every Squad?
I have only seen the graphics on the iPad and am impressed by what I have seen coming from this super thin device. Apple already offers several free apps where you can write notes but I’m sure MS Office for Apple could be (or will be) adapted for the iPad to enhance office productivity is in the near future.

I spoke to an Apple representative who told me that since the April 2010 introduction, Apple has sold approximately fifteen million iPads. I was told also that there are approximately three hundred thousand different apps already on the market written for the iPad with more apps written every day. The Apple rep also mentioned that several automakers have interest in the iPad technology to install in cars and iPads are currently being used in politics and Courts throughout the country with parties from the education, disability and restaurant fields showing interest as well.

The Apple rep did say Apple has not heard of any interest in the law enforcement field yet but my inquiry could open the doors for Apple to enter the law enforcement market. I predicted to the rep that iPad use in law enforcement is just around the corner and could very well substitute the laptop as the MCT or MDT in a patrol car.

Bottom Line, LE = Rugged
The iPad is about as rugged as a goldfish right now, but I believe that once a tougher version of the iPad tablet and a vehicle mounting unit is developed, tablets will replace vehicle mounted laptop and terminals. They can be easily taken out of a docking station or mount and used in the field to take notes or show downloaded photos of named suspects or property damage.

Several other companies — such as eLocity, Viewsonic, Archos, and Asus — are joining Apple by offering tablets with the type of capabilities as the iPad but they are primarily used for entertainment purposes.

I remember going to movie houses to watch Sci-Fi movies where the space explorers held a portable device to scan the atmosphere of an unknown planet. Now we have the capability — from anywhere we choose of — learning about planets and stars in our universe but watch movies, send messages, read news from other parts of the world all from the palm of hands.

Stay safe.

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