Tasmania Police looks to replace Acer tablets

Tasmania Police will soon go to tender to replace its first fleet of Acer Iconia tablets issued to over 1,000 police officers across the state.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor on

Tasmania Police is looking to replace its first fleet of Acer tablets, and to build a platform to host the increasing volume of video being captured by officers.

Last year, Tasmania Police revealed that it had replaced its desktops, Apple iMacs, and MacBooks with 1,120 personal-issued Acer Iconia W11p tablets running Windows 8.

The aim was to enable officers across the state to be able to access all applications and services on the tablet in the field as they would in the station.

Senior Sergeant Jason Hutcheon told the APCO conference in Melbourne on Thursday that the project was initially planned in 2012 during a time of austerity in Tasmania, due to the state's dire financial situation. He said this allowed Tasmania Police to try a "more risky project".

The decision to move to a Windows tablet away from Apple was simply because Apple "didn't work" for the officers, he said. Most computers across the state have now been replaced by the Acer tablets, with only a few desktops retained for administrative use and some used as monitors for the Acer tablets.

The decision to go with Acer was because it was the only device on the market at the time that met all the needs of the agency.

"This was 2013, and this was the only device on the market that ticked all the boxes," he said, adding that Tasmania Police is now in the market to replace the tablets.

"We are actually going to tender pretty shortly for a replacement device, and we've now found a whole range of vendors that [have] what we're after, so our options are expanding -- which is a good thing."

The Acer model has an 18-hour battery life, and allowed the agency to run its legacy systems and use software the officers were already familiar with.

"We are still heavily invested in Microsoft Office ... and the guys really want to use that. It also allowed us to pick up our desktop software and deploy it out in the field," Hutcheon said.

"We do have a couple of bespoke apps, but we just find the guys have come up using Windows ... that's what they know, that's what they are familiar with, and that's what they resort to when they want to get something done.

"It's sort of lessened the training and change management issues around it."

The tablets were personal issued, meaning officers were able to take them home and treat them as their own device, with Tasmania Police abandoning its plans for a bring-your-own-device policy. This designated personal usage, in combination with the rugged nature of the tablets, meant that very few have been damaged over the past two years.

"People tend to look after equipment if it is theirs. If it is a piece of station kit, it tends to get trashed fairly quickly," he said.

A total of seven tablets have been smashed, he said, out of the 1,120 tablets, with three falling off the roofs of cars.

The tablets have greatly improved efficiency for the police, with reports being filed on the scene instead of hours or days later. Hutcheon said that much of the background talk on police radio has dissipated, with licence and registration checks now done by the officers directly on their tablets.

Tasmania Police is also developing its own apps now that the infrastructure is in place, and has already released a personal infringement notice system that will allow infringement notices to be issued by SMS and email.

There have been a number of issues with the tablets, however. While the 3G connectivity on the Telstra network has been "great", Hutcheon said that connecting the tablets back to the police network has had issues.

"Unfortunately, we couldn't run everything on 3G, because there are a lot of data-heavy applications," he said.

Many police officers now take videos out in the field to record evidence and searches, and he said that there is an issue with storage, both on the device and back at the station. The tablets can only store around one hour of video, Hutcheon said, and in one instance, a police officer lost footage due to storage space running out.

Back at the station, too, officers have been storing the video on their local network, but Hutcheon said this is not ideal.

"We're really struggling with that. We're now launching a project to try and find some sort of platform to manage that. Whether that is cloud or locally hosted, we've yet to determine, he said.

"We didn't want to restrict that ability because we didn't have the technology to support it. We know it is an issue, and we're looking to address it."

The agency has also had issues with the Acer tablets plugging into external monitors, which Hutcheon said is "a source of annoyance for officers".

"The only fix we had was the service-level agreement to continually swap the tablets out under warranty -- which was very annoying. It wasn't picked up during the pilot, but we've adapted," he said.

Some of the agency's legacy systems are not IPv6 compatible, but Tasmania Police developed a web-based version of the legacy systems to allow officers to access it in the field.

Josh Taylor travelled to Melbourne as a guest of Motorola Solutions.

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