Not that long ago, most police cruisers had a single internet-connected device: a rugged, in-vehicle laptop that allowed officers to securely connect to back-end servers, run license plate numbers and check for outstanding warrants.
Today, the number of connected devices in a cruiser is limited only by police officials’ imaginations — or by the in-vehicle connectivity that departments invest in. Not only are dashboard and body cameras typically networked, but lights and sirens are also able to send signals back to departments when police activate them, letting dispatchers know that particular officers are unavailable to respond to a call. Some departments have even connected their tactical weapons to send out alerts when pulled, summoning other nearby officers for backup.
Rather than connecting each of these devices with individual cell signals, many departments are deploying ruggedized routers that extend the organization’s LAN resources to the vehicle. This solution allows departments to simplify and secure their connectivity, and allow officers to more easily tie into departmental applications and data when necessary.
While public safety is where most of the adoption of in-vehicle connectivity is happening, other industries are increasingly jumping on board. This is especially true for sectors where (as with policing) the vehicle serves as a major hub of activity.
Hospital-EMS Data Sharing Improves Patient Outcomes
With secure connectivity, paramedics and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel can share patient information with doctors and hospital staff before arriving at emergency departments. In some circumstances, they may even initiate video calls to help physicians assess patients’ conditions and prepare to treat them.
Data Drives Productivity for Utilities Companies
Utility workers are constantly on the go, and they need to be able to access customer and company information without having to call into the organization. In-vehicle connectivity enables utility workers to immediately download data about customer problems, existing infrastructure and past incidents, which helps them to serve more customers, more quickly.
Wi-Fi on Public Transit Boosts Ridership
Increasingly, transit systems offer riders the opportunity to connect to Wi-Fi on buses and trains. In fact, connectivity has become a baseline expectation for many commuters, and can even spur some drivers to switch to public transit. (When offered the opportunity to be productive during their commute, many workers will pick the train over idling in traffic.)
In-vehicle connectivity can also be used to support smart vehicle systems, including predictive analytics for vehicle fleets, which can inform organizations when maintenance is due — even before a “check engine” light comes on. This technology alerts fleet managers to potential problems before they arise and helps them formulate better plans for maintenance schedules.
Monitoring Capabilities Ensures Food and Beverage Safety
Food in transit must be carefully controlled for temperature, and any food items that rise above a certain threshold must be discarded for health and safety reasons. In-vehicle connectivity solutions can instantly transmit temperature sensor data to centralized monitoring systems, where employees can keep a close eye on potential problems as they develop.
School Bus Wi-Fi Systems Enhance Student Connectivity
The internet has become central to much of K–12 instruction, and yet a substantial number of students across the country lack connectivity at home. To solve this problem, many school districts are providing Wi-Fi on school buses, allowing students to complete their homework or conduct research on their ride home. In-vehicle connectivity can also support video surveillance systems, helping to ensure student safety.
One key to the successful deployment of modern in-vehicle connectivity solutions is a back-end cloud management platform that creates a direct link to an organization’s internal network (and also allows for remote firmware updates). While in-vehicle connectivity may seem fairly straightforward, problems often arise for organizations unaccustomed to the solutions available on the market. For instance, I’ve seen organizations suffer from poor performance simply because they used the wrong type of antenna with their routers.
But when IT managers take the time to get it right — or bring on a partner with extensive expertise — in-vehicle connectivity can create instant value by extending an organization’s network (and, essentially, its office) out into the wider world.
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