Hey all - I was wondering if I could get some expert opinions on some installs I've had done and will be doing in the future.
I'm a professional Firefighter/EMT with a small department in Oregon. About 5 years ago we went mobile with in vehicle PC's ( most recently Panasonic Toughbook CF-29's ). On our current Medic these mounted up front between the seats.
We recently added 3 new fire apparatus to our fleet and I decided to do a remote mount using the same toughbooks, but placing the on the "doghouse" of the engines, so the firefighters would have a view of what was going on too. The passenger or officers seat as we call it, has a 15" daylight readable Planar capacitive touch screen, with on screen keyboard, as well as a RF wireless keyboard that has an included joystick for a mouse.
Both of these mountings and systems have worked great, with the remote mount working much better than expected! Keep in mind we were doing this on a relative shoe-string budget (for a fire department) of $78,000 for all the hardware and installation.
All these systems include:
Cellular internet through Verizon ( best carrier in our area )
External Sirf III GPS/cellular antenna
24 hour a day up time (usually)
GPS navigation though IncidentView (proprietary fire/EMS mapping software)
VPN connectivity to our dispatch center
Toughbook using XP sp3
USB hub for additional connections
Switching power supply that goes from our shoreline 110V to 12V inverted
Auto Additions mounting hardware
Wireless keyboard/pointer combo for remote mounts
here are the questions I have:
Can I do this CHEAPER without sacrificing robustness?
A toughbook runs around $4500, and they NEVER leave the vehicle. I realize that there's a lot more than a tough exterior to a toughbook such as HDD mounting, but is there a better alternative to spending $4500 old tech in a super tough case?
Could I use something like an ASUS N10 as a replacement for the toughbook on my remote mounts?
The software we run in not that CPU intensive, I guess a better question is can I replace the toughbook with just a regular laptop? Even if I don't get the longevity out of the regular laptop, I can replace 4 of them for the price of one toughbook...
What would you change, or add to my systems?
I think I have all my bases covered, but you guys are the experts. The fire service can get pretty tunnel-visioned sometimes and we think we are doing it right, when we could be missing the boat!
Thanks for the input and I look forward to hearing your responses!
Do you think something like this would work instead of the toughbook? If you need more CPU power, you could go with a power bundle.
Unlike the Asus, the above unit would go on and off based on ignition sensing and run off of 12/24v power.
good job on this project! definitely like that 15" capacitive panel!! Do your laptops stay on and run off battery power when the vehicle is turned off? A CarPC will need to shut down so as not to drain your battery when the vehicle turns off. Something to keep in mind in case you need to be able to keep working on the computers when the vehicle is off. Now, your vehicles probably have a more powerful battery system, I don't know, but just wanted to throw that out there.
EWF, HORM, MinLogon on XP.
Zotac ION Atom N330, 2GB low-profile RAM, M3-ATX
Win Embedded Std 2011 RC
OCZ Vertex Turbo 30GB SSD
Lilliput 629 Transflective, WRX Screen Mount
BlueSoleil BT, i-Blue GM-2 GPS, DirectedHD Radio, Andrea Mic
it all depends on how you look at it. the functionality of the toughbook could be replaced by almost anything on mp3car to have similar performance. I think the most important consideration for this would be the reliability, you don't want this thing to ever crap out on you, which for $4500 the engineers at panasonic has thought of it for you. I think it is possible to have similar reliability at a lower price, but it requires much much testing. In my opinion having some sort of battery powered pc like a laptop is a huge bonus because regardless of what kind of situation you're in you still have the battery to back to, something a carpc doesn't quite have (not totally true, because you're using the truck battery). So things to look for would be, what temperature will this pc be exposed to, how much shock and vibration.
How i'd go about trying this would be, finding all industrial spec ruggedized (sp?) components, including motherboard, ram, HD...etc. Have them mounted properly using well designed case components. Install everything and test it many times on non-life threatening situation first. The issue with this, at the end of they day, you might come out close to 4500.
The cheaper way to do it is using commercial grade components. Motherboards, cpu, ram, and case are usually very reliable, so you can save by buying these commercial grades. HD in my opinion you can't cheap out on when you purchase, but if you don't require too much space you can use 4 - 8gb industrial temp/vibration DOM/SSD/EE25(sold on mp3car). Power supply i would recommend only DSATX, OPUS for reliable performance.
One last option would be buying a regular laptop and throw in some industrial hd.
They are on a power supply that can run off the 110V shore line while in the bays, and then switch to the vehicles inverters while away from the station. We are having all our newer vehicles with always-on inverters for just this reason.
Thanks for the kind words - I was a little nervous not just going with an off-the-shelf solution, but the money we saved and the ease of use for my guys was definitely worth it.
Also- If you guys want to see more pics, here's the link:
They are under the MDT install pics album.
Thanks again for the feedback...
This is a pic of the Toughbook mounted in the back of the engine, with the remote touch screen visible in the officers seat.