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Ten Critical Points To Consider When Selecting A Ticketing Device For Enforcement
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By UPsafety Team Members:
Joan Young of United Public Safety

There are a few options available in today’s market for mobile enforcement devices. It comes down to three types:

  • an all-in-one mobile device with an integrated printer
  • a rugged mobile/handheld or tablet device with a paired Bluetooth printer
  • a cell phone with paired Bluetooth printer.

Placing these three options on the table, consider the following criteria to help you select the best, most effective and sustaining tool for enforcement.

  1. Is the device able to withstand my environment?

    Enforcement occurs in all environments—in the cold, heat, inclement weather and sometimes even in sandstorms or other conditions where there are resulting particulates to consider. The device you choose for enforcement dependability needs to be able to withstand the day to day abuse that the environment presents.

    Give careful attention to device Ingress Protection Ratings

    IP-rated devices are critical to effective enforcement processes. An increase in reliability is promised with specific ratings, but do add cost to products.

    The first number in an IP rating is solid particle ingress and the second is liquid ingress.

    • IP67

      Assures a device is sealed against dust and particles & liquid immersion up to 1m

    • IP65

      The same assurance as IP67, except a reduced liquid rating that reflects less protection against jets of water.

    Learn more about IP ratings

    This calls the Ingress Protection rating or IP rating into play when considering which type of device would best suit you.

    Most rugged devices available today receive an IP65 rating—acceptable, considering enforcement devices aren't meant to be fully submerged. If you have an all-in-one device with the printer door open, water damage may occur even if it is IP-rated. The seal is tested with all orifices sealed and intact.

    Some smart phones are coming on to the market with IP ratings. External cases provide some protection for smart phones, but are often cumbersome and expensive.

    When considering a two-piece solution that includes mobile device and printer, be sure you request the IP rating on the printer as well. A mobile device is out of business without a printer in the enforcement arena.

  2. Will the battery life last for at least an 8-hour shift?

    Any device considered for enforcement must be expected to operate for a complete 8 to 12 hour shift and or have a hot swappable battery option available for immediate use. This allows the enforcement officer to change batteries conveniently in the field. A dedicated, rugged mobile device will have this feature. All solution providers/ device manufacturers will be able to provide you with battery life information. The way you use the device; camera, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, apps running and other power draws will affect the device battery life.

  3. What will happen to the device if it is dropped? Or worse, if it's stolen or lost?

    Most mobile devices on the market today use Gorilla Glass for the display, but it should be noted Gorilla Glass breaks, just not as easily. The weakest component and often the most expensive on any mobile device is the display. This is where “rugged” comes into play. Companies that design and manufacture rugged devices typically design to the highest standard for the mobile work force and demanding environments thus they understand the mechanics necessary to properly mount a display inside an enclosure. A rugged device should withstand a 5 foot drop to concrete without damage. Again, consider the printer drop specification as well. Printers do get dropped! If a device is stolen or lost, it can be tracked through GPS and if needed the data plan suspended. If you have an MDM (Machine Device Management), it can be locked down so that it cannot be used.

  4. Is the device operating on Wi-Fi or Real Time?

    Five years ago most mobile enforcement devices were operating on Wi-Fi which meant that real time data was not available until the device was synched onto a cradle after the completion of a shift. If a citizen wanted to pay a ticket they had to wait until it was available within the back office software. With the inception of interconnectivity between kiosks, pay-to-park, courts, DMV and other software, the necessity for real time data in the enforcement process is critical. Data plans are available with your device and are usually offered at reasonable rates given the convenience they afford.

  5. What is the expected life of the device?

    A dedicated enforcement device should be expected to last five years with an extended warranty available to match. Mobile device technology has major enhancements on about the same schedule. Even if new technology is available it does not mean it will be able to be adopted into a mobile device immediately. It is critical to have a mobile device supplier that can guarantee the support of a device for a full five years to create stability within an enforcement operation. Also, given the cost of a dedicated mobile enforcement device the cost can be amortized over a five year period.

  6. What support is in place in the event of a device failure?

    What happens in the event a device fails? Does your warranty policy allow for a spare pool? How long will a repair take and does the warranty cover all parts and labor? These are questions to ask before selecting a mobile device for enforcement. A reputable enforcement solution provider will have a technician available to troubleshoot device failures 24/7 and make a decision as to whether a device needs to be returned to the factory for service or the issue can be resolved over the phone.

    Consider this: If you opt to use a cell phone for enforcement, you'll likely not have a trouble-shooting scenario. Instead, a new device may be necessary and software will need to be reinstalled.

  7. Do I have to pair the printer to the mobile device before each shift?

    Yes, if you opt to use a two-piece solution, a Bluetooth printer will need to be paired to a mobile device on a daily basis. With a one-piece (all-in-one) enforcement device, this is not a requirement. Learn more about pairing.

  8. Is the display large enough to allow the enforcement officer to see the screen and fill in critical information? What about a keypad vs. a virtual screen?

    Screen size matters as does the consideration of a virtual vs. a dedicated keypad. Consider that everyone has different sized fingers and that outdoor readability on a display although it is improving is still not always optimum. It is important that the display be large enough to see and check the input of critical information. Small keys often lead to incorrect information being input. Before you agree to the use of any mobile device with your application check with other departments by asking your solution provider for references. Also ask for the opportunity to see, touch and/or use the device.

  9. How will the mobile device be carried? What weight is acceptable?

    Walking the streets with a mobile device and a printer attached to a belt can be grueling on any day, let alone a 100 degree eight hour shift in Florida. Consider the ergonomic characteristics of a device. How heavy is it? How will it be carried when not in use? Is there somewhere to rest the device that provides easy access? Carrying a laptop is unacceptable, a tablet cumbersome, try to keep an enforcement devices in the palm of one hand and ideally under 1.5 pounds with a printer on the device. The weight of a two piece solution can vary from 2 to 3 lbs. A cell phone with a blue tooth printer about 2lbs. (The Bluetooth printer weighs an average of 24 ounces with battery).

  10. What is the Cost vs. Value Ratio?

    A mobile enforcement device must be viewed as an investment in reliability and continuity of the enforcement process itself. A consumer device such as a cell phone was never designed to be used as a dedicated enforcement device. The initial cost of the device and the ease of acquisition have lead it there, but consider the cost of ownership. What if the device breaks? How long will the selected model be supported? Who will be responsible for wiping the devices and reinstalling software if a device fails? It really boils down to you get what you pay for. Cell phones are designed for consumer use and your specific application is not considered in the design process. If you want to use a phone for enforcement it might be best to look at it as a disposable/replaceable option. Any mobile enforcement device must be treated with care by the enforcement team. When new devices are put into service a kickoff meeting to introduce the devices as well as how to care for them will add to their longevity. Many departments currently using dedicated rugged enforcement devices will witness industry technology changes long before their hardworking devices fail.

In summation, a mobile device is the tangible and tactile component of an enforcement solution. If your enforcement team perceives you are giving them a well vetted, technically relevant and dedicated enforcement tool the enforcement process should become more efficient. There is a lot to consider when selecting the right mobile device for your team but doing your research will pay off in the long run.