When a letter believed to contain billions of anthrax spores was opened last fall in Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's office, the Capitol police officers who responded to the scene were equipped with rugged wireless notebooks from Itronix.
The Itronix GoBook Max, loaded with a software package dubbed CoBRA (Chemical, Biological Response Aide) created by system builder Defense Group Inc. (DGI), was used to coordinate the response, disseminate intelligence and file incident reports from the scene. It has also led to more business for DGI.
Donald Ponikvar, senior vice president at Alexandria, Va.-based DGI, said the integrated CoBRA/GoBook Max solution not only performed as designed during the incident, but the machine also withstood the chlorine rinsing and dunking necessary to decontaminate it afterward.
The Capitol police were so impressed they've upgraded to a newer version, and Ponikvar has the old machine on display in his office. "We use that machine now to show that these things are so rugged they went through the chemical decon [decontamination] process and were able to keep working," Ponikvar said.
DGI is a small, veteran-owned system builder focused on helping local, state and federal agencies respond to incidents involving potential biological and chemical agents, nuclear weapons, radiological materials and conventional explosives.
Spokane, Wash.-based Itronix makes two versions of its rugged wireless notebooks: the rugged wireless GoBook II and the ultrarugged wireless GoBook Max. At the heart of the GoBooks is an integrated wireless capability that supports up to three wireless networks concurrently, said Matt Gerber, senior vice president of worldwide marketing and business development at Itronix.
Gerber said support includes 802.11b (wireless LAN), Bluetooth, and wireless WAN technologies such as CDMA and CDPD. Plans call for GPS support within the next month. "The integrated support allows a mobile user to maintain seamless, wireless connectivity and communication while roaming from any location," he said. "And it incorporates Itronix's Common Radio Module Architecture, which means it can be upgraded easily as new wireless technologies become available."
The GoBooks include a removable hard drive that allows mobile workers on different shifts to share a single unit without sharing data, which reduces cost and security concerns, Gerber said. Pricing for the GoBook II starts at $4,495; the GoBook Max starts at $4,995.
Ponikvar said success with the Capitol police also led to DGI's largest single deployment to date, with the FBI's Bomb Data Center. "We sole-sourced about 1,000 of the GoBook Max machines in all 50 states and territories," Ponikvar said. "It's really due to the combination of the ruggedness of the hardware, functionality of the software and a wireless capability that was so well-integrated and well-engineered."
Now, said Ponikvar, bomb squad units at local, state and federal levels can collect data in realtime from a scene and submit the data through a wireless interface centrally to a data repository DGI is developing with the FBI.
John Kaye, vice president of North America sales at WAV, a Chicago-based value-added distributor focused on the wireless market, said sales of Itronix products, particularly the GoBook II, have grown exponentially over the past year.
"They've done an excellent job of deploying their field-sales force to figure out where and how their products fit within vertical markets," Kaye said. "We dovetail very nicely with that because our people also are heavily applications-based."