Mounting a computer in your vehicle?

One size does not fit all

Across Europe, in many industries, mobile technology – such as laptops and tablets – and specialist commercial vehicles are constant companions for thousands, possibly millions, of field workers in their daily working lives.

More and more, the business advantages of being able to dock and mount those mobile computers safely and securely in vehicles is being recognised. Vehicle-mounted computers can connect to power sources, office-based systems and applications, communication technology, job scheduling and management software, and many other business support functions. So productivity is vastly increased, efficiency is improved, costs are reduced and customer service becomes better than ever.

So, with the commercial advantages being abundantly clear – and quick to deliver significant return on investment – what barriers exist to the adoption of docks and mounts for computers in working vehicles?  

One of the most commonly encountered is customisation and design.


Specialisation is the order of the day

In industries such as telecoms, utilities, emergency services, and logistics – where field technicians and professionals often travel in commercial vehicles, carrying mobile laptops or tablets – specialisation is usually the order of the day.

Their vehicles are fitted to specification that is suited precisely to the demands of the job. They are designed to operate in the right environments, carry the right tools, and feature the most appropriate seating layouts, communication equipment, driver information and recording technology. So from one company to the next, the layout, specification and overall design (both exterior and interior) of the vehicle can differ widely.

Equally, the mobile technology, including laptops and tablets that the field workers carry with them to each job, is designed specifically for purpose. In many cases, the computers are ‘ruggedised’, meaning they’re built from the ground up to withstand the harsh environments encountered by outdoor, in-field workers. They are more than a match for bumps, knocks, drops, spills, scratches, dents, plummeting temperatures and extreme heat. So they are quite different in shape, size and specification to your typical or everyday ‘consumer’ mobile device.

Even within the rugged category, devices vary in specification from company to company. Different requirements for connectivity will always mean different ports, different WiFi modules, or power sources and application access, for example.

So when you have vehicles AND mobile technology that are designed with very specific requirements in mind, an off-the-shelf vehicle mount is unlikely to fit the bill for your organisation.


Custom solutions from the world leader

There are alternatives, however. Panasonic, the world leader in rugged notebook PCs and tablets, offers a range of specialist docking solutions that can be fitted into a wide range of vehicles, from cars to vans, and 4x4s to emergency service vehicles, and more. And when the design demands are specific to a particular company or even individual vehicle, Panasonic has the capability to create and install ergonomic solutions that make the most of available space, while meeting the requirements of the technology users.

Thanks to its Custom Docking Solutions team, complete with its own dock design and installation specialists, Panasonic offers numerous docking possibilities:

  • Dash-mounted docks – the most common location for a vehicle docked device as the user has fast access to the device and all its applications, securely, within arm’s reach and without obscuring their field of vision.
  • Rear-mounted docks - allowing workers to use their devices out of the back of their vehicle as well as providing secure storage of devices out of sight. They can be connected to a secondary screen in the vehicle’s cockpit.
  • Front-mounted docks - installed in the glove box, under the seat or alongside the driver, front-mounted docks are usually linked to a secondary screen to give access to job routing software while on the move.
  • Linked secondary screens - these can take the form of integrated screens in the centre console of the dash or a roof mounted pull down screen, ensuring you can keep working even when your device is docked elsewhere in the vehicle.

Companies across Europe are already benefiting from this level of customisation and bespoke manufacturing, having worked in direct partnership with Panasonic to find the perfect solution for their needs.

For Hertfordshire Police, Vauxhall Special Vehicles shared its vehicle specifications with the Panasonic ProServices team of in-house CAD designers in order for them to create a docking station to meet the unique needs of the police officers and the vehicle.  A compatible touchscreen display and some communication elements were sourced by Panasonic to complete the solution.

For the AA, Mark Dawson, Transformation Programme Manager for Road Operations, reflects: “Panasonic designed our new slim, dashboard-mounted docking solution from the ground up. It was important that the dock could be swivelled for the device to face the operator or the curbside of the vehicle. Other important design requirements included a pass-through antenna to improve connectivity to mobile networks and a connection for an external GPS module to locate customers. Access to multiple ports on the device, such as LAN and VGA were also incorporated.”

Of course, customisation is just one of numerous issues to be considered when deciding how and where to dock your mobile technology in commercial vehicles. For a full exploration of what you need to be thinking about, take a look at this in-depth report, published recently by Panasonic or contact us today to discuss your requirements.