An Explosive Opportunity For Ruggedized Notebooks
Integrator Defense Group Inc. earns a $14 million contract from the FBI that includes ruggedized notebooks used in Bomb Scene Response and Reporting Kits.
As a VAR or integrator selling ruggedized notebooks, it is likely the government or military markets are on your radar screen. These types of verticals demand mobile computing devices that not only function in the worst environmental conditions, but are safe to operate in potentially volatile settings (i.e. when performing repair work to a jet engine). Developing contacts in these markets is usually difficult, but once you're in, you're in.
Defense Group Inc. (DGI) (Alexandria, VA) is an integrator that has provided operational training and technology support to the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and to law enforcement agencies across the country. In 1999 DGI developed Chemical Biological Response Aide (CoBRA) software for the Technical Support Working Group, an acquisition organization of the federal counter-terrorism community. The CoBRA software is the heart of the CoBRA Response Kit designed for first responders dealing with weapons of mass destruction.
According to Dr. Donald Ponikvar, senior VP at DGI, during CoBRA training exercises with first responder organizations throughout the country, DGI learned about the FBI's need for a Bomb Scene Response and Reporting Kit (BSRRK). "We met some members of local bomb squads who introduced us to the National Bomb Squad Commanders Advisory Board," Ponikvar explained. "That board advises the FBI Bomb Data Center on technology requirements and procedures."
Wireless Laptop Expertise Wins Account
From the spring of 2001 to April of 2002, Ponikvar developed contacts at the FBI and promoted DGI's capabilities. In April 2002, the FBI released an RFP (request for proposal) for the BSRRK project and subsequently awarded the contract to DGI. Ponikvar said DGI's past success with other responder agencies using wireless-enabled laptops from Itronix Corp. (Spokane, WA) contributed to his company winning this contract. "At the time, the Itronix GoBook Max computer was the only commercial laptop certified as intrinsically safe for explosive atmospheres," Ponikvar explained. "It also is built to survive decontamination procedures, which means it can be taken in and out of 'hot zones' [the contaminated scene of a crime]." DGI deployed a number of similar laptop-related systems for Salt Lake City's Winter Olympic Games security team and the Pentagon Force Protection Agency. Seeing the success of these projects, the FBI decided to adopt this wireless field reporting capability for all of the accredited bomb squads across the country.
Offer A Solution To Gather And Promptly Share Info
According to the RFP, the purpose of the BSRRK is threefold. First, it must provide the responding bomb squad with the capability to capture digital imagery of a suspect device, either with a digital camera or by scanning a photograph. Second, it must enable rapid reporting of information (i.e. protective gear, response measures, closest safe detonation sites, decontamination procedures) to other locations (e.g. FBI/Bomb Data Center) or other responding/associated units. Third, each kit has to offer a variety of chemical and biological resources and decision aids, standard operating procedures, guidelines, and checklists to assist a bomb squad in assessing a threat and managing an appropriate response.
DGI's CoBRA Response Kit became the BSRRK. The key component of these kits is an Itronix GoBook Max laptop computer with a touch screen and integral CDPD (cellular digital packet data) wireless modem. DGI developed a network of OEM component suppliers for all of the commercial off-the-shelf components of the BSRRK. Those components include an Olympus C-720 digital camera, a Pentax USMobile scanner, a Canon BJC-55 portable color ink jet printer, a Garmin eTrex Vista GPS (global positioning systems) receiver, an Addonics combination DVD/CD-RW drive, an Addonics floppy drive, a battery charger, a 300-watt DC (direct current) power inverter to power the units from a 12-volt vehicle system, all the necessary connecting cables, and a hard case with a custom padded insert to carry the entire setup.
Can You Accommodate A National Deployment?
Ponikvar said the $14 million contract called for enough kits for all of the nationally accredited bomb squads in the country. All of the kits were assembled and tested at DGI's Alexandria facility. To facilitate the delivery schedule for the initial rollout, DGI added five additional employees to its integration and testing staff. (Overall, the CoBRA team currently has 14 members.) All the kits include a three-year hardware warranty and technical support component. DGI also offers operational field support during major deployments. The first shipment to the FBI was made in September 2002 and further deployments are still in progress.
"We provide a self-paced training DVD with every kit," stated Ponikvar. "In addition, at the request of the FBI, we provide on-site training for groups of individual users [classes range from 4 to 8 hours in duration for basic system operation, depending on whether a short field exercise is included]. Since we started this project, we have received inquiries from state and local law enforcement agencies, fire departments, HAZMAT teams, National Guard units, state and county emergency operation centers, and some commercial industry customers."