Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Police iPad advice

Apparently if you Google the terms "iPad" and "Police", a couple of my past blog posts are near the top, concerning my own experiences using an iPad as a tool in my job.  As a result, I get an occasional contact from other police & fire types on this subject.

Friday, a captain at a small department emailed me.  I'm not sure if he is comfortable with me naming the agency, so for the moment, I won't.  He had attended my presentation at a conference earlier this year, and had gone home determined to look into equipping his staff with tablets.  It appears he found a funding source, and now has 14 Apple iPads on order. He was looking for any advice or tips.  Here's my reply:

That is awesome! Congratulations. Here are my top three applications: 
1. Google Maps.  A good, current street map that follows you around, aerial photos if you need them, and street-level images.  You have good StreetView coverage in your town, and this works great on an iPad.  With 14 units, you could actually set up Google Latitude and create what amounts to an AVL system for your department--you'll all be able to see where one another are on the map.  This is how my family keeps track of me.  
2. The Apple web browser is Safari, and the iPad version is preinstalled.  Think of any website that you and your colleagues find useful on your desktop computers. If you have an Internet connection, you'll be able to access almost all of those same sites on the iPads. There are a few web components that do not work on iPads--sites that use Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight, for example, but this is pretty minor.  One of the cool things you can do with an iPad is to take any bookmark you've set in the browser, and create it as an icon on the desktop. Stuff that you use often, like the sex offender registry, state statutes, state inmate locator, and any other websites can be set up as a one-click icon on the screen.  
3.  Any documents that you want to deploy--procedure manuals, handbooks, telephone contact lists, etc.--can be loaded up in iBooks, as .pdf files.  I've got a ton of these, and it works really, really well for arranging all those printed documents we're used to carrying in a three-ring binder!  If you get yourself a free Dropbox account, you can store the master documents in a shared folder, install the iPad Dropbox app on each iPad, and this would be a great way of distributing new or updated .pdfs.

I take it from your email that you are getting the WiFi only iPads, rather than the 3G model.  If you have a wireless network at the office, schools, home, etc., you can connect to those whenever you are close enough, but to really get the maximum value out of your iPads, you're going to need that Internet connection when you are on the move. A mobile hotspot like a MiFi or Overdrive wireless hotspot would be the solution, as you note.  One problem with that is that you then have another battery to go dead. Be careful when you go shopping for your mobile hotspot, and try to find one that will continue to transmit and receive while connected to the charge cord--some do, some don't--and make sure you've the cell provider you select has good coverage.

You'll have some work ahead getting fourteen iPads set up and activated, and some ongoing administrative work keeping application updates current. This isn't difficult, it's just going to require a little time now and then.  You can lock those iPads down in lots of different ways, to prevent users from accidentally deleting applications, or buying applications, or installing stuff, or using certain features like youtube, videos, iTunes, in app purchases, and so forth.
I've got a post on my personal blog about some of my favorite apps:
  Tom Casady  


Anonymous said...

Tom-You gave the guy exactly what my advice would have been. One question though, what's an iPad?

Seriously, Merry Christmas.


ARRRRG!!!! said...

I like the mapping app on my iPad.

Steve said...

I thought an iPad was that black thing Arrrg!!!! wore over his eye.

Anonymous said...

I want a cell phone that I can use similar to a LoJack. I am planning on buying a new Can Am Spyder this spring and I am concerned about theft. Anyone know of a system? A few years ago some cell phone company was offering a system to monitor locations of your kids. It would probably work on cycles also.

Gun Nut

Tom Casady said...

Gun Nut,

"Find My iPhone" is the application you seek for an iPhone or iPad.

For Android phones, there is a similar app named "Find My Phone, another named "LocateMyDroid", and several others.

You will see news stories regularly about these apps being used to catch a thief.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the heads up Chief. Now I know what to ask for when I talk to Santa.

Gun Nut

ARRRRG!!!! said...

@Gun Nut,

Here's one you can use to track a pet with a phone or computer. You could probably use it on a motorcycle.

Hope the link works.

Anonymous said...

i've been doing #2 since the netscape days