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Understanding MIL-STD 810 and what it means for law enforcement mobile computers

MIL-STD-810 – a U.S. military test methodology – is used by many manufacturers to design and test ruggedized products against a variety of common environmental risks


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By James Careless, P1 Contributor

‘Military tough’ is a phrase that agencies want to hear when purchasing new equipment; but when it comes to officially being military tough, Military Standard 810 (MIL-STD 810) provides a third-party testable, definitive grade by which to measure whether a product can withstand the daily environmental stresses encountered while on duty.

What is MIL-STD 810?

Reputable manufacturers use MIL-STD 810 to validate their products. (Photo/Getac)
Reputable manufacturers use MIL-STD 810 to validate their products. (Photo/Getac)

MIL-STD 810 is a test method standard containing over 110 unique test procedures associated with specific endurance and durability tests, developed by the U.S. Government.

“The standard has been developed within the Department of Defense (DOD) to address the military operational environment,” said Ken Thompson of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC).           

Worth knowing: The original MIL-STD 810 document was first published in 1962 and has been routinely revised ever since.

“The revisions are driven by either a technology change or new item requirements,” said Thompson. “The ultimate goal is to provide test procedures that simulate an item’s life cycle from cradle to grave in the military operational environment. As you may well know, the military operational environment is far beyond anything typically expected of your average consumer product.”                      

Reputable manufacturers use MIL-STD 810 to validate their products. Although not every product needs to be MIL-STD 810-compliant, police operational conditions fall under the category of requiring ruggedized products that can endure MIL-STD 810 criteria – and can prove it.

This is precisely how MIL-STD-810 testing applies to the ruggedized laptop computers used by law enforcement. To prove that a specific ruggedized laptop is tough enough for police work, it would typically undergo MIL-STD 810G tests for enduring 6' drops; resistance to shocks, vibration, sand, dust, altitude, freeze/thaw cycles, high/low temperatures, temperature shock, humidity and explosive atmospheres. Once the tests had been passed, the manufacturer would likely signify this fact with a statement such as the following: “Tested by national independent third-party lab following MIL-STD-810G Method 516.6 Procedure IV for transit drop test and IEC 60529 Sections 13.4, 13.6.2, 14.2.5 and 14.3 for IP65.”

Such specific details are vital to assessing if a device claiming to be MIL-STD 810-compliant actually is.

“The only way to ensure the item has been tested and meets the standard would be to request the data and test report,” Thompson advised. “It’s easy for someone to state they test in accordance with the standard,” he added. “It’s another to say the item passed.”

To protect themselves against false MIL-STD 810 product claims, “many customers may require that all testing is certified though third-party test labs,” said David Sgro, who serves on the executive board of the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology, which oversees the working group that reviews MIL-STD 810 to provide input and recommend potential changes to the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command. “A comprehensive test report providing clear documentation such as data, photos, functional data sheets, calibration, and the method tested are the information to ensure the product was tested correctly.”

At the purchasing end of the deal, “having someone who has a clear understanding of test methodology and MIL-STD 810 is important,” Sgro said. “This adds a level of validation (at the purchaser end) to ensure correct test integrity.”

The moral to this tale: Products claiming to be MIL-STD 810-compliant need to back up those claims with solid, specific documentation. Without such proof, police department purchasers would be wise to treat such claims as dubious and look elsewhere for the genuine military toughness they seek.

To learn more about MIL-STD 810, visit http://www.iest.org/.


About the Author
James Careless is a freelance writer with extensive experience covering computer technologies.

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