How to buy mobile data terminals

Mobile data terminals can greatly improve the efficiency of vehicle-based operations. But, asks Vaughan O’Grady, do you need high-performance software and hardware – or can a modest outlay serve your needs just as well?

Mobile data terminals (MDTs) – computerised devices whose screens can be seen on the dashboards of commercial or emergency vehicles that communicate with a central or back office – take multiple forms and have multiple uses.

A taxi firm will only need, and be able to afford, a few of those uses – usually booking and dispatch “to send jobs and see where the driver is”, as Sue Minskip, office manager of Marandy (a company that offers integrated computer taxi management systems and MDTs) puts it. Billing for account holders is another potentially useful offering.

Similar needs – data and GPS tracking for vehicle dispatch or pick-up of a parcel or passenger – justify the purchase of MDTs for companies as varied as the RAC, AA, UPS, FEDEX and others.

For the police, however, it’s different, says John Thomson, Panorama Antennas’ technical sales and support manager, and chair of the Federation of Communication Services (FCS) Vehicle Installers Group. Essentially, police forces are using mobile data terminals to enable them to do more work on the road. “They basically pull in all the functionality into one terminal – things like automatic number plate recognition and police national computer access,” he explains.

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