Many law enforcement professionals rely on body-worn cameras (BWC), drones, energy weapons, evidence management software and other sophisticated technology to do their jobs.
While each of these tools includes game-changing capabilities in their own right, the real magic happens when they’re all connected. When a police officer’s BWC can talk to their car, which in turn can talk to their station’s command center, public safety technology becomes a force multiplier.
Unfortunately, many agencies are unable to see the full potential of their technology due to lack of wireless network support. Axon and Cradlepoint are working to change this.
The connectivity challenge
From in-car video equipment to computer-aided dispatch (CAD), nearly every tool in the growing law enforcement toolbox needs — or functions best with — wireless connectivity. “We rely heavily on connectivity,” observes Lieutenant Randy Soulard of the El Cajon Police Department. “Everything we do these days requires mobile remote wireless support. And when that technology doesn't work, it really impacts our ability to do our job efficiently. So, it's very important to us.”
Despite the importance of robust connectivity, many agencies don’t have network devices built to meet the needs of modern policing. Underpowered network devices carry with them poor functionality, substandard durability and burdensome maintenance.
- Poor functionality: Poor antenna mounting, wireless carrier congestion or downtime, structural interference, and topographical features mean earlier generations of networking devices often struggle to provide connectivity. What does this mean for agencies? Squad cars driving down an alley experience sudden network drop-offs. Drone flying behind a building during subject pursuits lose piloting connectivity. Live streaming from ground units during a raid becomes impossible. In these and many other situations, connectivity isn’t just a nice to have: It's mission-critical.
- Substandard durability: Police equipment needs to be sturdy enough to handle challenging conditions, from extreme weather to tactical scenarios. Legacy network tech cannot stand up to the rigors of modern police work, and invariably breaks down under the stress of frontline use.
- Burdensome maintenance: Ideally, agency IT departments manage mobile network equipment remotely so police officers can stay fully-equipped on the job. Legacy network equipment often requires in-person maintenance, meaning mission-critical technology being taken out of the field whenever maintenance is required.
In direct response to the significant connectivity challenges many agencies face, Axon partnered with Cradlepoint to help law enforcement agencies get the most out of their tech.
Breaking the barriers to connectivity
During the development of Fleet, Axon's in-car video system, Axon realized the critical importance of partnering with a leading connectivity solution developer.
Blake Bullock, General Manager of Axon Fleet, recalls, “We rely on connectivity to reach the cloud for uploading video and to control the Axon Fleet system. To provide that connectivity to the vehicle, we needed a partner that could provide a mobile router. There are several companies in that market segment, but — even before I joined — my predecessors had identified Cradlepoint as an emerging leader. Cradlepoint delivered the product and field support we needed for our customers to be successful. I wanted to find a way to build on that success and make the bundle even better.”
Axon and Cradlepoint’s partnership — now in its seventh year — has produced two joint solutions that boost in-vehicle and on-scene connectivity.
- In-vehicle connectivity: In 2021, Axon launched Fleet 3 with Cradlepoint Wireless LTE and 5G. This in-car video system turns police vehicles into connected nodes: Cradlepoint’s industry-leading connectivity tech supports live streaming video from onboard cameras, continuous location updates, real-time alerts of critical incidents, immediate evidence sharing to Axon Evidence, on-the-fly ALPR hotlist downloading (for license plate alerting), remote IT management via Cradlepoint’s NetCloud and more.
- On-scene connectivity: Axon and Cradlepoint have also recently developed a mobile wireless on-scene support solution, the Axon LTE Case. This rugged, portable, all-in-one device provides officers with reliable connectivity in any situation for any technology, from drones to BWCs, for six hours at a time. With this powerful wireless solution, rural areas and strained local networks no longer pose a network coverage issue for police operations.
The impact of reliable on-scene connectivity
“When we first started, we weren’t using any connection at all,” says Soulard. “We just flew within our visual line of sight. When we needed to use the drone’s other capabilities, we would use a hot spot. But it was a nightmare. The pilots were always worrying about lag, geofencing, firmware updates, the signal dropping, etc. It was the most stressful part of drone operations.”
El Cajon PD leadership saw the value of drone technology, but knew they needed to find a mobile connectivity solution to get the most out of the tech. The PD was one of the first police departments to hear about the Axon LTE Case, and the agency quickly seized the opportunity to put the new devices to the test.
“The LTE Cases have taken a lot of stress off us,” says Soulard. “They’ve helped our operations run much smoother and with far less flight crew fatigue. Now when we deploy, we grab one of the cases, and we have 100% confidence that we will have the connectivity and signal strength we need. We know we can live stream anywhere and take full advantage of all of the amazing software our drones have, like DroneSense and Axon Air. We also know that if we get out in the field and we have to execute a firmware update, we can do that too. Without this solution, we’d be dead in the water.”
“The LTE cases are awesome because they're self-contained,” Soulard continues. “They're all in one. They're battery-powered. And our officers can just grab it and a drone and go. There's no need to mess with cables — nothing. We just turn it on, and it works. We jokingly call it a hot spot on steroids because it'll power anything. It gives you enough signal strength to do anything you need to do. Connectivity has always been a huge challenge for us. And now it isn't an issue for us anymore.”
A more reliable mobile headquarters
Similar to an LTE Case’s role in the field, the mobile routers powered by Cradlepoint as part of Axon Fleet 3 help a cruiser reliably carry out its duties as a mobile information center. A roof-mounted antenna assures wireless accessibility with the best possible range and performance, while the modem’s built-in router intelligently allocates bandwidth to mission-critical traffic. This means officers always have access to all of the compute they need to perform online searches, upload evidence and collaborate with their peers in the field, thanks to a 5G-ready intelligent ecosystem that lives at the edge.
Of course, all of this is only helpful if it’s already powered on and ready to go when officers need it most. Fleet 3 routers are hard mounted in vehicles with wiring fused to the ignition, meaning they’re always on when the vehicle is on, while a timed-delay shutoff supports short ignition-off sessions. Furthermore, firmware updates and performance monitoring of both the Fleet Hub and Cradlepoint router can be carried out remotely and wirelessly, preventing needless downtime for equipment.
Bundling this technology together doesn’t just make it easier to acquire for departments. It also leads to better results when they’re put into action, thanks to constant help from Axon’s dedicated support team: “It's helped our customers to have a better initial deployment experience and a more stable product in the field,” Soulard adds.
Empower your police force
Police officers have never had more tools at their disposal, and, as a result, they’ve never had the potential to be more effective. But often that potential stays unrealized because agencies lack the connectivity necessary to truly leverage the incredible technology they have at their fingertips.
Axon and Cradlepoint have partnered to provide agencies and officers with the network capabilities they need to be as effective and efficient as possible. Together, Axon and Cradlepoint have developed in-car and on-scene connectivity tech that any agency can use to empower their police force. To learn how Cradlepoint can benefit your agency, talk to one of our experts today.